By Josh Farmer, IndyCar Reporter
Graham Rahal outdueled James Hinchcliffe in a Texas-style shootout to win the Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway.
Hinchcliffe, who restarted the race from the top spot, led a majority of the race laps sometimes by massive margins until a controversial incident broke out between Scott Dixon and Ed Carpenter on lap 213. Dixon was fighting to stay on the lead lap while Carpenter was racing in second place and the two collided in the dogleg when Carpenter moved down slightly and Dixon drifted up into Carpenter’s rear.
The Kiwi pointed the blame at Carpenter.
“Ed’s a good friend, but he was driving out there like he had no spotter,” said Dixon. “He just turned left, I had the car down there on the inside going into one. He had done that a couple laps before going into 3 – same deal. Maybe his radio wasn’t working.”
Carpenter, on the other hand, was on the fence about what happened.
“I knew that I wasn’t very far ahead of him,” said Carpenter. “Looking at the replay, I was starting to go into the corner a little bit, but it’s a tricky front straightaway here with the dogleg – you’re never going straight.”
“I felt like I had the position, I was on the lead lap, he was a lap down. There’s always something that you can do to prevent it but I think he had plenty of room to maneuver there and not be that close.”
That brought the field back together and secured five cars on the lead lap. Carpenter restarted the race in second place and briefly took the lead until the right rear tire on the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Honda suddenly blew and send Carpenter spinning into the path of Helio Castroneves.
That yellow set off a chain of yellow flags which set up for an eight-lap shoot out to decide the win between Hinchcliffe, Rahal, Tony Kanaan who had pitted for fresh tires , Simon Pagenaud and Helio Castroneves, who had managed to stay on the lead lap despite having to pit multiple times in order to repair his No. 3 AAA Chevrolet.
While Castroneves fell back, the action picked up with Kanaan, Rahal and Pagenaud all taking turns at the Canadian. They both tried the high line and the low line and Pagenaud eventually rose to the occasion and nearly made it four wide for the race lead going into Turn 3. Pagenaud backed out of the fight while the battle between Rahal, Kanaan and Hinchcliffe continued to battle.
Hinchcliffe never lost the lead and managed to keep the lead amongst the battles with his rivals. Coming to get the white flag, Kanaan held the low line while Hinchcliffe kept the middle line and Rahal rode in the tire tracks of the No. 5 Arrow Honda.
That allowed Hinchcliffe and Rahal to clear Kanaan heading down the backstretch and Rahal slingshotted alongside Hinchcliffe heading into Turn 3. Rahal briefly cleared Hinchcliffe in the apex of turns 3 and 4 but Hinchcliffe kept his momentum on the high lane to make another attempt at Rahal as they approached the checkered flag.
Inch by inch, Hinchcliffe tried to fight his way back, but Rahal had the advantage and crossed the line by a mere .008s ahead of Hinchcliffe.
“It was just a really good battle with Hinch and TK,” said Rahal. “I’ve got to tip my hat off to Hinch. He did a great job tonight. He led that thing pretty well from start to finish other than a couple hundred yards.”
The win is Rahal’s fourth overall and the second win for Honda this season. The .008s margin of victory is the closest finish ever at the Texas Motor Speedway.
Hinchcliffe’s second place finish earned him his second podium of the season and his best career finish since winning at NOLA Motorsports Park in March of last year. Kanaan followed behind in a close third place while Pagenaud finished in fourth place.
His fourth place finish lessened the damage to his championship lead suffered when he crashed out of the ABC Supply 500 last week. The Frenchman now leads Team Penske teammate Will Power by 28 points heading into Watkins Glen as Power ended the day a somewhat malaise eighth place.
Castroneves rounded out the top five, the last car on the lead lap.
Click here to view the finishing order from the Firestone 600.