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.
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
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
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.