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June 25, 2017

Up and Down Day leads to Eighth at Road America for Graham Rahal

ELKHART LAKE - It was clear throughout the 27th running of Indy cars at Road America that Graham Rahal just did not have his best stuff.

“I would have obviously liked to have finished better, but eighth is about as good as we could do today,” Rahal said after the Kohler Grand Prix.

Admittedly, he struggled with his Honda all weekend, although Rahal -- the third-place finisher last year -- did manage to grab the sixth spot in qualifying.

He thrust himself into the action early passing Simon Pagenaud and Scott Dixonwithin the first two corners. IndyCar stewards penalized Rahal for running Dixon into the grass, though, so he fell back to his starting spot.

Pitting strategy was essential for many drivers on Sunday, including Rahal. Because his car lacked pace, Rahal knew he had to go with the four stop strategy utilized by nine of the 21 competitors.

“I knew about five laps in that I didn’t have the pace for a three-stop strategy,” Rahal said. “We tried as best we could to work with what we had during the race and overcome it.”

Down the stretch, Rahal managed to pass Mikhail Aleshin and Max Chilton, which salvaged some of the weekend. Still, he admitted he had work today ahead of the next race July 8.

“We worked awfully hard but just missed it this weekend,” Rahal said. “We will go test at Iowa now and hope to figure out some stuff there to come back strong at that race.”

Ouch: Both of the caution flags came from accidents in the Kink, Road America’s signature white-knuckle right-hand bend.

Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato spun at the exit on the 29th lap, made some contact with the wall and bounced through the grass, but after his engine was restarted Sato was able to continue.

With 10 laps to go, Tony Kanaan tangled with Alexander Rossi in the previous turn, the Carousel, causing damage to the left front wing, taking away much of the downforce that would have helped Kanaan make the corner. Instead he slammed the wall hard.

“I don’t think it was a nice move,” Kanaan said. “My wrist hurts a little and my leg, but I’ll be fine.”

Another eventful day: After visa problems caused him to arrive late for the weekend and the airline lost his luggage, Aleshin ran through a gravel pit and bumped and nudged his way to a 10th-place finish.

“Today's result is not bad at all considering the problems we dealt with yesterday and with missing practice on Friday,” Aleshin said. “It was a pretty intense race for me."

Finally:Charlie Kimball finally got the sort of result he seemed headed for all year when he came home sixth.

“We’ll take that momentum, and we’ll head to Iowa from here,” said Kimball, who finished for only the sixth time in 10 races.

“The rest of the year is about continuing to not shoot ourselves in the foot. Through mechanical issues, through racing incidents in the first few races this year, and all of the month of May, we seem to at least not be getting bad luck, which is a very positive thing.”

Indy Lights: Beneath his black sunglasses on a chilly morning, Birchwood native Aaron Telitz felt relaxed for the first time all weekend.

“We struggled in every session, and this was the first session that I felt like we really had something,” Telitz said after a fifth-place finish in the second Lights race of the weekend. “At least, to finish on a high note, I can go home and know I drove a good race.”

Telitz, 25, who swept the weekend last year in Pro Mazda, bounced back from an eleventh-place finish on Saturday in which his brakes really struggled.

Canadian rookie Zachary Claman DeMelo, 19, won the race after passing pole-setter Colton Herta.

“I’m at a loss for words,” DeMelo said after his first victory in the series. “I’m just so happy.”

Pirelli World Challenge:Patrick Long hoisted the trophy and beamed after turning the tables on Adderly Fong.

“I think he had the car to beat,” Long said of Fong’s Bentley Continental GT. “Sometimes, it's the scenario that gives you that rewarding feeling over a weekend and certainly I think we squeezed a little bit extra out of the car.”

Long, who finished second to Fong on Saturday, edged him by 0.239 of a second in his Porsche to win for the 10th time in 42 World Challenge starts. The 50-minute timed race was shortened to 13 laps after a massive accident into Turn 5 required a long cleanup.

“It's a shame about the red flag; I think having a full run would have been more strategic on the tires,” Fong said afterward.

Pirelli World Challenge GTS:Ian James picked up his second win of the weekend under simultaneous red and checkered flags after Samatha Tan’s crash in the Kink left the track littered with debris.

 

 

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