Graham Rahal has a feeling and he’s definitely not hooked on it.
That feeling, commonly referred to as Déjà vu, is knowing you finished a race and had just one more car to get by. Rahal experienced it two weeks ago at Barber Motorsports Park and the wound was reopened Saturday by Will Power in the second annual Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis.
“A podium is a podium. It feels good,” Rahal conceded afterward, though he’s done anything but that on the track in the previous two races, finishing a combined 3.7 seconds off the leader. “I feel like I’m always second.”
He’s not wrong. The Rahal Letterman Lanigan driver has recorded eight of his 11 podium finishes since the 2011 season. His last six have had him standing in the second place spot.
Fellow podium finisher and pointer leader Juan Pablo Montoya tried to put it into perspective for Rahal during the post-race press conference.
“Some people would kill for a second,” Montoya said.
“It’s only been like seven years,” Rahal replied, referencing his one and only IndyCar win at St. Petersburg on April 6, 2008.
“Look on the bright side, it wasn’t luck,” said Montoya. “You had the pace.”
Rahal did have race pace. But after his qualifying effort of 17th on Friday, not many, including Rahal, thought his No. 15 Honda or any Honda, would have the day needed to suppress the Chevrolet engines.
It never rained and Rahal didn’t require its services. Thanks to a Lap 1, Turn 1 crash involving Helio Castroneves, Scott Dixon, Jack Hawksworth and Josef Newgarden, Rahal was able to go from 17th to sixth before he made it to Turn 5 on the opening lap.
“I said I’ll go as far left as they can, I’ll have a great angle to cut to the apex,” Rahal said of his plan for the first turn. “Worst comes to worse I’ll do the shortcut. It’ll be fine. Sure enough it worked perfect. I saw smoke everywhere. Next thing I know I see (Scott Dixon). I got (JR) Hildebrand into four. That definitely went our way.”
Then a strategy of pitting a lap later than the leaders put Rahal into the top three and within reasonable distance of Power. He led nine laps during green flag pit stops, but afterward was never able to make up full deficit due to lapped cars.
“I feel good about it. We’ve come away from finishing first by like three seconds combined,” Rahal said. “This tiny little one car team is fighting with Penske and that feels pretty good.”
It should feel good, though finishing second is undoubtedly getting old.
Still, Rahal, now fifth in points with his single-car team, has multiple podiums in a season for the first time since the 2011 campaign when Rahal notched three with Chip Ganassi Racing.