Graham Rahal beat James Hinchcliffe to the checkered flag by 0.0080 of a second at the Texas Motor Speedway

16C_9066-1Graham Rahal with a few sparks entering Turn 1 during the Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway — Photo by: Chris Owens

Starting from 13th place Car 15 Graham Rahal, Honda won the Firestone 600 Verizon IndyCar Series race at Texas Motor Speedway. 2nd Place Car 5 James Hinchcliffe, Honda, started from 10th place. Hinchcliffe led the most laps with 188 laps. 3rd Place Car 10 Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, started from 8th place.

16C_8709-1Graham Rahal and his wife, Courtney Force, celebrate in Victory Lane after winning the Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway — Photo by: Chris Owens

4th Place Car 22 Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, started from 6th place followed by 5th place Car 3 Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, started from 3rd place. 6th Place Car 83 Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, started from 15th place followed by 7th place Car 26 Carlos Munoz, Honda, started from pole. 8th Place Car 12 Will Power, Chevrolet, started from 7th place followed by 9th place Car 2 Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, started from 17th place. Lastly in the Top 10 was Car 11 Sebastien Bourdais, Chevrolet, in 10th place, started from 18th place.

16C_8393-1Helio Castroneves leads Tony Kanaan and Graham Rahal across the start/finish line during the Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway — Photo by: Chris Owens

The race had 5 Cautions for 53 laps: 1st Caution on lap 42 for Contact: Car 18 Conor Daly, Honda and Car 21 Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet in Turn 4. 2nd Caution on lap 72 for Red Flag. 3rd Caution on lap 213 for Contact: Car 9 Scott Dixon, Chevrolet and Car 20 Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet in Turn 1. 4th Caution on lap 224 for Contact: Car 3 Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, Car 8 Car Max Chilton, Chevrolet and Car 20 Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet in Turn 4. 5th Caution on lap 232 for Contact: Car 7 Mikhail Aleshin, Honda and Car 41 Jack Hawksworth, Honda in Turn 4.

16C_9386-1James Hinchcliffe shoots sparks in Turn 1 during the Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway — Photo by: Chris Owens

Lead changes: 14 among 8 drivers: Lap Leaders: Munoz 1 – 37, Newgarden 38 – 39, Hunter-Reay 40, Hinchcliffe 41 – 74, Hunter-Reay 75 – 84, Hinchcliffe 85 – 120,
Castroneves 121 – 126, Hinchcliffe 127 – 220, Carpenter 221, Hinchcliffe 222 – 225,
Castroneves 226, Hinchcliffe 227 – 235, Kanaan 236, Hinchcliffe 237 – 247, Rahal 248.

16C_8804-1James Hinchcliffe and Ryan Hunter-Reay go wheel-to-wheel into Turn 1 during the Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway — Photo by: Chris Owens

Verizon IndyCar Series point standings: Pagenaud 529, Power 501, Kanaan 416, Castroneves 415, Newgarden 406, Dixon 397, Rahal 394, Hinchcliffe 392, Munoz 382, Kimball 361.

04CJ4484AEd Carpenter spin along the frontstretch during the Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway — Photo by: Chris Jones

Rahal wins closest finish in Texas Motor Speedway history

04CJ7131Impounded cars lined up on pit lane prior to the restart of the Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway — Photo by: Chris Jones

FORT WORTH, Texas (Saturday, Aug. 27, 2016) – Verizon IndyCar Series fans waited 76 days for the Firestone 600 to be completed at Texas Motor Speedway. It was definitely worth the wait.

Graham Rahal passed James Hinchcliffe coming out of the last turn of the last lap and held on for the win by 0.0080 of a second – the closest finish in the 20-year history of the 1.455-mile oval and the fifth-closest finish of any Indy car race in history.

“I didn’t want to go through this year without a win,” Rahal said. “On that last yellow, I was telling myself this could be my chance, you’d better get it done. We’re just lucky it all worked out.”

The nail-biting finish climaxed an evening of thrilling Verizon IndyCar Series racing as the event suspended by rain after 71 laps June 12 was completed under the lights at TMS. Eight drivers swapped the lead 14 times throughout the 248 laps (including the June portion), with Hinchcliffe setting the pace for 188 laps in the No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda.

Hinchcliffe and Rahal led the field to the green flag on the final restart on Lap 240, with Helio Castroneves, Tony Kanaan and Simon Pagenaud the only other lead-lap cars giving chase. On fresher tires after making pit stops during the last caution period, championship leader Pagenaud and Kanaan each made bids for the lead that Hinchcliffe denied – often with the help of a push from behind by fellow Honda driver Rahal. At one point on Lap 244, the top four cars ran side by side.

