Auto racing: Graham Rahal's great run gets second, but Will Power dominates field

Race car racing on a track with motion blur. 3d model scene.

INDIANAPOLIS — Will Power is one step closer to his goal of a sweep of the month of May here at Indianapolis Motor Speedway after taking the Grand Prix of Indianapolis on Saturday, and Graham Rahal once again knocked at the door of a slump-busting victory.

Rahal, singing the blues about his Honda-powered car after a qualifying effort on Friday that left him 17th on the grid, leaped to sixth on the first lap thanks in large part to a first-turn pileup caused by No. 3 qualifier Helio Castroneves tapping

No. 2 Scott Dixon. Then, with inspired driving, according to his crew chief Ricardo Nault, and great pit stops from the crew, according to Rahal, he climbed to second by lap 26 and pretty much stayed there.

But Rahal had to settle for his second straight runner-up finish in the series because Power, starting from the pole in his Chevy-powered Team Penske car, put on a dominant performance that he thinks bodes well for his primary goal of the 2015 season: winning the 99th Indianapolis 500 on May 25.

“I am halfway through what I want to accomplish this month,” Power said.

The Australian checked off one major goal last year when he won the 2014 IndyCar series championship. On Saturday he delivered the 17th victory at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for Roger Penske’s team, which has a way-out-there record 15 Indy 500 wins plus one triumph in the Brickyard 400 NASCAR race. Power wants to win the pole for the 500 next Saturday and the race, thus making it a grand slam month of May.

“It’s funny, I came into this month determined to have a good month … and it’s working out,” Power said. “It is just awesome to win at this place.”

Rahal simply was determined to charge forward on Saturday in the 82-lap race on the road course at IMS, much as he had done in the final 20 laps of the race at Barber Motorsports Park outside Birmingham, Ala., 13 days earlier, where he finished second to Josef Newgarden.

Despite the qualifying disappointment on Friday, he said he had a sense things were going to fall his way at the start, and he told his father, Bobby, about it beforehand. As he explained, he was going to go far left headed down to the right-hand turn one while an expected jam, perhaps collisions and mayhem, ensued on the inside.

“Sure enough, it literally worked perfectly,” Graham Rahal said. “I saw smoke everywhere, then the next thing I saw was (the rear end of fifth-place Juan Pablo Montoya). … As Juan said, part of this deal is luck.”

His dad, Bobby Rahal, primary owner of the Rahal Letterman Lanigan team, said that just like at Barber, the rise in the race showed the whole team was clicking including his son, whom he thinks has taken his driving to another level.

“It shows that Alabama wasn’t a fluke, doesn’t it?” Bobby Rahal said.

Graham Rahal, 25, has had only one IndyCar series win, and that was in his first race in the series at St. Petersburg, Fla., in 2008. But gaining that edge usually is a process, and Graham Rahal — now fifth in the season points after finishing 19th last year — and his team are working it, his father said.

@TIM_MAYsports ___


This article was written by Tim May from The Columbus Dispatch and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.