Monday, June 6, 2022

INDYCAR: Graham Rahal exits after second-lap incident in final Belle Isle race

PHOTO: IndyCar

by William Soquet Staff Writer

Graham Rahal
finished last for the 9th time in his NTT IndyCar Series career in Sunday’s Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix at Belle Isle Park when his #15 United Rentals Honda retired from the race with damage after completing two of the race’s 70 laps.

The finish was Rahal’s first since the second Road America race in 2020, 33 races ago.

The son of 1986 Indianapolis 500 winner Bobby Rahal, Graham worked his way up through the Champ Car ladder system during the first half of the 2000s, finding success in the then-Star Mazda and Champ Car Atlantic Series. His rookie season in premier American open-wheel racing came in Champ Car’s last, 2007. After turning in a handful of podiums for Newman Haas Lanigan Racing, the team moved to IndyCar for the following season. After stints with Newman/Haas and Chip Ganassi, Rahal signed with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing for the 2013 season and has stayed there ever since, winning five races for the team. Those five wins included a sweep of the Detroit doubleheader in 2017, something that Rahal could keep in his back pocket for momentum heading into the last race at Belle Isle before the event moves to downtown Detroit in 2023.

After the Indianapolis 500 provided some entries not found for the entirety of the IndyCar season, there was only one noticeable difference on the entry list this weekend. Following his crash at Indianapolis, Callum Ilott was diagnosed with a broken hand and was not cleared for competition this weekend. Juncos Hollinger Racing contracted Santino Ferrucci to take Ilott’s place, making JHR the third team that Ferrucci has held a steering wheel for this year.

In a surprising burst of speed, A.J. Foyt Racing driver Kyle Kirkwood led the field in the opening practice, lapping two-hundreths of a second better than Arrow McLaren SP driver Pato O’Ward. O’Ward’s teammate, Felix Rosenqvist, was at the bottom of the charts after crashing. Rosenqvist skidded on cold tires on only his third lap of practice and backed his machine into the wall to end his session. Alexander Rossi, fresh off a contract announcement, led the second practice, and Tatiana Calderon was 26th on the charts, in the middle of the 1:19 time bracket. Calderon’s two Foyt teammates, Kirkwood and Dalton Kellett, both crashed in second practice. Kirkwood was able to participate in qualifying, but Kellett was not, and as such was assigned the 26th and final starting spot on the grid.

Starting alongside Kellett in Row 13 was Felix Rosenqvist, whose qualifying time in Group 1 was disallowed after a team miscommunication caused him to impede Jimmie Johnson’s qualifying run. While the first few rows formed up for the start, the back end of the field was incredibly spread out at the drop of the green. IndyCar let the start stand, and perhaps because of that, Kellett was mired 15 seconds back of leader Newgarden at the end of Lap 1. As the field came through Turn 2 on the second circuit, Rahal’s car lurched from the bottom towards the wall, and it was all that he could do to minimize the contact to the right-rear wheel area. Despite the contact looking like a mere brush to the wall, enough was damaged that the incident ended Rahal’s race. The finish comes amidst a tough 2022 season for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, which struggled to find Christian Lundgaard speed at the Indy 500 and has no top-ten finishes with Jack Harvey this year.

Helio Castroneves finished 25th, the victim of electrical issues in the middle stages of the race. Kyle Kirkwood rounded out the Bottom Three, finding himself victim to a similar situation as Rahal. After completing his final pit stop, Kirkwood’s car snapped on cold tires, and the right-rear tire collided with the wall. The resulting damage ended the race for the #14 car.

26) #30-Graham Rahal / 2 laps / damage
25) #06-Helio Castroneves / 21 laps / electrical
24) #14-Kyle Kirkwood / 49 laps / damage

1st) Chevrolet (4)
2nd) Honda (3)

1st) A.J. Foyt Racing (3)
2nd) Andretti Autosport, Dale Coyne Racing, Ed Carpenter Racing, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (1)


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