Photo: Chris Jones/Penske Entertainment

Rahal Finishes Second at Indianapolis, Laments Day That Could Have Been

By David Morgan, Associate Editor

INDIANAPOLIS – “Even on a day when we did everything right, Lady Luck isn’t quite on our side.”

If there was ever a day that all signs seemed to be pointing to a return to Victory Lane in the NTT IndyCar Series for Graham Rahal, it was Saturday’s Gallagher Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course.

That is until he ran into the inevitability of six-time champion Scott Dixon.

Rahal paced both practice and qualifying and was riding a wave of confidence into Saturday’s 82-lap affair that this would finally be the day that he could break his winless streak that dates back to a sweep of the Detroit doubleheader in June 2017.

His one worry coming into the race was the fact that he would have one less set of alternates than his competitors after a blister was found on the set he had used during qualifying, rendering them unusable for the race.

Turns out, his fears came true and that would be one of the key advantages for his competitors during the mid-point of the race.

While he had to run the primary blacks from lap 25 to lap 63, Dixon had swapped to the preferred alternates just five laps into the race and was able to pull out to a large enough lead that when Rahal put on his final set of alternates with 21 laps to go, he would have significant ground to make up if he was going to win the day.

Rahal did his best to chew up the more than seven-second deficit between the two, but in the end, it was too little, too late, falling agonizingly short of being the victor.

While it was his first podium finish since Texas in May 2021, Rahal couldn’t help but be disappointed in the end result.

“I thought all day, frankly, we dominated – even on the blacks,” Rahal said. “If anything was going to kill my race, we had a blister on the left front on the qualifying set of reds, so we couldn’t use them. So, we had to use two reds and everybody else went three and that was the name of the game today.

“We’ve got nothing to be ashamed of. Code 3 Associates No. 15 car was very good today, Honda was excellent today, as always. I mean, I’m not bummed, but I’m bummed.”

In addition to the tire disadvantage that he had to overcome, lapped traffic also played a part in keeping just enough separation between the two that Rahal simply ran out of time to try and get back past Dixon for the lead and the win.

“I thought a couple of the lapped guys were really good. I thought a couple of them were really poor,” Rahal said. “Same for Dixon. But when you follow like that, it really kills the front tire, so I knew I had to make quick work of them and I think it just hurt us a little bit to give him a lunge.

“I was on overtake on the second to last lap. He was too. And I just wasn’t gaining ground. I was holding dead even with him for some reason. I don’t know why, but just couldn’t make a lunge at him. I thought that was going to be a really good run at it, a really good shot.

“Look, we have nothing to be ashamed of. We’re going against the best of all-time, by far. 19 straight seasons for him with a win. It’s ridiculous. It’s absolutely insane. We’ve just got to keep our heads down and keep getting better.”

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David Morgan is the Associate Editor for Motorsports Tribune. A 2008 graduate from the University of Mississippi, David has followed NASCAR since the early 90’s and became hooked at an early age after attending his first race at Talladega Superspeedway in 1993. He has traveled across the country since 2012 to cover some of the most prestigious events both IndyCar and NASCAR have to offer, with an aim to only expand on that in the near future.