IndyCar Grand Prix

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Graham Rahal charges from 20th to 6th at INDYCAR Grand Prix

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Graham Rahal and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing have struggled as the lone single-car team in the Verizon IndyCar Series in 2017. With a best finish of tenth, Rahal languished back in 17th in the championship standings.

Things didn’t look much better heading into race day at the INDYCAR Grand Prix, as Rahal qualified a lowly 20th. However, race day finally yielded some positives for Rahal and crew, as pace, strategy, and strong overtaking saw Rahal climb all the way up to sixth at race’s end. It is Rahal’s best finish of the 2017 season.

“We were on attack mode in the first stint. We had to pump out a whole bunch of qualifying laps and close the gaps,” Rahal said of the effort. “My United Rentals boys did a great job in the pits because we got by a lot of guys there and we were able to pass a lot of guys. Overall I’m pleased with the day that we had.”

Further, the result brings in a sizeable donation of $8,500 for SoldierStrong and Turns for Troops, which was featured on Rahal’s No. 15 Honda this weekend, and was something he emphasized the importance of after the race. “We completed all 85 laps and raised $100 a lap for SoldierStrong and Turns for Troops which means a lot to me. It’s just a good way to start the month.”

The sixth-place vaults Rahal to 13th in the championship as attention shifts to the upcoming 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.

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Ryan Hunter-Reay resurgent at INDYCAR Grand Prix

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Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay has endured a difficult 2017 season in the Verizon IndyCar Series. Though he rebounded from a tough weekend at St. Petersburg to finish fourth, the next three races left a lot to be desired.

An electrical issue knocked him out of a sure second-place at Long Beach. A broken wing on the opening lap at Barber Motorsports Park immediately put him behind the eight ball and he could do no better than 11th. And he and the Andretti Autosport team struggled to find speed at Phoenix Raceway, where he finished 13th.

However, the INDYCAR Grand Prix saw an uptick in fortune for the former champion and Indy 500 winner. After starting eighth, Hunter-Reay methodically worked his way forward and was in the top five by the time the first pit stops started. He was able to pass Helio Castroneves for third in the final stint to take his first podium of the season.

“Nice to bank a result finally,” Hunter-Reay quipped in the post-race press conference. “It was nice to have a good solid result. We’re headed in the right direction.”

While he admitted an error entering his pit stall may have cost him a shot at battling for more, he acknowledged that Will Power and Scott Dixon may have had the measure on him regardless. “It was a great race. We had some excellent racing in the beginning. Scott and I went back and forth. In the end, I smoked it too hot in the pits and delayed my stop. But Will and Scott were just checking out,” he said of the competition.

The result moves Hunter-Reay to eighth in the championship as the Verizon IndyCar Series turns its attention to practice for the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, which begins on Monday.

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Will Power leads INDYCAR Grand Prix Warmup

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Will Power has led every session so far at this weekend’s INDYCAR Grand Prix, and that did not change in Saturday’s morning warmup. The driver of the No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet for Team Penske turned a quick lap of 1:10.2014, narrowly eclipsing teammate Josef Newgarden, whose fastest lap clocked in at 1:10.2575 in the No. 2 Hum by Verizon machine.

A trio of Hondas followed the Penske duo. Scott Dixon ended up third in his No. 9 NTT Data entry for Chip Ganassi Racing, while Graham Rahal was fourth in his No. 15 Soldier Strong/TurnsForTroops.com machine for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. Marco Andretti was fifth in the No. 27 United Fiber & Data entry for Andretti Autosport.

Times are below. The INDYCAR Grand Prix rolls off at 3:30 p.m. ET.

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Dixon, Bourdais lead Honda’s charge in INDYCAR GP qualifying

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Four Chevrolets from Team Penske made the Firestone Fast Six. But, not to be overlooked, two cars from the Honda camp joined them, and even kept a fifth Penske entrant from getting in the mix (Simon Pagenaud failed to advance to the Fast Six and will start seventh).

Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon kept Penske from taking the top four spots on the grid by qualifying in fourth, just ahead of Juan Pablo Montoya, while Dale Coyne Racing’s Sebastien Bourdais made it into the Firestone Fast Six for the first time in 2017 and will grid sixth, his best starting spot of the season.

“It’s the first time we were a legit Fast Six car and we’re in the mix, we’re in the fight, this fight being in the middle of a Penske fest,” Bourdais quipped in the post-qualifying press conference.

Sebastien Bourdais made the Firestone Fast Six for the first time in 2017. Photo: IndyCar

For Bourdais, the result comes on the heels of a hard crash on the first lap of the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix that destroyed the chassis. As Bourdais noted, the Dale Coyne Racing team worked night and day to rebuild the car, and he was keen to emphasize their efforts.

“There were countless hours to build that car back up from what it was after Phoenix, which really wasn’t much at all left,” he explained. “So you know, they worked every day except Sunday. It’s a big testament to that small organization that’s really got inspiration to grow and develop, and it’s just a cool feeling.”

Dixon, the only driver to make the Fast Six in every road and street race this year, acknowledged that Honda has put in a workmanlike effort to catch Chevrolet and explained that, despite still lacking a little bit of raw pace, the package is more than capable to contending.

“I think with the road course kit that we have, I think the Hondas have been doing a pretty stout job,” he asserted. “(Chip Ganassi Racing) has been on both sides of the fence, so we know exactly how both of them work. So next week should be good, so don’t worry about that. But yes, excited for next week to see where it goes.”

Saturday’s INDYCAR Grand Prix rolls off at 3:30 p.m. ET.

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Power leads Penske 1-2-3 in INDYCAR Grand Prix qualifying

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Will Power enjoyed a clean of sweep of Friday activity for the INDYCAR Grand Prix. The Australian led both practice sessions and ended the day by capturing pole for Saturday’s race, the second time he has captured pole for the INDYCAR Grand Prix. Power was also on pole for the 2015 event, one he went on to win.

What’s more, Power set a track record with a lap of 1:07.704, eclipsing his own mark, and doing so on a set of used alternatire tires. “The car was great on used tires, and I thought on the new tires, I had a bit of understeer. I thought that it would really come in on used tires. In the Firestone Fast Six the car had a fantastic balance and did a really neat lap,” he said of his run to the pole.

Power, who has endured a difficult start to the year, acknowledged that if he and the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske group keep putting themselves near the front of the field, strong results will eventually come. “Really cool to start at the front again, really determined to have a good race. I’ve been knocking on the door every week, and one is going to go our way here soon. You put yourself in that position, it’ll happen. That’s the plan,” he explained.

Power led teammates Helio Castroneves and Josef Newgarden to make it a Team Penske 1-2-3 in qualifying. The returning Juan Pablo Montoya qualified fifth, making it four Penske cars in the top five to complete a dominating Friday for Roger Penske’s outfit. Simon Pagenaud (7th) was the only Penske driver to miss the Firestone Fast Six.

The last time Penske had four cars make the Firestone Fast Six was at last year’s GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma, when Simon Pagenaud led Castroneves, Montoya, and Power to the green flag in a 1-2-3-4 sweep of qualifying. Further, Team Penske has captured pole in each of the five races so far in the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season, the third consecutive year in which they’ve done so.

Scott Dixon (4th, for Chip Ganassi Racing) and Sebastien Bourdais (6th, for Dale Coyne Racing) were the only non-Penske cars in the top six, with Dixon leading the way for the Honda teams.

Qualifying results are below. Saturday’s INDYCAR Grand Prix rolls off at 3:30 p.m. ET.

 

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