Graham Rahal spins Tony Kanaan on final restart, costs both a likely podium finish at Houston

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Tony Kanaan showed that patience is one of his biggest strong suits in Saturday’s Race 1 of the Shell and Pennzoil IndyCar Grand Prix of Houston.

Kanaan was dumped on the final restart of the race by Graham Rahal, ending potential podium finishes for both drivers. Kanaan was running third at the time and Rahal fourth.

“I’ve gotta be professional, I have a team to defend and a lot of good sponsors, so I can’t do what I really want to do,” Kanaan said, showing incredible restraint, even though he had a look on his face that showed just the opposite.

“What a shame,” Kanaan said to NBCSN. “It was a great run. We fought all the way, all day long, and to be taken out like that, I think it’s stupid.

“But (Rahal) was having a good day, too, and ruined his day. I guess I wanted to believe the best, that he didn’t do it on purpose, he came over to apologize, but that still doesn’t take the frustration out of me.”

Kanaan’s car was undriveable after the contact, but Rahal was able to continue. He went over to Kanaan afterward to apologize.

“Obviously, I said I’m sorry,” Rahal said. “With the stack up on the restart, I was trying to keep the tires just as dry as I could. I was just to the left (of Kanaan) and when it stacked up, I just didn’t see him at all and got into the back of him.

“Obviously, this has happened about a hundred times this year, but it doesn’t make it right.”

Kanaan wound up recording a 13th-place finish, while Rahal was penalized 30 seconds for avoidable late-race contact. While he crossed the finish line third, the penalty pushed his eventual finish to 11th.

“I think if it had ended under green, we would have won this race for sure, and I feel confident saying that because I was moving by those guys in a hurry,” Rahal said. “But, shoulda, coulda, woulda. In the end, I made a mistake. That’s the way it goes.”

Added Kanaan, “It’s just a shame. Am I mad at him? Yes. Can I turn back time? No. So we have to turn the page and go on to tomorrow.”

Rahal also tried to look ahead.

“This car, I said last night that it could win today,” Rahal said. “We didn’t qualify as well as we thought we could of, but everybody saw there was nobody quicker than us on that racetrack.

“What can we do? We have to go back out there tomorrow, try to qualify a little better and run upfront.”

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Justin Grant prevails over Kyle Larson in the Turkey Night Grand Prix

Grant Larson Turkey Night
USACRacing.com / DB3 Inc.
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On the heels of his Hangtown 100 victory, Justin Grant worked his way from 13th in the Turkey Night Grand Prix to beat three-time event winner Kyle Larson by 1.367 seconds. The 81st annual event was run at Ventura (Calif.) Raceway for the sixth time.

“My dad used to take me to Irwindale Speedway, and we’d watch Turkey Night there every year,” Grant said in a series press release. “This is one of the races I fell in love with. I didn’t think I’d ever get a chance to run in it, never thought I’d make a show and certainly never thought I’d be able to win one.”

With its genesis in 1934 at Gilmore Stadium, a quarter-mile dirt track in Los Angeles, the race is steeped in history with winners that include AJ Foyt, Parnelli Jones, Gary Bettenhausen and Johnnie Parsons. Tony Stewart won it in 2000. Kyle Larson won his first of three Turkey Night Grands Prix in 2012. Christopher Bell earned his first of three in 2014, so Grant’s enthusiasm was well deserved.

So was the skepticism that he would win. He failed to crack the top five in three previous attempts, although he came close last year with a sixth-place result. When he lined up for the feature 13th in the crowded 28-car field, winning seemed like a longshot.

Grant watched as serious challengers fell by the wayside. Mitchel Moles flipped on Lap 10 of the feature. Michael “Buddy” Kofoid took a tumble on Lap 68 and World of Outlaws Sprint car driver Carson Macedo flipped on Lap 79. Grant saw the carnage ahead of him and held a steady wheel as he passed Tanner Thorson for the lead with 15 laps remaining and stayed out of trouble for the remainder of the event.

“It’s a dream come true to win the Turkey Night Grand Prix,” Grant said.


Kyle Larson follows Justin Grant to the front on Turkey Night

The 2012, 2016 and 2019 winner, Larson was not scheduled to run the event. His wife Katelyn is expecting their third child shortly, but after a couple of glasses of wine with Thanksgiving dinner and while watching some replays of the event, Larson texted car owner Chad Boat to see if he had a spare car lying around. He did.

“We weren’t great but just hung around and it seemed like anybody who got to the lead crashed and collected some people,” Larson said. “We made some passes throughout; in the mid-portion, we weren’t very good but then we got better at the end.

“I just ran really, really hard there, and knew I was running out of time, so I had to go. I made some pretty crazy and dumb moves, but I got to second and was hoping we could get a caution to get racing with Justin there. He was sliding himself at both ends and thought that maybe we could get a run and just out-angle him into [Turn] 1 and get clear off [Turn] 2 if we got a caution, but it just didn’t work out.”

Larson padded one of the most impressive stats in the history of this race, however. In 10 starts, he’s won three times, finished second four times, was third once and fourth twice.

Bryant Wiedeman took the final spot on the podium.

As Grant and Larson began to pick their way through the field, Kofoid took the lead early from the outside of the front row and led the first 44 laps of the race before handing it over to Cannon McIntosh, who bicycled on Lap 71 before landing on all fours. While Macedo and Thorson tussled for the lead with McIntosh, Grant closed in.

Thorson finished 19th with McIntosh 20th. Macedo recovered from his incident to finish ninth. Kofoid’s hard tumble relegated him to 23rd.

Jake Andreotti in fourth and Kevin Thomas, Jr. rounded out the top five.

1. Justin Grant (started 13)
2. Kyle Larson (22)
3. Bryant Wiedeman (4)
4. Jake Andreotti (9)
5. Kevin Thomas Jr. (1)
6. Logan Seavey (8)
7. Alex Bright (27)
8. Emerson Axsom (24)
9. Carson Macedo (7)
10. Jason McDougal (18)
11. Jake Swanson (16)
12. Chase Johnson (6)
13. Jacob Denney (26)
14. Ryan Timms (23)
15. Chance Crum (28)
16. Brenham Crouch (17)
17. Jonathan Beason (19)
18. Cade Lewis (14)
19. Tanner Thorson (11)
20. Cannon McIntosh (3)
21. Thomas Meseraull (15)
22. Tyler Courtney (21)
23. Buddy Kofoid (2)
24. Brody Fuson (5)
25. Mitchel Moles (20)
26. Daniel Whitley (10)
27. Kaylee Bryson (12)
28. Spencer Bayston (25)