Rahal dominates the first race in Detroit

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Graham Rahal, Scott Dixon and James Hinchcliffe on the confetti-saturated podium Saturday afternoon after the first of two races in Detroit.

Rahal Letterman Lanigan’s Graham Rahal can breathe a small breath of relief after his victory this afternoon at the first of two races on Detroit’s Belle Isle. Rahal has been quite vocal about his poor outcomes this season: 17th (St. Petersburg), 10th  (Long Beach), 13th (Alabama), 21st (Phoenix), 6th (Indy GP) and 12th (500). He always would go back to the fact that the team had a great car, and he would do better the next time.

Although his P1 award wasn’t entirely earned (read my Dual Qualifying Post) he surely made up for it in today’s race. He held on tightly to that first spot leading a total of 55 of the 70 laps today, and even after his first pit, rejoined at 5th, eventually working his way back up. The car was on point today, as was Rahal. The stars aligned and Rahal finally got the win he so eagerly wanted.

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James and the “grand” wall.

Schmidt Peterson’s James Hinchcliffe made an incredible recovery to take the 3rd spot on the podium today after a spin in turn two on the first lap left him at 22nd. After a little assistance to get his car restarted and moving, Hinch was nearly a lap behind and dead last.  What surely looked to be set up as a rough run for the Canadian turned lucky after an issued caution with a deployed safety car provided enough time for him to catch up with the rest of the field, where he would then work his way up to a 3rd place finish.

Ganassi’s Scott Dixon was our other podium finisher, who appears to be playing the role of bridesmaid on the podium lately (3rd in St. Pete;  2nd in Alabama and Indy GP)  and not the bride (winner). He did lead two of the laps today, as one of the five leaders in total, but just could not catch up to Rahal. And the man managed to keep up and behind Rahal on an injured ankle he sustained in his horrific crash last weekend at the Indy 500. After that eventful week (not to mention his terrible Taco Bell experience), Dixon really needs a win. Maybe tomorrow if the ankle can take it.

Lap 25 saw the stopping (and dying) of A.J. Foyt’s #4 car with Conor Daly. A mechanical failure is to blame, but everyone was a bit confused to see the Foyt car parked on the course, and to see Ganassi’s Charlie Kimball then in the wall. Later it was revealed Kimball was avoiding Daly’s stopped car and spun out. He was able to get back on the course and continue racing, although finishing 21st to Daly’s 22nd.

Daly seems to have hit a spot of bad luck this season. His car has had the ability to get up and or near the top 10 spots, yet something always inconveniently happens. He hasn’t finished above 14th the entire season. Last year, he had a second place finish here in Detroit. Today it looked as if he could have done it (or similar) again having made it up to 5th before his car died.

Maybe he can borrow whatever voodoo ritual Rahal made reference to a few weeks back and change his luck…?

Other worthy honorable mentions would be Andretti’s Alexander Rossi and Takuma Sato. The former and recent Indy 500 winners both managed to stay fairly high up in positions. Sato also looked in line to possibly get a podium finish today, but the car just wasn’t quite fast enough.

Dale Coyne’s original rookie, Ed Jones made some substantial progress today having started 21st and behind his new rookie teammate Esteban Gutierrez, and finished 9th. Gutierrez with his new seat for the weekend finished 19th.

Tomorrow’s 2nd race, or “Part II” of the Dual shall be more than interesting. So far, as of Rahal’s win today, seven different drivers have won the seven races of the season. Will Detroit provide another to make it eight? With a forecast of rain tomorrow (and yes, they do use rain tires on these courses—unlike the beast of Indianapolis Motor Speedway), there very well could be a unique and surprising ending to the weekend.

Race results for the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix, Race 1:
1. Graham Rahal (Rahal-Letterman)
2. Scott Dixon (Ganassi)
3. James Hinchcliffe (SPM)
4. Josef Newgarden (Penske)
5. Alexander Rossi (Andretti-Herta)
6. Mikhail Aleshin (SPM)
7. Helio Castroneves (Penske)
8. Takuma Sato (Andretti)
9. Ed Jones (Coyne) (R)
10. Spencer Pigot (ECR)
11. Max Chilton (Ganassi)
12. Marco Andretti (Andretti)
13. Ryan Hunter-Reay (Andretti)
14. Carlos Munoz (Foyt)
15. Tony Kanaan (Ganassi)
16. Simon Pagenaud (Penske)
17. J.R. Hildebrand (ECR)
18. Will Power (Penske)
19. Esteban Gutierrez (Coyne) (R)
20. Oriol Servia (Rahal-Letterman)
21. Charlie Kimball (Ganassi)
22. Conor Daly (Foyt)

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