Hometown boy Graham Rahal kept his championship hopes alive with a perfectly strategised race at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
Rahal was looking to finish inside the top 5 as the race entered its final stages. Prior to that, the leader board was shuffled as a handful of yellow flags brought several drivers to the front.
Scott Dixon got a jump on the field at the start and built up a big lead over the course of the opening stint. A curveball was thrown when the race’s second full course caution flew on lap 21 for a scrap between Takuma Sato and Stefano Coletti. Dixon, along with many of the leaders, had not pitted yet and were forced to make their first pit stop under the yellow flag while Tristan Vautier stayed out and Juan Pablo Montoya, Rahal, Rodolfo Gonzales and Justin Wilson became the beneficiaries of having pitted before the yellow came out.
Vautier steadily led the field as Justin Wilson seized the moment and dove into second place on the restart while Montoya trailed behind. Wilson, Montoya, Helio Castroneves all took turns up front as the pit stops cycled through as Scott Dixon cycled back to the front as the race entered its final act.
The game changer came on lap 66 as rookie Sage Karam spun in turn 5 just as Rahal pitted. Having entered the pits before the pits closed, Rahal became the bearer of good tidings as he moved into the lead of the pit sequence and would pick up the lead of the race once the remainder of the field pitted.
Rahal turned a clean restart turned into a 3.1125 second lead in just a few laps but that almost became all for naught as Charlie Kimball’s spin and stall brought out another full course yellow.
With his lead erased, he would have to survive another restart and a mirror full of Justin Wilson if he was to pull of the win. Wilson used a Push to Pass on the restart and briefly held the lead before Rahal took it back just a corner later.
It was smooth sailing from there and Rahal cruised away to a 3.4s lead by the checkered flag to take his second win of the year.
With the win, Rahal has nearly erased Juan Pablo Montoya’s lead in the standings down to just 9 points heading into the penultimate round at Pocono Raceway. The yellow flag worked against Montoya and trapped him deep in the pack and he ended the day in 11th place.
Justin Wilson held on for a stout second place finish in his part time ride for Andretti Autosport and his first podium since Houston in 2013. Simon Pagenaud completed the podium, his first podium since Detroit Race 1 back in May.
Dixon had to settle for fourth place while his Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Tony Kanaan rounded out the top 5. Honda rounded out the top ten as Tristan Vautier recovered from a poor pitstop to finish in sixth place while Ryan Hunter-Reay came home in seventh, Jack Hawksworth in eighth, Carlos Munoz in ninth and Marco Andretti in 10th.
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