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Champ Car teenager Graham Rahal gets first IndyCar win in first IRL start

Champ Car teenager Graham Rahal gets first IndyCar win in first IRL start

Teenager Graham Rahal survived a spinout and came back to win in his first IndyCar Series start, holding off veteran Helio Castroneves to become the youngest winner in series history on Sunday.
The victory by the son of longtime open-wheel star Bobby Rahal also was a crowning moment for the former Champ Car World Series teams that only last month became part of a unified American open-wheel series under the Indy Racing League banner.
At 19 years, 93 days, Rahal broke the age record set two years ago in Sonoma, California by another driver from a racing family, Marco Andretti, who was 19 years, 167 days old.
With his father, co-owner of the rival Rahal Letterman Racing team watching from the top of his team's pit box, the younger Rahal, the top rookie in Champ Car in 2007, took the lead by passing Ryan Hunter-Reay, his father's driver, on a restart on the 65th of 83 laps.
"It was tough after getting hit by Will (Power) and with the rain," the winner said. "But we had the pace to pull away from (Castroneves). It's not like we just lucked into one."
The race was slowed by periods of rain and cut short of its scheduled 100 laps by a 2-hour time limit.
"He drove beautifully and, when he had to go fast, he did," the elder Rahal said seconds after the end of the race. "I'm so proud of him. To come back and not get depressed after he got turned around by Will (Power), that was a great job."
The younger Rahal, who missed the season-opener on the oval at Homestead after crashing in testing earlier that week, appeared headed for an easy victory as he built a lead of more than four seconds in his Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing Dallara. But the last of six full-course caution flags came out for a three-car incident on lap 76, giving Penske Racing's Castroneves another shot at the leader.
"It was a great day for motor racing," the Brazilian said. "I was going for it. We tried everything and we couldn't catch him. But, you know what, second is good enough."
It wasn't a perfect day for Bobby Rahal, with Hunter-Reay running out of fuel on the last lap while running third. The Rahal car wound up 17th.
Polewinner Tony Kanaan, a former IRL champion, finished third, followed by newcomers Ernesto Viso and Enrique Bernoldi.
It was a very messy race right from the beginning, with the first 10 laps run under caution in a downpour that began about 15 minutes before the start.
Once the green flag waved, there were a series of spins, most of them harmless, on the still very wet 1.8-mile (3-kilometer), 14-turn downtown street circuit.
With so many cautions and rain spitting down on and off the rest of the way, strategies kept changing and drivers moved from the front to the back and back to the front on pit stops.
It was on a restart on lap 37, with the leaders closely bunched, that Power, another former Champ Car star, bumped the back of Rahal's car and sent him spinning. Rahal fell from third all the way to 22nd.
Meanwhile, Ryan Briscoe, Penske's replacement for three-time series champion Sam Hornish Jr., who moved to NASCAR, had taken control up front. He led from lap 34 until he pitted on lap 45 and was moving through the field toward the front when he clipped the inside wall and then slammed into the outside barrier on lap 57, ending his day.
Hunter-Reay and Rahal, who had been running midpack, suddenly found themselves 1-2 when they stayed on track when most of the leaders pitted on lap 60 during another of the caution periods.
Viso came out of that pit stop in third, with Castroneves, Dan Wheldon, Homestead winner Scott Dixon, Bernoldi and Kanaan trailing behind.
On the ensuing restart, as Rahal drove past Hunter-Reay, Castroneves did the same to Viso. He then grabbed second place from Hunter-Reay on lap 69 and tried to track down Rahal, but never came close.


Updated : 2021-10-24 17:38 GMT+08:00