Thanks to pit strategy and timely cautions, Graham Rahal is the leader of the Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park after 45 of 90 laps (LIVE on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra).
The Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing driver hasn’t pitted since Lap 19, and has led since a caution on Lap 35 sent the race leaders to the pits. He led 10 laps from when prior leader Josef Newgarden peeled off at Lap 35.
Rahal is followed by James Hinchcliffe, Sebastien Bourdais, Luca Filippi and Jack Hawksworth.
Tire fall off was a factor early, with Ryan Hunter-Reay, the two-time defending winner of the Barber race, making the decision to pit as early as Lap 12.
The day’s first full-course caution came on Lap 20 after Will Power collided with Takuma Sato while exiting the pits. The contact sent Power off track and through the gravel before making it back on course. Sato lost part of his front wing as he spun out.
Power would restart fifth but was given a drive-through penalty on Lap 25 after IndyCar judged his incident with Sato to have been avoidable.
The caution came out while race leaders Castroneves and Newgarden were on pit road. Castroneves’ tire changer experienced had trouble while working on the right-front tire. The delay was enough for Newgarden to emerge from the pits with the lead.
Graham Rahal and James Hinchcliffe restarted in P3 and P4 and spent the first few laps back under green harassing each other and trading spot back and forth. During the second caution, brought out on Lap 34 when Stefano Coletti collided with James Jakes while trying to pass him on the inside in Turn 5, Newgarden and Castroneves pitted while Rahal and Hinchcliffe stayed out.
Newgarden and Castroneves restarted 11th and 10th respectively.