Graham Rahal powers through the field for sixth in caution-free INDYCAR GP

Chris Owens/INDYCAR

By Aaron Bearden, Motorsports Editor

SPEEDWAY, In. — Salvaging a respectable finish after a poor qualifying effort in the Verizon IndyCar Series is challenging. Doing so without the help of a single caution? Nay, impossible.

But that’s just what Graham Rahal accomplished on Saturday, rising from 20th to sixth over the course of 85 green-flag laps to escape a trying weekend with a solid result.

There were no special tricks or strategy plays for the four-time IndyCar winner. Instead Rahal, 28, maneuvered a strong No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda to the front half of a pack at a slow, methodical pace over the course of the race.

During the first stint of the event Rahal climbed four positions to 16th. By the end of the second round of pit stops, the Columbus, Ohio native was up to ninth. On lap 51, Rahal overtook Alexander Rossi to take eighth, and by the end of the third and final round of stops he was up to sixth.

The 10-year veteran would stay in that position until the checkered flag flew, too far back to make up ground on the falling Helio Castroneves, who held on to finish fifth.

“It’s was a pretty good day,” Rahal said. “We were on attack mode on the first stint. We had to pump out a whole bunch of qualifying laps and close the gaps. My United Rentals boys did a great job in the pits because we got by a lot of guys there and we were able to pass a lot of guys. Overall I’m pleased with the day that we had. We completed all 85 laps and raised $100 a lap for Soldier/Strong and Turns for Troops which means a lot to me.

“It’s just a good way to start the month. I was disappointed with qualifying but I’ll take a sixth. I was fighting the whole way and guys – the lapped cars – certainly weren’t making it easy there at the end. I was running low on push-to-pass and I knew Max (Chilton) was coming. It was a very physical day but I’m looking forward to the 500 coming up here”.

While he was content with the run, Rahal admitted that the weekend had been a missed opportunity.

“I take pride in my race craft come Sundays, but you better believe I wish my job was easier than that,” Rahal said. “Because on a day like today we had a car to win this race, I guarantee you that so it’s disappointing starting where we start and putting ourselves in that hole. This field and the competitiveness of the drivers is why there were no yellows and when there are no yellows, 85 laps on a warm day like this is a good workout.

“We know we can compete, we know we can run up front. We’ve had a lot of things go against us this year but today finally we had just a smooth, good day.”

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