Rahal scores dream win on home soil in Honda 200 at Mid-Ohio

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LEXINGTON, Ohio – Courtesy of a strategic masterstroke, one well-timed caution flag and a brilliant late race defense, Graham Rahal secured a perfect result at his home race.

The Columbus native, with a special Ohio State University helmet, captured Sunday’s Honda Indy 200 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in the No. 15 Steak ‘n Shake RLL Honda, to close to within single digits of Verizon IndyCar Series points leader Juan Pablo Montoya.

Rahal pitted just before a caution for a spin by Sage Karam, then cycled forward to the lead as the leaders ahead of him made their final stop.

After another caution for Charlie Kimball being stuck in the gravel after contact from Rodolfo Gonzalez, Rahal then had to hold off fellow Honda driver Justin Wilson on the restart.

He did, and the American won his second race of the season (Fontana), and first of his career on a permanent road course.

His first win occurred at St. Petersburg’s street course in 2008.

Simon Pagenaud completed the podium with Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan rounding out the top five.

Montoya finished just 11th and saw his points lead continue to shrink, now to just nine points after entering with a 42-point lead.

The Karam spin on Lap 66, which brought out the third full-course caution of the day, was the turning point of the race.

But an earlier debris caution on Lap 21 also caught a handful of drivers out.

The two cautions changed the complexion of the race and altered the top 10. Rahal, Wilson and Pagenaud started 13th, 14th and 15th, respectively, and fellow top-10 finishers Tristan Vautier (sixth), Jack Hawksworth (eighth), Carlos Munoz (ninth) and Marco Andretti (10th) all also started outside the top-10.  Ryan Hunter-Reay started and finished seventh.

Montoya ended 11th while top-five starters Josef Newgarden, Will Power, Helio Castroneves and Sebastien Bourdais ended 13th, 14th, 15th and 17th, respectively.

The series has two weeks off before resuming with the ABC Supply Co. 500 at Pocono Raceway on August 23.

RESULTS

LEXINGTON, Ohio – Results Sunday of the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Verizon IndyCar Series event on the 2.258-mile Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, with order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, aero kit-engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):

1.  (13) Graham Rahal, Honda, 90, Running
2.  (14) Justin Wilson, Honda, 90, Running
3.  (15) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 90, Running
4.  (1) Scott Dixon, Chevrolet, 90, Running
5.  (8) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 90, Running
6.  (24) Tristan Vautier, Honda, 90, Running
7.  (7) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 90, Running
8.  (11) Jack Hawksworth, Honda, 90, Running
9.  (23) Carlos Munoz, Honda, 90, Running
10.  (12) Marco Andretti, Honda, 90, Running
11.  (10) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 90, Running
12.  (21) Gabby Chaves, Honda, 90, Running
13.  (5) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 90, Running
14.  (2) Will Power, Chevrolet, 90, Running
15.  (4) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 90, Running
16.  (17) James Jakes, Honda, 90, Running
17.  (3) Sebastien Bourdais, Chevrolet, 90, Running
18.  (20) Ryan Briscoe, Honda, 90, Running
19.  (18) Stefano Coletti, Chevrolet, 90, Running
20.  (22) Rodolfo Gonzalez, Honda, 90, Running
21.  (9) Luca Filippi, Chevrolet, 89, Off course
22.  (19) Sage Karam, Chevrolet, 89, Running
23.  (6) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 87, Running
24.  (16) Takuma Sato, Honda, 60, Contact

Race Statistics        
Winners average speed:  105.720
Time of Race: 01:55:20.0864
Margin of victory: 3.4049  seconds
Cautions: 4 for 16 laps
Lead changes: 7 among 7 drivers
Lap Leaders:        
Dixon 1 – 22
Vautier 23 – 32
Wilson 33 – 38
Montoya 39 – 40
Newgarden 41 – 42
Castroneves 43 – 48
Montoya 49 – 67
Rahal 68 – 90
Verizon IndyCar Series Point Standings: Montoya 465, Rahal 456, Dixon 431, Castroneves 407, Power 406, Bourdais 379, Andretti 378, Newgarden 370, Kanaan 354, Pagenaud 329.

Miguel Oliveira wins MotoGP Thai Grand Prix, Bagnaia closes to two points in championship

MotoGP Thai Grand Prix
Mirco Lazzari / Getty Images
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Miguel Oliveira mastered mixed conditions on the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand to win the MotoGP Thai Grand Prix. Oliveira showed the adaptability as he navigated a race that began in wet conditions and turned dry over the course of the race. Oliveira won the Indonesian GP in similar conditions.

“It was a long race, but I can’t complain,” Oliveira said on CNBC. “Every time we get to ride in the wet, I’m always super-fast. When it started raining, I had flashbacks of Indonesia. I tried to keep my feet on the ground, make a good start and not make mistakes and carry the bike to the end.”

All eyes were on the championship, however. Francesco Bagnaia got a great start to slot into second in Turn 1.

Meanwhile Fabio Quartararo had a disastrous first lap. He lost five positions in the first couple of turns and then rode over the rumble strips and fell back to 17th. At the end of the first lap, Bagnaia had the points’ lead by two. A win would have added to the gain and for a moment, it appeared Bagnaia might assume the lead.

Early leader Marco Bezzecchi was penalized for exceeding track limits, but before that happened, Jack Miller got around Bagnaia and pushed him back to third. Oliveira was not far behind.

After throwing away ninth-place and seven points on the last lap of the Japanese GP last week, Bagnaia did not allow the competition to press him into a mistake. He fell back as far as fourth before retaking the final position on the podium.

“It’s like a win for me, this podium,” Bagnaia. “My first podium in the wet and then there was a mix of conditions, so I’m very happy. I want to thank Jack Miller. Before the race, he gave me a motivational chat.”

Miller led the first half of the Thai Grand Prix before giving up the top spot to Oliveira and then held on to finish second. Coupled with his Japanese GP win, Miller is now fully in the MotoGP championship battle with a 40-point deficit, but he will need a string of results like Bagnaia has put together in recent weeks – and he needs Bagnaia to lose momentum.

Miller’s home Grand Prix in Australia is next up on the calendar in two weeks.

Bagnaia entered the race 18 points behind Quartararo after he failed to score any in Japan. The balance of power has rapidly shifted, however, with Quartararo now failing to earn points in two of the last three rounds. Bagnaia won four consecutive races and finished second in the five races leading up to Japan. His third-place finish in Thailand is now his sixth MotoGP podium in the last seven rounds.

Aleix Espargaro entered the race third in the standings with a 25-point deficit to Quartararo, but was able to close the gap by only five after getting hit with a long-lap penalty for aggressive riding when he pushed Darryn Binder off course during a pass for position. Espargaro finished 11th.

Rain mixed up the Moto2 running order in the MotoGP Thai Grand Prix as well. Starting on a wet track, Somkiat Chantra led the opening lap in his home Grand Prix. He could not hold onto it and crashed one circuit later, but still gave his countrymen a moment of pride by winning the pole.

Half points were awarded as the race went only eight laps before Tony Arbolino crossed under the checkers first with Filip Salac and Aron Canet rounding out the podium.

American Joe Roberts earned another top-10 in eighth with Sean Dylan Kelly finishing just outside the top 10 in 11th.