Rahal wins exciting, tense MAVTV 500 under yellow (VIDEO)


Graham Rahal has won what was an at times thrilling, at times tense and nerve-wracking MAVTV 500 under yellow, following a severe looking accident between Ryan Briscoe and Ryan Hunter-Reay with two laps to go.

Rahal was just ahead of Tony Kanaan when the caution flew. It breaks a seven-year winless drought for the driver of the No. 15 Mi-Jack/Steak ‘n Shake Honda for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, dating to the 2008 race at St. Petersburg, and a seven-year drought for the RLL team since Hunter-Reay’s win at Watkins Glen later that year.

WATCH: Full replay of Saturday’s race

Arguably the most controversial moment of the race occurred when following a pit stop, Rahal was released with a portion of the fuel buckeye still attached, but was subject to a post-race penalty rather than one in-race.

Rahal’s comments first in victory lane: “Our weakness has been these ovals. The next 3 races are going to define our year. I knew we were good in race trim. I can’t thank Mike and Dave and my dad for all believing in me. Steak ‘n Shake is the good luck charm. D-A Lubricants. You don’t know how good this feels. So long coming.

“When we went back to 16th I was a little worried. I knew my car was good. It wasn’t quick up front. I wasn’t as good as the Chevys.”

Meanwhile here was Derrick Walker, the president of competition of operations, commenting to NBCSN: “The stewards looked at that and they considered it was a post race penalty. It certainly looked pretty scary there. There will be a penalty I can assure. It just didn’t affect the competition on track.”

The Briscoe/RHR accident with two to go was the second severe accident inside of 10 laps, with the other involving Will Power and Takuma Sato.

Controversy about Rahal’s race and the scary accidents ending aside, Saturday’s race could easily be considered one of the best IndyCar races in recent memory, if not all-time.

The race set a record number of lead changes, with 80, eclipsing the previous mark of 73 set in the CART season finale held November 4, 2001.

There were 14 of the 23 drivers who started who led the race at one stage or another.

Until the last 50 to 75 laps, it had been a fairly clean race. The first half of the race ran entirely caution-free, and there wasn’t the first caution until Lap 136 when Helio Castroneves got squeezed in-between Power and Briscoe on the backstraight, which sent him into a spin.

And then it all boiled down to a series of late-race restarts, where it became a question of who would edge ahead and who could survive the potential and likely carnage.

Rahal won, and the drought snapped a 124-race winless streak as mentioned above.

With Marco Andretti in third, it marked the first time both drivers have been on the same podium in their IndyCar careers.

Juan Pablo Montoya extended his points lead with fourth and rising star Sage Karam completed the top five.

It was a fascinating day and one we’ll likely be talking about for a while, for various reasons.

Results are below.

FONTANA, Calif. – Results Saturday of the MAVTV 500 Verizon IndyCar Series event on the 2-mile Auto Club Speedway, with order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):

1.  (19) Graham Rahal, Honda, 250, Running
2.  (6) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 250, Running
3.  (3) Marco Andretti, Honda, 250, Running
4.  (5) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 250, Running
5.  (10) Sage Karam, Chevrolet, 250, Running
6.  (7) Scott Dixon, Chevrolet, 250, Running
7.  (23) James Jakes, Honda, 250, Running
8.  (13) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 250, Running
9.  (1) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 250, Running
10.  (17) Jack Hawksworth, Honda, 250, Running
11.  (11) Carlos Munoz, Honda, 250, Running
12.  (21) Stefano Coletti, Chevrolet, 250, Running
13.  (22) Pippa Mann, Honda, 250, Running
14.  (15) Sebastien Bourdais, Chevrolet, 250, Running
15.  (14) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 249, Contact
16.  (16) Ryan Briscoe, Honda, 249, Contact
17.  (20) Tristan Vautier, Honda, 246, Running
18.  (9) Takuma Sato, Honda, 241, Contact
19.  (8) Will Power, Chevrolet, 241, Contact
20.  (18) Gabby Chaves, Honda, 237, Running
21.  (12) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 161, Contact
22.  (4) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 157, Contact
23.  (2) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 136, Contact

Race Statistics
Winners average speed:  168.846
Time of Race: 02:57:40.6179
Margin of victory: Under caution
Cautions: 6 for 46 laps
Lead changes: 80 among 14 drivers
Lap Leaders:
Castroneves 1 – 2
Montoya 3
Castroneves 4 – 7
Andretti 8 – 14
Kanaan 15
Andretti 16 – 21
Kanaan 22 – 23
Karam 24
Kanaan 25
Karam 26 – 29
Kanaan 30 – 33
Andretti 34 – 35
Power 36
Sato 37 – 38
Kanaan 39 -40
Andretti 41 -43
Montoya 44 – 46
Sato 47 – 51
Dixon 52 – 54
Sato 55 – 69
Kanaan 70
Sato 71 – 72
Dixon 73
Power 74 – 76
Castroneves 77 – 79
Power 80
Castroneves 81 – 83
Power 84 – 85
Castroneves 86 -94
Power 95
Castroneves 96
Power 97 – 98
Kanaan 99
Power 100 – 101
Kanaan 102 – 105
Sato 106
Power 107
Sato 108 – 109
Carpenter 110 – 111
Dixon 111 -112
Power 113
Castroneves 114 – 116
Briscoe 117
Castroneves 118 – 135
Rahal 136 – 138
Power 139 – 153
Pagenaud 154 – 156
Munoz 157 – 169
Power 170 – 172
Munoz 173
Sato 174
Power 175
Sato 176 – 178
Kanaan 179 – 182
Rahal 183
Kanaan 184 – 185
Andretti 186 – 187
Montoya 188
Power 189 – 1994
Andretti 195 – 200
Power 201
Dixon 202
Hunter-Reay 203 – 205
Briscoe 206
Kanaan 207
Briscoe 208
Power 209 – 212
Andretti 213
Power 214
Andretti 215
Power 216 – 217
Andretti 218
Power 219 – 220
Andretti 221 – 222
Power 223 – 227
Rahal 228
Power 229 – 235
Briscoe 236
Power 237
Briscoe 238 – 240
Rahal 241 – 250

