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Rahal Rebounds at IMS despite Caution Foiling Pit Strategy

Graham Rahal was in good spirits following Saturday’s NTT INDYCAR SERIES road race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway after finishing second in the GMR Grand Prix he could have won.

“Look, that’s life,” said Rahal, the driver of the No. 15 Fifth Third Bank Honda. “Strategy has burned me before, and it’s helped me before.”

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s lead driver seemed in control of the 80-lap race when rookie Oliver Askew crashed in Turn 14 on Lap 36. That break in the action took away the advantage Rahal had on a two-stop strategy as Scott Dixon and other top contenders went with three stops.

Eight laps after the restart, Rahal’s race lead was swiped by a charging Dixon, who never looked back.

“I thought the strategy was honestly working perfect,” Rahal said. “Coming out of the pits on the first stop and still being right with (Will Power) and (Jack) Harvey and all the good guys – the guys I was racing with at that time – all I kept thinking was, when the pits cycle through for the last time we’ll have a 25- or 30-second lead.

“But obviously the yellow came out, and it kind of nullified our strategy because they got to pit under yellow with just one more (stop) to go.”

Dixon was one of those drivers, and he beat Rahal to the finish line by 19.9469 seconds. Rahal lost most of that ground while using the black tires in the middle portion of the race, but he soldiered on, admitting that Dixon might have won regardless of the caution.

“Dixie was very fast today,” said Rahal, who led 18 laps. “Would we have won (without the caution)? We certainly would have had a buffer, but he was definitely quick.”

Rahal’s second-place finish was his second in this event – the other in 2015 – and he finished in the top 10 for the sixth consecutive year here. Saturday’s result also was a nice response to a painful 17th-place finish in last month’s season-opening race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Rahal stands fifth in the standings heading to next weekend’s doubleheader at Road America, the scenic road course in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. Saturday’s race will air at 5 p.m. (ET) on the NBC Sports Network. Sunday’s race is at 12:30 p.m. on NBC.

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