Graham Rahal has had an utterly awful season. Whereas his Rahal-Letterman-Lannigan car has been the fastest Honda of the field in 2015 and 2016, in 2017, RLL has become the worst. Graham had no speed throughout practice and qualifying and started a miserable 20th. Come race day, Graham led much of the final practice session and when the green flag fell, he began the long, slow process of marching through the field. By the final pit stops, he was up to 8th. By the time the checkered flag fell, he had clawed his way up to 6th. One has to wonder what he could have done had he started closer to the front.
Alexander Rossi had a decent day in his Andretti Autosport Honda. Andretti’s cars have struggled with the aero kits, but Rossi has turned into the number 2 driver at Andretti with his patience and speed. An 8th place finish was a good, solid result, coming on the heels of a breakdown in Long Beach, and a crash on cold tires at Phoenix. All of the Honda teams are really looking forward to the 500 where their power advantage and superior oval kit look to give them the edge.
The race was going by at a lightning pace. With no yellows so far, the laps ticked by every 70 seconds. Power and Castroneves were able to hold a steady 2 second gap, with Dixon another 4 seconds behind. Newgarden was able to reel in Dixon and the two pitted stem to stern on Lap 62. Ryan Hunter-Reay, in 6th, followed Dixon and Newgarden.
In his zeal to get off pit road as fast as possible, Newgarden broke the pit lane speed limit and was forced to take a drive through penalty. To make matters worse, he got caught speeding on his drive through and was forced to do it again, effectively ending any shot he had of a podium finish. He would eventually make his way back to 11th, but it was a disappointing way to end what was becoming a great day.
Power would pit on Lap 64, handing the lead back to Castroneves. Nearly all of the top 10 cars took brand new option tires for the final stint. Helio of course would have to settle for brand new primary tires and hope to hang on as long as possible. He made the dive for pit lane on Lap 66.
With Power on the reds and Castroneves on the blacks, this was all Helio would see when he came out of the pits.