Written by Katie Gregory, Edited by Vyas Ponnuri
Three months after his Bump Day heartbreak, Graham Rahal earned redemption in the form of pole position at the Gallagher Grand Prix. However, it is Scott Dixon who will go down as the driver of the weekend, at the yard of bricks.
As the Gallagher Grand Prix went green at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, pole-sitter Graham Rahal got a great start. His great start, though, was outshone by Andretti Autosport driver Devlin Defransesco’s brave overtake around the outside, going from fifth to first before the first five turns.
The focus was now firmly on the new race leader, as Defranseco began to create a gap to Rahal. However, as the rest of the lap went on, Alex Palou made contact with teammate Marcus Armstrong, leaving Armstrong stranded in the middle of the track. Scott Dixon then hit Palou, and Joseph Newgarden’s car ended up ledged on top of Armstrong
This four-car incident would change the nature of the race, with the championship leader and his biggest contender out of the running for victory. But the full effect of the incident, and its impact on strategy would not be fully realised until much later.
Rahal regained the lead as the race went green once again, and it was now time to find out what would be the ideal tyre for the race. Red Alternates were thought to be the favourite, but this wasn’t fully confirmed until we saw the difference in tyre showcased by the McLaren drivers. Alexander Rossi was on the alternative tyre, and passed Pato O’Ward, on the primaries, with ease. Rossi also made light work of Defrancesco, who found out which tyres were better the hard way.
Palou and Defrancesco then battled on laps 13 and 14, the championship leader making numerous attempts to pass the Andretti Autosport driver - but Defrancesco got his elbows out, and put up a fight. Palou eventually passed him, and moved into seventh place.
Rossi briefly brought the charge to Rahal, before pitting. The show was then brought by
Christian Lundgaard, who had been waiting in the wings and was now in second place. Rahal’s gap to Lundgaard was 2.8 seconds when Rahal eventually pitted, after reassuring his team he could stay out if necessary.
Lundgaard inherited the lead, but as other frontrunners had begun to pit, it would be impossible for the Danish driver to ignore the early stoppers nipping at his heels. And the most dangerous early-stopper of all was Scott Dixon, now 24 seconds behind him. Lundgaard would need a near-perfect pitstop to keep control of the race. A problem with his right rear meant the pitstop was far from perfect, and Dixon became the new race leader.
A game of inadvertent game of cat and mouse began, with Dixon leading when Rahal pitted, and vice versa. The true fight would not come until lap 65, when Rahal exited the pits, emerging five seconds behind Dixon. Rahal now had 20 laps to secure his first victory since 2008. Rahal’s main obstacle was in the form of traffic, namely Agustin Canapino and Marcus Armstrong. Neither driver opted to let Rahal past, with Dixon’s teammate Armstrong waiting on a blue flag to move out the way.
Both drivers found it difficult passing Ryan Hunter Reay, but eventually managed to do so. Now there were five laps to go, and the gap from Dixon to Rahal was sitting at a mere 1.6 seconds and closing rapidly. By the last lap, the gap between the drivers was virtually nonexistent, but Rahal just couldn’t get past one of the most meticulous drivers on the grid.
With his heroic racing cemented in IndyCar history, it’s easy to class Dixon as a legend of the past; but the Gallagher Grand Prix was the perfect reminder of Scott Dixon still performing as beautifully as ever.