On the final lap, Rahal ducked inside of Hinchcliffe in Turns 3 and 4 and pulled enough of an advantage to hold on by the narrowest of margins for his fourth career victory and first since winning at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in August 2015.

“I knew I was going to have to try to fake Hinch to the top side because there was only one way to actually clear him, which was to the bottom,” said Rahal, the 14th driver to win an Indy car race by leading only the last lap and the first to do it since Hinchcliffe at Sao Paulo, Brazil, in 2013. “I was just very lucky it worked and I have to thank Hinch a lot because he gave me some good room at the bottom and it didn’t end up in tears.”

Hinchcliffe wasn’t consoled by his best finish of the season and best since he won at NOLA Motorsports Park in April 2015.

“When we cleared Tony and it was just me and Graham coming down to the checkered, I thought the momentum is on the outside. I feel like I’ve kind of seen it here 10 times before in races in years past, and I thought we were still going to be able to do it.

“But, man, he rolled through the center of (Turns) 3 and 4 with a whole lot of speed. I hadn’t been next to a car all night that cleared me that quickly. That was the time to make that move. It’s just tough having a car like that and leading that many laps, but not the one that counted.”

Kanaan wound up third, the 76th podium finish of his 19-year Indy car career (11th on the all-time list). Pagenaud finished fourth, upping his points advantage to 28 over teammate Will Power, who finished eighth, with two races remaining.

“Wow, that was exciting!” Pagenaud said. “I don’t think I have any breath left. I thought we were going to get it, but when it went four wide I got touched and pushed me into (Hinchcliffe) and I had to back out of it or there was going to be a big wreck.”
The race restarted with 20 of the 22 cars competing. Josef Newgarden and Conor Daly crashed on Lap 42 in June and were ruled ineligible for the completion because their cars could not have been repaired that day.

With the INDYCAR Grand Prix at The Glen (Sept. 4) and the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma (Sept. 18) remaining on the schedule, nine drivers remain mathematically alive for the 2016 championship: Pagenaud, Power, Kanaan, Castroneves, Newgarden, Scott Dixon, Rahal, Hinchcliffe and Carlos Munoz.

Coverage of the INDYCAR Grand Prix at The Glen begins at 2 p.m. ET Sept. 4 on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.

Police officer heroes serve as co-grand marshals

The co-grand marshals for the resumption of the Firestone 600 headlined “Back The Blue Night” at Texas Motor Speedway to honor law enforcement and first responders.

Matt Pearce of the Fort Worth Police Department and Jorge Barrientos of the Dallas Police Department, both injured in shootings this year, issued the command for the cars to refire their engines and continue the race suspended June 12 by rain.

Pearce was shot in the cheek, arm, chest and leg March 15 while pursuing a fugitive in western Fort Worth. The 36-year-old also sustained a bruised heart and fractured femur and spent two months in the hospital.

Barrientos was shot in the hand and received shrapnel wounds in the chest when a sniper opened fire on police working traffic control during a peaceful protest July 7. Despite the wounds, he continued providing help to his fallen partners. Three of the five officers who died that night were from his unit.

The two heroes received rousing ovations when introduced during the INDYCAR drivers’ meeting before the race. Both officers were appreciative of the support from INDYCAR and Texas Motor Speedway.

“It’s been good,” Barrientos said. “We love the support, really appreciate them seeking us out and inviting us out here. It’s been a good experience, an awesome experience to come out here and enjoy this. It lets you know, as an officer, as part of the community, not only does the community and the citizens but the companies and industries love to show that support, too.”

Pearce echoed his fellow officer’s sentiments.

“We’ve had nothing but support since the day I got hurt,” Pearce said. “We had people calling and asking how they could support us when, at one point, we weren’t even sure if I was going to make it, so we weren’t sure where to go.

“But we’ve been flooded with support,” Pearce added. “We’ve been very well taken care of. INDYCAR and Texas Motor Speedway stepping in and doing that with force as well, it makes it that much easier to go out and do our jobs every day when we have a hard job to do.”

Pearce is very familiar with motorsports and Texas Motor Speedway, having served off-duty at the track the previous five years. He was looking forward to enjoying a better seat for the race this time.

“Normally I’m out here because normally I work up here,” Pearce said. “This would’ve been my sixth season being up here. I love being here.

“I’m very choosey about what off-duty part-times I work. This is one that I love coming up to, so to be able to sit down as a race fan and as a motorsports fan is fantastic. This is like a dream come true for me.”

