STEAK 'N SHAKE DRIVER RAHAL FINISHED FOURTH IN THE VERIZON INDYCAR SERIES CHAMPIONSHIP AFTER AN 18TH PLACE FINISH IN THE GOPRO GRAND PRIX OF SONOMA
GRAHAM RAHAL, No. 15 Steak 'n Shake Dallara/Honda/Firestone: "Unfortunately our car was pretty terrible today from the start. The guys did a great job in the pits to kind of keep us in it frankly because we didn't really deserve to be in that position. Other guys had issues. Dixon was pretty much dominant; we didn't have anything for him. The car has been like this all weekend, it's been an animal. I wasn't worried so much about the championship from the start. I knew it looked like Dixon would pretty much dominate. I can't thank this team enough, Steak 'n Shake, D-A Lubricant, Maxim and everyone that gave us the opportunity to be here. Honda has done a great job and I'm proud to lead the charge for them. Obviously the Bourdais thing hurt us and went from third to fourth in the championship. What can you say though? It's been a great year, we have nothing to be ashamed of and have a lot to be proud of. We definitely wanted to go out better than this though. We proved to people that this team can contend and we belong in a championship hunt. I just wanted to maintain third and it was looking good until Bourdais punted us. Finishing fourth in the championship is not the worst but obviously we hoped for better. This team did a tremendous job all season and obviously they deserved better than fourth. I feel like I drove pretty well this year. I feel like I improved a lot in areas that I needed to improve. We won a couple of races and we were in the hunt a lot. We were in the hunt today until we got punted and today was a bad day but we were still running sixth which was a miracle. I'm proud of the effort the team put in and I'm proud of the effort I put in and we have a lot to improve on yet."
FAST FACTS: Graham struggled with the handling of the rear of the race car for the majority of the race and the field also dealt with tire management. Rahal was in sixth place with 9 laps to go when Sebastien Bourdais hit him from behind and he dropped to 19th. Bourdais was penalized for "avoidable contact" and had to serve a drive through but the incident dropped Rahal from a third-place series standing to fourth and he finished the race in 18th place… He matched his best start of sixth place with Newman/Haas/ Lanigan Racing (NHLR) in 2009 in 2015. His previous best finish is fifth with Service Central Chip Ganassi Racing (SCCGR) in 2012. He has finished in the top-10 in four of his seven races. In 2014, he avoided a multi-car collision on the start in Sonoma and moved from his 14th place qualifying position to 12th. He pit out of sequence on Lap 8 and climbed up to run fourth before his second stop where he pit under caution with Sato and Conway, but those two topped off two additional times before green conditions which helped them later. Rahal climbed back into fourth when the majority of the field pitted during a caution for Saavedra and later passed Briscoe, Kanaan and Conway to take the lead on Lap 64 of 85 which he held until Lap 81 when he had to pit for 2.2 gallons of fuel. Due to extreme fuel conservation, the fuel setting he had been running in didn't have Pit Lane Speed control and he was given a drive through penalty for speeding when he entered the pits for his splash of fuel and served it on Lap 84 of 85 which ultimately resulted in a 20th place finish. Rahal qualified eighth in 2013, ran as high as sixth but contact while in the middle of a three-wide situation dropped him to the back and he rallied to finish 11th. He qualified 15th for SCCGR in 2012, started 13th after grid penalties were served and finished fifth. He qualified 13th for SCCGR in 2011 and finished eighth. In 2010, he qualified 16th with NHR and finished 9th. Made the final Firestone Fast Six in qualifying six times in the seven road/street races in 2009 and started sixth in Sonoma for NHLR.
Contact on the opening lap with Marco Andretti forced an early stop for a new front wing but his drive shaft broke when he attempted to leave the pits. After the car was repaired in the garage area, he returned to the track many laps down in 21st position and ultimately retired in the same place after completing 30 of the 75 laps. He started 15th and finished 8th here in 2008 with NHLR… His top finishes this season are wins at Auto Club Speedway (June 27) and Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (Aug. 2) and his top start is fifth in Pocono and Detroit Race 2 (entrant points)… Rahal finished the season fourth in series standings with a total of 490 points. Scott Dixon jumped from his pre-race rank of third to first with a total of 556 points, which is the same total as Montoya but Dixon won the title on a tie-breaker. Will Power moved from fourth to third place in the standings with a total of 492.