Graham Rahal shoots the celebratory six-shooters in Victory Lane after winning the Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway
From the Track

Rahal wins closest finish in Texas Motor Speedway history

Story Credit: Jared DePouw
Photo Credit: INDYCAR Photo

{boxplus href=”images/News/2016Texas/RahalGunsChrisOwens.jpg” title=”Photo Credit Chris Owens/IndyCar Photo”}Graham Rahal shoots the celebratory six-shooters in Victory Lane after winning the Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway{/boxplus}

It only took three tries, but finally 76 days after the second attempt at running the Firestone 600, the Verizon IndyCar Series completed all 248 laps and wow what a finish! After leading for 76 days and most of the remaining 177 laps, James Hinchliffe gave up the lead to Graham Rahal in Turn 3 of the final lap and nearly came roaring back to win. However, it was the Usain Bolt-esque early celebrating Rahal that would cross the finish line first, if only by 0.0080 of a second. That less-than-a-front-wing’s distance is the closest finish in the 20-year history of Texas Motor Speedway, and is the fifth-closest finish of any Indy car race in history. The race would restart on Lap 72 and run caution free until Lap 213 when contact between Scott Dixon and Ed Carpenter would slow down the pace of the race.

“I like Ed (Carpenter) and he’s a good friend, but I don’t know what the hell he was doing out there,” Dixon said after being released from the In-Field Care Center. “Three laps before that he nearly crashed me doing the same thing going into Turn 3. And then going into Turn 1, he just turned left into me. I don’t know if his radio wasn’t working or he didn’t have a spotter, but how you don’t get a penalty for that I have no idea.”

While Dixon believed he was in the right, race stewards disagreed and ultimately took no action after reviewing the incident. It wouldn’t take long however for Dixon and Carpenter to talk face-to-face after Carpenter lost control eleven laps later on Lap 224.

“Whatever happened with Scott (Dixon) and I there, when my left rear touched his front wing, it must have cut a tire and that led to the accident,” Carpenter said. “I thought tonight was a night that we could have gotten a good result. It’s going to be a long off season before I can get back in the car, but we’ll come back strong next year.”

Also involved in the Lap 224 incident were Helio Castroneves and Max Chilton who were both able to continue running in the race. After restarting on Lap 230, the final caution of the race would occur only two laps later when Mikhail Aleshin spun exiting Turn 4.

“Unfortunately, that incident is what happens when a lapped car keeps pushing you out onto the marbles,” Aleshin said, referring to Sebastien Bourdais who was a lap down and running on the inside of Aleshin at the time of the incident. Jack Hawksworth, who was four laps down at the time, tried going high to avoid Aleshin but was clipped into the SAFER Barrier and spun to a stop in the grass infield.

The subsequent final green flag on Lap 240 would set up an eight lap shootout between the only five cars on the lead lap. Entering Turn 3, championship leader Simon Pagenaud went four-wide, pushing Castroneves up the track and into Rahal. Rahal would pinball off Tony Kanaan who was at the top of the track before falling to the back of the lead pack. Castroneves, who had already sustained damage from his previous incident with Ed Carpenter fell back from the lead pack, leaving only four cars to battle for checkered flag.

Out of the four lead cars, all but Pagenaud were looking for their first race wins of the season and their driving certainly reflected it. At one point all four cars again went four-wide entering Turn 3, with championship leader Pagenaud conservatively backing out in order to prevent disaster and protect his points lead. When the white flag came out, the final showdown for the podium between Hinchcliffe, Kanaan, and Rahal began.

Hinchcliffe and Rahal were running high entering Turn 1, with Kanaan and Pagenaud running on the low side. Unfortunately for Kanaan, the conservative driving of Pagenaud allowed Rahal to draft ahead of Kanaan on the backstretch and pull inside and pass Hinchcliffe through Turn 3. Hinchcliffe would battle back right up to the finish line, yet it wasn’t enough as Rahal clinched his fourth career victory.

{boxplus href=”images/News/2016Texas/SparksChrisJones.jpg” title=”Photo Credit Chris Jones/IndyCar Photo”}Sparks rain from the No. 5 Arrow Honda of James Hinchcliffe during the Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway{/boxplus}

Notable Stats from the Firestone 600:

  • The margin of victory of 0.0080 seconds is the 17th time that the margin of victory was less than 1.0 second and the 9th time it was less than 0.1 seconds.
  • That margin of victory is the fifth-closest finish in the history of Indy car racing and the closest finish in Texas Motor Speedway history.
  • The final lap was the only lap of the race that Graham Rahal led, and is only the 14th time the winner only led the final lap. The last time this has happened was 2013 São Paulo by James Hinchcliffe.
  • The fastest lap of the race was on Lap 119 by Scott Dixon (214.851mph)
  • Eight different drivers led laps, with James Hinchcliffe leading the most (188)
Jared DePouw
Jared is the founder of RealOpenWheel.com but works as a small business accountant. He also officiates high school football and lacrosse in his free time.

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