“What They’re Saying” from Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway

04CJ4472APit lane comes to life as Charlie Kimball dives into his pit stall during the Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway — Photo by: Chris Jones

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA (No. 2 hum by Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “It was just OK. We struggled most of the night in the long run pace. The short run pace was good. I restarted last there, and drove up to fourth. It is little too late like every race has been. Just mistakes again that we really have to work on that.”

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 AAA Insurance Team Penske Chevrolet): “That was an eventful night. The AAA Insurance Chevrolet was really good from the very start. We ran up front and led some laps. Then, all kinds of things happened. We caught a break with a yellow which allowed us to come in and change both the front and rear wings. To dodge as many accidents as we did and finish fifth is very good. There were some crazy moves up there at the end that could have ruined just about everybody’s day. But we’re ready to head to Watkins Glen.”

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): “It was a tough finish, for sure. It was a great race. The Arrow Electronics car was just a rocket ship. We built the thing to be good over a tire stint, which is always the name of the game here in Texas. Tire degradation is key. We haven’t had a late-finish, three-wide battle here in Texas since 2011. It was tough. We kept a lot of guys at bay. Like I said, we really built the car for long runs and on those restarts we kept them at bay a couple times but ultimately, Graham (Rahal) and TK (Tony Kanaan) stopped for tires and I think that was kind of the difference maker. It’s a tough call but huge credit to the Arrow Electronics boys because the car really was a rocket and congrats to Graham. It’s a lot of fun racing up there with those guys and I think we put on a much better show for the fans than we would’ve if we were leading by half a straight. We’d have liked it better but we’re here to put on a good show.”

MIKHAIL ALESHIN (No. 7 SMP Racing Schmidt Peterson Honda): “Unfortunately, that incident is what happens when a lapped car keeps pushing you out onto the marbles. We had a really great car tonight and it was definitely capable of finishing in the top three or four. The SMP Racing crew did an amazing job and we’ll be able to show how fast we are soon.”

MAX CHILTON (No. 8 Gallagher Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet): “It was just an absolutely crazy race. It was two, three and sometimes four wide out there. I was struggling with the balance of the Gallagher car all night. We took three and a half turns of front wing out and it still didn’t feel right. I was struggling to get the car to feel right especially when we ran in a pack – it was just so neutral. There were times in clear air when we were quick, but on a whole it was a bit of a poor day. On the other side of things, we finished and ran all the laps and got good experience under our belts.”

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet): “I like Ed (Carpenter) and he’s a good friend, but I don’t know what the hell he was doing out there. 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.”

TONY KANAAN (No. 10 NTT Data Chevrolet): “Oh, that was so much fun. I’ve got to thank the fans that came back. I didn’t think there was going to be a lot of people but whoever didn’t come missed a hell of a race. That was some old school Texas right there. It was a good night. We started way in the back, but we made up positions right away. I think with INDYCAR not changing the rules and the earlier race being a day race, we had a ton of downforce that we had to run during tonight’s race, so the cars felt a lot closer as you could see. I had to dig into my hard drive and remember pack racing again. It worked out pretty well. Big props to the guys in front who gave each other room, that’s why we finished the way we did. It’s always a pleasure to race like that. I feel bad for the people that didn’t come back tonight from the first race to watch because it really was a hell of a show.” (On how exciting the end was) “When you have good cars going with each other, it’s quicker. I gave them hell!” (On where he wanted to be for the last lap) “On the inside. But if Graham (Rahal) wasn’t pushing Hinch (James Hinchcliffe), I was going to have it. So, I was hoping for Graham to get greedy and go three wide. That was going to slow everybody down, but that didn’t happen. He was smart enough.”

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 11 Team Hydroxycut – KVSH Racing Chevrolet): “It was a tough night for the Hydroxycut – KVSH Racing team. We knew we were going to be on the shy side with the downforce level because that was the way it was when we were here in June. At that time, we didn’t anticipate that everyone else would stack up on downforce and we didn’t have some of the parts we needed. So, of course, we had to restart that way, which was quite frustrating honestly. I knew it was going to be tough in the beginning and it sure was in traffic. I was basically just trying to stay out of trouble and manage my tires. Then during the second stint when it stretched out, I went for it and after 15 laps the tires disintegrated and the car got very loose on my own. I was out of adjustments, so we had to make an earlier pit stop, which destroyed our race. After that we corrected. We were still not good in traffic, but could hold some decent speeds, 204 (mph), 205 even toward the end of our stint. Unfortunately, the leaders were running 207, 208 and there was nothing we could do about it, so I went a couple of laps down. We fought our way through the race, but it is definitely not fun when you have to be that passive, just hanging on and trying to bring it home. The good news is we finished in the top 10 on all the ovals this year so we have made progress.”

