Rahal Comes into Watkins Glen Race Hot Off Firestone 600 Win

“The last nine laps (of the Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway) were as thrilling of racing as you’re ever going to get…” Sure, I might be quoting Graham Rahal, who you could argue is biased based on the fact that he won said race, but even he went on to say that it was a bit more thrilling than he prefers. Thrilling might be an understatement..

16C_0968-1Last weekend’s race was a continuation of a rain-delayed and ultimately red-flagged-for-76-days contest that started in early June and provided footage that made followers of the sport near and far react with nail-biting, closed eyes, the frequent scream or gritting of teeth… but those reactions had different emotions behind them, depending on who you spoke to. Some felt excitement, others fear, and particular segments, shame.

Whether you agree that the kind of racing we saw in Texas needs to be duplicating for entertainment purposes or you think it needs to be banned for safety reasoning, the level of talent showcased is undeniable. Most importantly, everyone walked away on Saturday night. Some were happier than others, and it might not be who you immediately think.

Graham Rahal, obviously pleased with getting his first win in a year discussed how it felt to finally get the answer he’s been chasing all season, when he spoke to the media at Watkins Glen on Friday:

“I feel like the monkey is off my back…  This year we were just knocking on the door constantly. I saw today we were third most top-five finishes of the whole series. Yet still just had a lot of disappointments. It was nice to get that win out of the way.

I think the team’s got a lot of momentum. The guys are excited. This has been a busy period to finish this season out. Our guys have got a little jump in their step. It’s attack mode really for us at this point.”

Rahal out-maneuvered James Hinchcliffe in the last lap to take the win, after the Canadian led 188 laps overall. While a podium finish is usually something to celebrate, for Hinch, it felt like a failure last Saturday. To add salt to the wound, he then received a post-event infraction for a worn domed skid. The infraction cost his team, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, $20,000 plus 25 entrant points and 25 driver points. This penalty moved Hinch from P8 in points to P9 and taking him out of mathematical probability for the Astor Cup at season’s end.

16C_6632-1-2Simon Pagenaud did not finish on the podium, which you would think would be a bad thing – seeing as how he is fighting for a Championship – but he seemed more than happy with the P4 finish, and one could argue that is because it still gave him a finish higher than teammate and championship contender, WIll Power, who finished the race in P8. Pagenaud extended his lead from 20 points going in to the weekend, to 28 at the checkered flag.

Looking to finish high in the points standings this season is the aforementioned Rahal, who understands that a Championship is far-fetched at this point in the game. The RLL Racing No. 15 entry was the fastest Honda in Friday’s morning practice at Watkins Glen and the 2nd fastest Honda in the afternoon, coming in .15 of a second behind AJ Foyt Racing driver, Jack Hawksworth. Overall, Rahal ran 7th fastest in the field for the first day of practice.

This weekend is Rahal’s third time racing at The Glen – his best finish being P8. Only 7 other drivers in the current IndyCar field have experience at The Glen (not including recent testing time) – Marco Andretti, Helio Castroneves, Scott Dixon, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Tony Kanaan, Will Power, and Takuma Sato.

Friday was dominated by Chevy drivers, with defending Series Champion Scott Dixon leading the pack for both sessions. He has won here 3 times, while Kanaan and Power hold one Glen victory a piece.

Verizon IndyCar Series track times for the IndyCar Grand Prix at the Glen at Watkins Glen International:

Friday, September 2nd:
Practice #1 – 11:00 – 11:45 a.m. ET
Practice #2 – 3:30 – 5:30 p.m. ET

Saturday, September 3rd:
Practice #3 – 11:00 – 11:45 a.m. ET
Qualifying: 3:00 – 4:15 p.m. ET

Sunday, September 4th:
Warm Up – 10:30 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. ET
IndyCar Grand Prix at The Glen – 2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.

The race will be broadcast live on NBCSN.
Qualifying will be livestreamed. It will also be broadcast as a tape delay on NBCSN at 6:00 p.m. ET.
Practice sessions will be livestreamed.
All links to livestream and IndyCar radio coverage is available here.

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All photos by Chris Owens / property of IndyCar