Graham Rahal started Sunday’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach fifth and finished fifth – but that does not begin to tell the story of his race.
On lap one, his rear brakes locked up causing him to slam into the back of Simon Pagenaud, damaging the right rear suspension on the Frenchman’s car and sending it into the wall. Pagenaud was unable to return to the race and finished last in the 24-car IndyCar field.
Rahal received a stop-and-go penalty for what was deemed avoidable contact. Then, he had to meticulously pick his way through the pack the rest of the way.
“I’m sorry for Simon,” Rahal said following the race. “That’s not the way we like to do things. Just like St. Pete, the rears locked and I barely made the corner. I think (Scott) Dixon bailed out because he thought I wasn’t going to.”
“It hurt my race too,” Rahal continued. “Getting the penalty, going to the back and then battling our way through. I think we were the one car that had a shot at Rossi today. We made some changes there in the race and the Total car was honestly fantastic in the race.”
“I’m really disappointed in myself,” Rahal said. “I’m disappointed in the way it all began. But I’m proud of the Total team for the way that it finished. Everyone put their heads down and we made a lot of passes. I passed more cars here today than I’ve passed in a long time and we had a lot of fun.”
Finishing with his second top-five of the season, Rahal easily found the silver lining.
“This our best weekend yet,” Rahal concluded. “We weren’t good at St Pete; we weren’t really great at Phoenix. We deserved to be there this weekend, so it’s a little bit more bitter sweet.”
Rahal finished second in St Petersburg and was ninth at Phoenix.