Rahal survives Jekyll and Hyde IndyCar epic

Graham Rahal claims the MAVTV 500 during a race which had epic lead changes interspersed with nasty crashes

Graham Rahal claims the MAVTV 500 during a race which had epic lead changes interspersed with nasty crashes

Graham Rahal has ended a 125-race IndyCar drought by winning a spectacular MAVTV 500 at Fontana’s Auto Club Speedway.

Rahal took the chequered flag in a messy finish under caution to beat Tony Kanaan and Marco Andretti.

It signalled the Rahal/Letterman/Lanigan Racing driver’s first victory since St Petersburg in 2008.

Penske driver Juan Montoya protected his points lead by finishing fourth ahead of Sage Karam and Scott Dixon.

The race saw a return to some dicey pack racing before several accidents in the closing stages of the 250-lap affair brought back memories of the 2011 Las Vegas accident which claimed the life of Dan Wheldon.

With 30 laps remaining the fourth caution period for debris was called as the leaders dived into the pits as Will Power won the race off pit road.

Then with nine laps remaining Takuma Sato and Power crashed as the AJ Foyt driver ricocheted off Dixon on the inside and went into the path of the Australian on the outside on the front straight.

After exiting his car a furious Power shoved an official who was trying to usher him toward the medical vehicle as his love/hate relationship with the Fontana venue continued.

Power personally apologised to the official and would later tweet his remorse over the heat-of-the-moment action saying: “I want to apologise to the safety guy. I shouldn’t have pushed him and I’m sorry for that. I was extremely upset, but I know that’s no excuse.”

Earlier Power voiced his staunch disapproval of pack racing.

“What are we doing?” a concerned Power asked.

“We went in there and told them (IndyCar after practice) this is pack racing.

“That’s the Vegas situation right there and I’m just so happy no-one was hurt.

“You have to take massive risks to gain track position.

“We don’t need situations like what happened in Vegas and running like this it will happen.”

Officials then red flagged the race to ensure a green finish as Rahal led the restart from Ryan Briscoe with three laps remaining.

With one lap remaining Ryan Hunter-Reay was forced into Briscoe causing the Australian’s Schmidt-Peterson machine to flip in the air on the front straight.

Like the Sato and Power accident, both Briscoe and Hunter-Reay escaped injury during a race saw 83 lead changes, eclipsing the previous IndyCar record number of 73 that was achieved in 2001.

Earlier the first caution period was triggered on lap 136 when Helio Castroneves became the meat in the sandwich as Power on the highside and Briscoe on the inside simultaneously overtook the Brazilian.

Castroneves spun but avoided heavy contact with the wall as the car was returned to the garage for repairs with the three-time Indy 500 champion returning to the fight albeit 14 laps down.

After joining the restart following a 15-lap Safety Car period, Castroneves returned to the pits soon after and retired from the race.

Briscoe, who would serve a stop/go penalty for causing the accident, lost his right-rear wheel pod in the scrimmage as Power assumed the lead during the caution period.

On lap 159 CFH Racing team-mates Ed Carpenter and Josef Newgarden collided when the former under-steered to the outside and into the path of the Toronto race winner.

Big mover Rahal’s race was seemingly ruined during a messy pit stop where his refueller had gone back to re-engage his fuel hose as the car controller gave the all-clear for the car to exit the pit bay.

Rahal sped off and but debris from the end of the fuel hose caused a caution period to be shown.

Officials decided not to issue an immediate penalty for the incident, deciding to review it post race, which bemused several team owners including Sam Schmidt.

Montoya heads the standings going into the Milwaukee race on July 21 on 407 points, 46 clear of Power and 49 ahead of Dixon.

Result: MAVTV 500, Fontana

Pos. Car # Driver Manufacturer Laps Running / Reason Out
1 15 Graham Rahal Honda 250 Running
2 10 Tony Kanaan Chevrolet 250 Running
3 27 Marco Andretti Honda 250 Running
4 2 Juan Pablo Montoya Chevrolet 250 Running
5 8 Sage Karam (R) Chevrolet 250 Running
6 9 Scott Dixon Chevrolet 250 Running
7 7 James Jakes Honda 250 Running
8 83 Charlie Kimball Chevrolet 250 Running
9 22 Simon Pagenaud Chevrolet 250 Running
10 41 Jack Hawksworth Honda 250 Running
11 4 Stefano Coletti (R) Chevrolet 250 Running
12 26 Carlos Munoz Honda 250 Running
13 18 Pippa Mann Honda 250 Running
14 11 Sebastien Bourdais Chevrolet 250 Running
15 5 Ryan Briscoe Honda 249 Contact
16 28 Ryan Hunter-Reay Honda 249 Contact
17 19 Tristan Vautier Honda 246 Running
18 14 Takuma Sato Honda 241 Contact
19 1 Will Power Chevrolet 241 Contact
20 98 Gabby Chaves (R) Honda 237 Running
21 67 Josef Newgarden Chevrolet 161 Contact
22 20 Ed Carpenter Chevrolet 157 Contact
23 3 Helio Castroneves Chevrolet 136 Contact

Point standings

Pos

Driver

Points

1

Juan Pablo Montoya

407

2

Will Power

361

3

Scott Dixon

358

4

Graham Rahal

334

5

Hélio Castroneves

330

6

Marco Andretti

308

7

Sébastien Bourdais

290

8

Tony Kanaan

285

9

Josef Newgarden

277

10

Simon Pagenaud

256

11

Charlie Kimball

248

12

Carlos Muñoz

236

13

Takuma Sato

213

14

Ryan Hunter-Reay

210

15

James Jakes

190

16

Gabby Chaves

178

17

Jack Hawksworth

171

18

Luca Filippi

161

19

Stefano Coletti

140

20

James Hinchcliffe

129

21

Sage Karam

126

22

Tristan Vautier

91

23

Conor Daly

81

24

Ryan Briscoe

75

25

Simona de Silvestro

66

26

Sebastian Saavedra

61

27

J.R. Hildebrand

57

28

Pippa Mann

46

29

Rodolfo González

40

30

Francesco Dracone

38

31

Townsend Bell

32

32

Carlos Huertas

31

33

Alex Tagliani

27

34

Ed Carpenter

27

35

Justin Wilson

25

36

Bryan Clauson

10

36

James Davison

10

36

Oriol Servià

10

 

See below video of the Ryan Briscoe/Ryan Hunter-Reay accident

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