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): (On Texas being the race that changes the points battle) “Yeah, I would say that. Obviously there are still plenty of points on the table. Simon (Pagenaud) did a good job to get up there and get his lap back and get tires to make it up there. But that was an intense race there at the end. I kind of just stayed out of it.” (On not finishing second or third for the first time since Detroit and what made the difference) “I think it was definitely the pit stop sequences. We kept going long. That yellow had us there at the end. And I think if we didn’t get that yellow, I would have finished around Simon; maybe ahead, maybe behind, however the stint played out, but much closer to him. But that was going to be a crazy restart at the end there. It was something to watch. Intense racing there at the end, especially with the last restart and with new tires and cool air being a factor. The cautions in the midst of some of the pit stop sequences made it more difficult to get back up into the top two or three, but the Verizon Chevy was still strong today. We are still up there in points and Watkins Glen is right around the corner for us. We’ll look ahead to next week.”

TAKUMA SATO (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Honda): “Tough night. We had a component failure in practice and just got one lap. The ABC Supply boys did a great job to put it back together in such a short time. We had a few too many issues in the race. We just weren’t sure what was wrong. We didn’t want to risk it so we are just going to get ready for the next one.”

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda): “It was just a really good battle with Hinch (James Hinchcliffe) and TK (Tony Kanaan). I’ve got to tip my hat off to Hinch. He did a great job tonight. He led that thing pretty well from start to finish other than a couple hundred yards. Great job by him and TK. I have to apologize to TK for rubbing him there. I think Helio just flew up the track and hit me and I hit TK. We’re lucky we made it all through. That was a great show. We appreciate all the fans that came out tonight. I hope you guys all go home and talk about how great INDYCAR racing is because that’s as good of a show as you’re going to get. My Firestones (tires) were great and I knew mine were very consistent over the whole stint. We started to lose them maybe with five or 10 (laps) to go but I knew I was going to be better than everybody else. I was just only concerned about TK on the fresh rubber. I didn’t realize after he had pitted he’d be allowed to get all the way back up to us. I thought he’d be stuck behind the lapped cars and I thought it would come down to a duel between Hinch and I, but we fended him off. My car, my god, what a machine tonight. This PennGrade machine was just flawless. We had United Rentals, Steak ‘n’ Shake, Mi-Jack and Hyatt and everybody that supports us and gets us here. This means a lot.”

GABBY CHAVES (No. 19 Boy Scouts of America Honda): “It was an entertaining race. We were not optimal for the conditions tonight. We had really put everything in the car set up for the day race we had over two months ago, and with the cooler temperatures here at night it didn’t suit us and it kind of went more towards the other cars on the grid. We knew that. We knew that on restarts we’d be sitting ducks and we just had to hang on as hard as we could. We tried to for a while. I thought we had a pretty decent race car, hanging in the top six in the first stint. But then the balance was a little off, a little loose, and we just kind of fought that all night. Obviously not ideal, especially in such a close and tough race like we have here in Texas.”

ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet): “The car was awesome. On long runs, I think we were for sure the best car out there. I’d cut into James (Hinchcliffe)’s lead every stint. He was a little quicker. We didn’t have the fastest car, but it was good on the long runs. I’m just bummed. It’s been such a rough year. We’ve had such better cars that what we had last year and really just can’t catch a break. 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. I’m just really bummed. 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.”

SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 22 Hewlett Packard Enterprise Chevrolet): “My spotter said, ‘four-wide’, and I’m like ‘Uh oh, that’s no good’. And then (Graham) Rahal touched me and I touched (James) Hinchcliffe, so I was actually loose going into the corner and had to back out of it. It’s unfortunate. I really wanted to get that first oval win. But, I think no matter what, that was a great performance. The HP car was amazing all night. Thanks to Chevy, obviously; this aero kit is really amazing. It really shows what the Indy cars can do. I think tonight we had a great show. Did you guys enjoy it? I did. Wow. That was exciting. I don’t think I have any breath left. I thought we were going to get it, but when it went four wide I got touched and pushed me into (James Hinchcliffe) and I had to back out of it or there was going to be a big wreck. The Hewlett Packard Enterprise Chevy just got better and better all night. I really thought it was going to come together right at the end when we got back on the lead lap. We were able to come in for tires. Everything nearly came together.”

