Rahal, Grosjean clash after late race jousting

Rahal, Grosjean clash after late race jousting

Graham Rahal wasted no time establishing his mind about his double late race contact with Romain Grosjean in the Honda Indy Alabama Grand Prix presented by AmFirst at Barber Motorsports Park.

“Do (the audience) want ‘Honest Graham’, or should I behave today?” he asked NBC Sports reporter Kevin Lee. “Which one do we prefer?”

The answer was obvious, so Rahal continued his version of the incident into Turn 5.

“I think it’s obvious – just look at the camera in the car,” he said. “Look at the corner of (Grosjean’s) head. If I can see in the mirror that his head is pointed (towards me) as the track goes (the other way), it speaks for itself. I gave him space.”

Rahal had gone wide in Turn 5 trying to get close to Scott McLaughlin’s #3 Sonsio Team Penske Chevrolet in a race for sixth place. Grosjean came rushing inside Rahal.

Their first touch was at the top of the corner, but it was the second touch, much further down the road, that Rahal was cooking.

‘Look, we’re already there; why are you turning into me?” Rahal said to the monitor as he watched the replay. “Your right front wheel (wheel) is on my left back. There is no excuse for that.

‘Here… what? Look at him, just let go of the car to hit me. And then here again, boom! You’re straight.”

When it happened, Rahal told his team on their radio that Grosjean “hit me on purpose.”

Grosjean said there were “a lot of clattering wheels” during the 90-lap race because “it’s so hard to pass” on this permanent course of 17 turns and 2.3 miles. Grosjean said the two touches to Rahal’s car were an example of that.

“It’s good racing,” he said. “It’s INDYCAR wheel-to-wheel action.”

Rahal said he was disappointed that Grosjean passed him on the last lap when Rahal’s number 15 Code 3 Associates Honda of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing nearly ran out of fuel. Grosjean finished seventh in Andretti Autosport’s No. 28 DHL Honda, Rahal was eighth.

Another ‘Power(ful)’ Finish

Will Power still has no win this NTT INDYCAR SERIES season and is fourth in the points standings en route to two races this month at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

But the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet driver showed on Sunday why he is having one of his best seasons yet. He recovered from 19th starting position to finish fourth.

Power has finished third, fourth, fourth and fourth in this year’s race so far. Though fourth in the standings, he is just 10 points off the series lead on his way to the GMR Grand Prix, which is held on a road course where he has won five NTT P1 Awards and five races, both series highs.

“I really didn’t expect to be this far,” Power said after the Barber indictment. “I think for a top-10 (finish), that’s what we talked about in the strategy meeting.

“The good thing is if you don’t qualify well, you have good tires before the end of the race, and we had a pretty good pace. Great strategy from the team and just a good effort all around. A really solid day.”

Power said a change of mindset during the off-season to start working with things better works.

“I’ve been here so long – this is my 17th year – that I know the game so well,” he said. “(The season) ebbs and flows, and you have your good and bad days, and all you can do is try your best; there isn’t much you can do (otherwise). I just try to enjoy it while I do it.”

The last time Power started so strong was in 2014 when he won the Astor Cup as the season champion.

Herta’s Drive a joy to watch

Like Power and others, Colton Herta followed the three-stop strategy to get over a disappointing qualifying session. It was on track to work well until series rookie Callum Ilott brought caution to the fore on lap 32 (of 90) with a spin in the gravel trap of Turn 9.

The No. 26 Gainbridge Honda of Andretti Autosport w/Curb-Agajanian was in 18th place on the ensuing restart and quickly started overtaking cars. Herta pushed McLaughlin into sixth on lap 76 when he went too deep into Turn 5, locking up the front tires, bumping into McLaughlin and spinning. By the time he regrouped, he was in 10th place, where he started and finished.

“I was just a bit too ambitious, but our race was good anyway,” said Herta. “An unlucky timed yellow.”

Herta thought his team’s strategy was perfect given the low starting position.

“The three-stop was going to work,” he said. “We would beat all the two-stops at the pace we were running.

“The part that screwed us up was Callum going off and causing the yellow. It’s a shame, but these things happen when you have (different strategies). You can be a little bit a little bit (by warnings).”

Opportunities and goals

  • Tim Tebow, the 2007 Heisman Trophy winner, performed a rare NTT INDYCAR SERIES trifecta, made the invocation for Sunday’s race, gave an exciting command to start the engines and then drove with Mario Andretti in the Ruoff Mortgage Fastest Seat in Sports. Tebow had a memorable weekend, giving his opening address at the University of Florida, his alma mater, on Saturday.
  • Sam Schmidt, a former INDYCAR SERIES driver and co-owner of Arrow McLaren SP, was honored on Saturday with an honorary doctorate from the University of Pepperdine, his alma mater.
  • Chevrolet has now won the first four races of the season, two from Josef Newgarden and one from McLaughlin and Pato O’Ward.
  • O’Ward (No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet) now has three wins in his career series: on an oval (at Texas Motor Speedway), on a street course (Detroit) and a road course (Barber Motorsports Park).
  • Reigning series champion Alex Palou (No. 10 The American Legion Honda of Chip Ganassi Racing) took the points lead for the first time this season with his third top three finish in four races. For his career he has 12 podiums in 34 races. “It’s as solid as a rock,” Power said.
  • Scott Dixon (No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) finished fifth and scored his second top-five finish of the season. He is now within eight top-five finishes of Mario Andretti’s record of 193.
  • For the second year in a row, HMD Motorsports’ Linus Lundqvist led Dale Coyne Racing from pole every lap of a Cooper Tires presented Indy Lights race, this time taking his fourth career win in dramatic fashion. Lundqvist held Global Racing Group teammate Benjamin Pedersen with HMD Motorsports by 0.1782 seconds on wet tires on a dry track.
  • DEForce Racing’s Nolan Siegel won the second Indy Pro 2000 race of the weekend, leading all 30 laps for his second win of the season. Siegel also won the second race in St. Petersburg in February.
  • Jagger Jones, the grandson of 1963 Indianapolis 500 winner Parnelli Jones, won his first USF2000 series race Sunday in a Cape Motorsports 1-2 sweep. Michael d’Orlando finished second.

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