By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
Graham Rahal caps of a rather long weekend at Iowa Speedway with a third-place finish in Saturday’s Iowa INDYCAR 250 and feeling confident about his worth as a championship contender after 6 of 14 races.
The superb result marked the 14-year veteran’s 30th career podium in Indy car competition and it had to be earned as the No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing crew kept working on the HyVee Honda machine throughout the doubleheader at Iowa.
More so when Rahal had two finishes outside the top-10, including last night’s 250-lap race where he wound up two laps behind race winner Simon Pagenaud in 12th. Friday’s practice session wasn’t kind to the No. 15 team either as they’ve struggled horrendously to match teammate Takuma Sato’s all-around pace.
Luck finally turned around for the 19th place starter as he was the superior car out of the two-car stable tonight. Even putting a valiant fight against with Team Penske and Chip Ganassi Racing during the final stretch of green flag racing.
With just 35 laps remaining, Rahal moved up to the final step of the podium following Conor Daly making his final pit stop.
Once Daly was out of the podium picture, Rahal had his eyes on chasing Will Power for the second spot and stop an otherwise Penske clinic, but that bid came up 0.7780 seconds short.
“I thought our car was phenomenal, to be honest with you. Just a tough battle there in the end,” Rahal on his podium finish. “I thought we were having a really strong night. Obviously strategy worked out well. The guys did a great job in the pits.
“Any time you’re surrounded by three Penskes, I think you’ve done something right. It’s definitely a solid night for us.”
Saturday marked Rahal’s second podium of the year, a well earned feat for he and the team after making several adjustments his Honda can pay off.
Not only that, Rahal helped earned $24,900 for United Rental’s #TurnsForTroops tonight which further boosted his confidence going into the break after five demanding races in a span of 15 days.
“It felt real good. As a team, I feel like we’ve made some great gains,” said Rahal. “I think a lot of people over the last couple of years knocked our team quite a lot, and our guys kept their heads down. We’re a contender. We’ve rebounded really well.”
Following the second Iowa race, Rahal improved from seventh to sixth in the championship trail, trailing points leader Scott Dixon by 102 points.
While the action for the month of July is over, things will really heat up once INDYCAR resumes its season August 9th at Rahal’s home track, the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio.
Rahal said he’s excited to get valuable rest, but really looking forward for Mid-Ohio where he won in 2015.
“Big race for me. I love going home. We’ve had great success,” said Rahal. “I think we found some good stuff last time we’ve been on road courses. I expect our team to extremely good. Obviously, big race for Honda being in Columbus/Marysville with all the plants and everything.
“I’m excited to go home. We’re a contender this year. I think a lot of people have seen we’ve improved. We’ve come a long way and this car was great tonight.”