CARLOS MUNOZ (No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda): “I was a little disappointed, if I am honest. The positive side, I think, is we got better position than what our speed showed. The balance wasn’t there in the car. After the first stint it wasn’t the balance we expected to have. But, you know, it’s just racing. Still (finished) seventh, it’s all right with points. Honda did a great job – I’m really happy Honda went P1 and P2. We will have to keep working hard.”

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 27 Snapple Honda): “I guess we can’t be too unhappy, coming from 18th, but we were really just lacking overall grip. I’m not sure where to start with the car; we’re just a step down on grip than my competitors. There was one stint when I was actually running flat out, and three cars passed me. It’s frustrating. We need more speed and are hoping to find it at The Glen next weekend.”

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): “I’m happy to get the car back in one piece tonight. I found out after the race that we had oil leaking over the right rear (tire) every stint but the first. I was just wicked loose the whole day and did everything I could to just keep (the car) off the wall. Really glad we came out OK, but it seems our luck continues. I’m really looking forward to returning to The Glen next week and hoping to get the DHL car up front where it belongs.”

JACK HAWKSWORTH (No. 41 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Honda): “We had a pretty decent car which was good but started two laps down because of all that happened here last time. Disappointing. On another day where we started on the lead lap we would have had a strong result. (On the accident) The car spun in directly in front of me and I had nowhere to go and got collected.”

CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 Tresiba Chevrolet): “It was kind of a crazy night out there. I’m really proud of the No. 83 Novo Nordisk guys here at Texas. I don’t think we were particularly strong here in June when the race started, but we learned some things from our teammates. The guys were solid all night in pit lane, the strategy calls were right on and we were knocking on the door of the top five which was good. It got crazy there at the end and we just couldn’t get our lap back which was unfortunate. It was a good day in the points for us which I’m happy about.”

ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 98 Castrol Edge/Curb Honda): “That was a night of trying to stay out of trouble – and we did that. From the first stint I knew our tire life wasn’t where it needed to be. It’s a bit of a mystery. No matter what we did in the pit stops or what I adjusted in the car or any different scenario, we were losing the tires way too early and around here that is a lot of lap time and it cost us. But it was good we kept the Castrol Edge car out of trouble, drove a clean race and got the points that we did.”

FORT WORTH, Texas – Results Saturday of the Firestone 600 Verizon IndyCar Series event on the 1.455-mile Texas Motor Speedway, with order of finish, starting position in parentheses, car #, driver, aero kit-engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):

1. (13) Car 15 Graham Rahal, Honda, 248, Running
2. (10) Car 5 James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 248, Running
3. (8) Car 10 Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 248, Running
4. (6) Car 22 Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 248, Running
5. (3) Car 3 Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 248, Running
6. (15) Car 83 Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 247, Running
7. (1) Car 26 Carlos Munoz, Honda, 247, Running
8. (7) Car 12 Will Power, Chevrolet, 247, Running
9. (17) Car 2 Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 246, Running
10. (18) Car 11 Sebastien Bourdais, Chevrolet, 246, Running
11. (9) Car 98 Alexander Rossi, Honda, 246, Running
12. (12) Car 27 Marco Andretti, Honda, 245, Running
13. (11) Car 28 Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 245, Running
14. (22) Car 19 Gabby Chaves, Honda, 245, Running
15. (19) Car 8 Car Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 243, Running
16. (16) Car 7 Mikhail Aleshin, Honda, 231, Contact
17. (20) Car 41 Jack Hawksworth, Honda, 227, Contact
18. (14) Car 20 Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 223, Contact
19. (2) Car 9 Scott Dixon, Chevrolet, 211, Contact
20. (4) Car 14 Takuma Sato, Honda, 160, Mechanical
21. (21) Car 18 Conor Daly, Honda, 42, Contact
22. (5) Car 21 Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 41, Contact

Race Statistics
Winner’s average speed: 144.901
Time of Race: 02:29:24.8886
Margin of victory: 0.0080 of a second

Fastest Leader Lap: 212.836 mph (24.6105 seconds) on Lap 173 by 5 – James Hinchcliffe
Verizon P1 Award ($10,000): Carlos Munoz (48.2460 seconds, 217.137 mph)
Bonus Awards: Graham Rahal ($30,000), James Hinchcliffe ($20,000), Tony Kanaan ($15,000), Simon Pagenaud ($11,000), Helio Castroneves ($10,000), Charlie Kimball ($9,000), Carlos Munoz ($8,000), Will Power ($6,000), Juan Pablo Montoya ($5,000), Sebastien Bourdais ($4,000), Alexander Rossi ($3,000), Marco Andretti ($2,000)

Graphics & Photos Courtesy of Indycar

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