INDYCAR NEWS AND NOTES – June 29, 2015
Verizon IndyCar Series Headlines:
1. Long Time Coming: Rahal, Andretti Names Share Podium Again
2. Overnight TV Ratings for Fontana Thriller Double
3. Karam Posts Best Finish of Young Career
4. Inside the box score – MAVTV 500
1. Long Time Coming: Rahal, Andretti Names Share Podium Again: Drivers with two of the most recognizable surnames in Indy car racing shared the podium following the exciting MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway on June 27, when Graham Rahal won and Marco Andretti finished third.
Surprisingly, it’s the first time in their Indy car careers that the two – who each now drive for teams owned by their fathers – have celebrated together in Victory Circle. The last meeting on the podium for a Rahal and an Andretti was Sept. 1, 1996, in the Molson Indy Vancouver street-course event. Marco’s father, Michael, won that day and Graham’s dad, Bobby, finished second.
The MAVTV 500 in Fontana, Calif., was the 42nd time in which a Rahal and an Andretti, including Marco’s grandfather, Mario, and cousin John, have been on the podium together in an Indy car race. There were three occasions when Bobby Rahal and Mario and Michael Andretti swept the podium in their careers.
Graham Rahal’s rebound this season from a frustrating 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series season is highlighted by the victory in the 250-lap race. It was his second career Indy car win and first since April 2008 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., when he was 19 years old. It also was Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s first victory since July 2008 by Ryan Hunter-Reay at Watkins Glen.
Rahal, who started 19th in the No. 15 Mi-Jack Honda, moved to fourth in the 2015 championship standings with his fifth top-five finish through 11 races.
“It feels good. I’m most happy for my dad and (team co-owners) Dave (Letterman) and Mike (Lanigan) and all our sponsors that kind of came back and gave us some life this year,” Graham said. “This is a big, big deal for us. There’s a lot of people that made a lot of comments about myself and about our team and about our owners and everything else that weren’t fair, to be quite frank, so to kind of rebound the way we have all season … this feels good to win.
“I feel like we’re starting to find our form everywhere a little bit, and I think that’s helping us in the big picture.”
Marco Andretti also is experiencing a resurgence of sorts this season. The third place at Auto Club Speedway was his fourth top-10 finish of 2015. Andretti advanced one position to sixth in the standings and remains the only driver to complete every race lap thus far this season (1,307).
“I’m not going to sit here and feel bad for myself. I’m just going to keep working,” said Marco, who qualified third in the No. 27 Snapple Honda for Andretti Autosport. “It’s good that we’re bummed out for third (and not winning).
“I think it’s my 20th podium,” he added. “I wish I had more (career) wins than two. Almost 1,000 laps led. But we just have to keep pushing and hope that I have a long career ahead of me that we can really start racking them up. Our consistency is there, I just wish we were a little bit better.”
2. Overnight TV Ratings for Fontana Thriller Double: The MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway was heralded by some as one of the most exciting races in the sport’s history, which was reflected by a more than 100 percent increase in overnight television ratings. The 250-lap event at Fontana, Calif., which featured an all-time Indy car-record 80 lead changes among 14 of the field’s 23 entries, drew a 0.37 overnight rating as reported by Nielsen – up from a 0.18 rating in 2014.
“We put on a heck of a show for the fans, that’s for sure,” third-place finisher Marco Andretti said. “It’s definitely crazy. … You’ve got guys that just don’t want to back off, guys going forward, guys going backward, inside, outside. I find it quite fun but it is extremely dangerous, but that’s what we sign up for.”
Ryan Briscoe, whose late-race incident with Ryan Hunter-Reay ended the race under caution, echoed Andretti’s sentiments.
“It was a really exciting race, to say the least,” said the driver of the No. 5 Arrow/Lucas Oil Schmidt Peterson Honda. “We passed a lot of guys out there so it was fun to be up front. Coming through the field a couple times – it was awesome. I was really enjoying myself.”
The race featured a total of 3,173 on-track passes – 2,537 for position – which accounts for 51 percent of the total on-track passes (6,248) in the Verizon IndyCar Series this season.
3. Karam Posts Best Finish of Young Career: Sage Karam’s budding career received a shot of confidence with a fifth-place finish in the MAVTV 500. Underneath the best result through nine Verizon IndyCar Series races for the 20-year-old from Nazareth, Pa., was the realization that he could run up front in Chip Ganassi Racing Teams’ No. 8 Comfort Revolution/Big Machine Records Chevrolet.
Karam showed it by leading his first career laps (five) early in the 250-lap race.
“I think everyone in the field thought they could win at some point. It was fun running up front,” said Karam, the 2013 Indy Lights champion. “The Comfort Rev/Big Machine car was fast all day and I led my first laps in the Verizon IndyCar Series, got my first top five. After a rough season, that’s what I needed right there and that’s some confidence for me that I’m going to put in my bag and take forward.”
Gabby Chaves, whose car was plagued with radio issues at the start that forced a lengthy pit stop for repairs, finished 20th in the race but maintains the lead in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings with 178 points, ahead of Stefano Coletti of KV Racing Technology (140) and Karam (126).
“Unfortunately, we had a radio issue when the race started and I could not hear anyone,” said Chaves, driver of the No. 98 Bowers & Wilkins/Curb Honda for Bryan Herta Autosport. “By the rules, especially on an oval, you have to have communications working. It took us 16 laps to track down and resolve the problem. We had a strong car, but just did the ‘good sportsman’ thing and stayed out of everyone’s way. So, we just ran all day and got some valuable experience.”
4. Inside the box score – MAVTV 500: Numbers to note following the MAVTV 500 at the 2-mile Auto Club Speedway oval – the 11th round of the Verizon Indy Car Series season:
6 – Positions gained by Stefano Coletti in the final 25 laps of the race (18th to 12th). … Podium finishes in his last seven starts at Auto Club Speedway by Tony Kanaan, who was the race runner-up.
7.77 – Average running position of winner Graham Rahal for the 250 laps.
14 – Drivers who led at least one lap, the most to lead a race at Auto Club Speedway since November 2001, when a track-record 19 drivers led.
18 – Positions improved by Rahal (19th to first), most of any of the 23 starters.
21 – Indy car wins for cars owned by Bobby Rahal, who won 24 times as a driver.
74 – Top-three career finishes by Kanaan, tying Rick Mears for 13th on the all-time Indy car list.
76 – Laps in which rookie Sage Karam improved his position, most of any driver.
80 – Lead changes in the race, an Indy car record. The previous was 73 at Auto Club Speedway in November 2001.
124 – Starts between Indy car victories for Graham Rahal, the longest streak between wins by an Indy car driver. The previous record was 97 starts between wins held by Johnny Rutherford.
244 – Consecutive starts by Kanaan, extending his all-time record.
2,537 – Total on-track passes for position. Kanaan had 204, most of any driver.
3,173 – Total on-track passes. Of the 6,248 total on-track passes this season, 51 percent occurred in the MAVTV 500.