Verizon IndyCar Series point standings: Montoya 407, Power 361, Dixon 358, Rahal 334, Castroneves 330, Andretti 308, Bourdais 290, Kanaan 285, Newgarden 277, Pagenaud 256.

Ford unveils a new Mustang for 2024 Le Mans in motorsports ‘lifestyle brand’ retooling

Ford Mustang Le Mans
Ford Performance

LE MANS, France — Ford has planned a return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans with its iconic Mustang muscle car next year under a massive rebranding of Ford Performance aimed at bringing the automotive manufacturer “into the racing business.”

The Friday unveil of the new Mustang Dark Horse-based race car follows Ford’s announcement in February (and a ballyhooed test at Sebring in March) that it will return to Formula One in 2026 in partnership with reigning world champion Red Bull.

The Mustang will enter the GT3 category next year with at least two cars in both IMSA and the World Endurance Championship, and is hopeful to earn an invitation to next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. The IMSA entries will be a factory Ford Performance program run by Multimatic, and a customer program in WEC with Proton Competition.

Ford CEO Jim Farley, also an amateur sports car racer, told The Associated Press the Mustang will be available to compete in various GT3 series across the globe to customer teams. But more important, Farley said, is the overall rebranding of Ford Performance – done by renowned motorsports designer Troy Lee – that is aimed at making Ford a lifestyle brand with a sporting mindset.

“It’s kind of like the company finding its own, and rediscovering its icons, and doubling down on them,” Farley told the AP. “And then this motorsports activity is getting serious about connecting enthusiast customers with those rediscovered icons. It’s a big switch for the company – this is really about building strong, iconic vehicles with enthusiasts at the center of our marketing.”

Ford last competed in sports car racing in 2019 as part of a three-year program with Chip Ganassi Racing. The team scored the class win at Le Mans in 2016 in a targeted performance aimed to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Ford snapping Ferrari’s six-year winning streak.

Ford on Friday displayed a Mustang with a Lee-designed livery that showcased the cleaner, simplified look that will soon be featured on all its racing vehicles. The traditional blue oval with Ford Performance in white lettering underneath will now be branded simply FP.

The new mark will be used across car liveries, merchandise and apparel, display assets, parts and accessories and in advertising.

Farley cited Porsche as an automaker that has successfully figured out how to sell cars to consumers and race cars in various series around the world while creating a culture of brand enthusiasts. He believes Ford’s new direction will help the company sell street cars, race cars, boost interest in driving schools, and create a merchandise line that convinces consumers that a stalwart of American automakers is a hip, cool brand.

“We’re going to build a global motorsports business off road and on road,” Farley told the AP, adding that the design of the Mustang is “unapologetically American.”

He lauded the work of Lee, who is considered the top helmet designer among race car drivers.

“We’re in the first inning of a nine inning game, and going to Le Mans is really important,” Farley said. “But for customer cars, getting the graphics right, designing race cars that win at all different levels, and then designing a racing brand for Ford Performance that gets rebranded and elevated is super important.”

He said he’s kept a close eye on how Porsche and Aston Martin have built their motorsports businesses and said Ford will be better.

“We’re going in the exact same direction. We just want to be better than them, that’s all,” Farley said. “Second is the first loser.”

Farley, an avid amateur racer himself, did not travel to Le Mans for the announcement. The race that begins Saturday features an entry from NASCAR, and Ford is the reigning Cup Series champion with Joey Logano and Team Penske.

The NASCAR “Garage 56” entry is a collaboration between Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet and Goodyear, and is being widely celebrated throughout the industry. Farley did feel left out of the party in France – a sentiment NASCAR tried to avoid by inviting many of its partners to attend the race so that it wouldn’t seem like a Chevrolet-only celebration.

“They’re going right and I’m going left – that NASCAR thing is a one-year deal, right? It’s Garage 56 and they can have their NASCAR party, but that’s a one-year party,” Farley said. “We won Le Mans outright four times, we won in the GT class, and we’re coming back with Mustang and it’s not a one-year deal.

“So they can get all excited about Garage 56. I almost see that as a marketing exercise for NASCAR, but for me, that’s a science project,” Farley continued. “I don’t live in a world of science projects. I live in the world of building a vital company that everyone is excited about. To do that, we’re not going to do a Garage 56 – I’ve got to beat Porsche and Aston Martin and Ferrari year after year after year.”

Ford’s announcement comes on the heels of General Motors changing its GT3 strategy next season and ending its factory Corvette program. GM, which unlike Ford competes in the IMSA Grand Touring Prototype division (with its Cadillac brand), will shift fully to a customer model for Corvettes in 2024 (with some factory support in the IMSA GTD Pro category).