DETROIT — You can say that winning runs in the family. Graham Rahal won the first race of the 2017 Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix. His father and team owner, Bobby Rahal, won the Detroit Grand Prix back in June 1992.
Graham led 55 laps of Saturday’s race after starting from the pole. The race lasted 1 hour and 36 minutes under partly cloudy skies.
“Thanks to my boys, the great guys in the pits. We were firing on all cylinders today,” Rahal said during the post-race press conference. “My driving style tends to not use tires a lot. I was able to save a ton of fuel. I tried to manage my gaps. My tires were very consistent for me today. When they told me my gap was 14 seconds, I was hoping it was 24. I tried to increase my gap and not have to worry about it. I don’t know if I ever felt more confident today. I just wanted to hit my margins. It (a win) doesn’t happen that often, it was a pretty special day.”
In the morning qualifying session, he made it around the 2.36-mile course in just 1 minute and 13.9681 seconds at 114.966 mph. That was a brand new track record. He busted Simon Pagenaud’s previous record of 114.266 mph set in June 2016.
Do you feel you could repeat tomorrow? “Absolutely. I was saving some fuel so I can learn for tomorrow. We feel we’re in a pretty good spot for tomorrow,” he answered.
Honda swept the podium with its drivers finishing 1-2-3. Scott Dixon finished in second following his fiery crash at last weekend’s Indianapolis 500.
“All in all, it’s good to be back in the car,” Dixon explained. “A huge credit to the Camping World crew. They had a rough week having to build a new car. It’s tough coming off a month of Indianapolis with the road course and the oval. My foot is not great but working. I’ll come back tomorrow, but I wish didn’t have to. I’m gonna try to get some rest. I’m happy we came out today unscathed.”
Meanwhile, James Hinchcliffe finished the race in third place. He spun out in the very first lap of the race and had to battle his way back to the front.
“It’s all about thinking on your feet,” Hinchcliffe said. “We kind of had two main strategies coming into it. One was reserved for the top half of the grid. The other was for the back. We started the race planning to do one. By turn one, we switched to the other. It worked out well. We got off the reds [tires] and had a really strong car on blacks [tires]. I managed to jump ahead of Rossi and Takuma. Congrats to Graham. Honda 1-2-3 in Detroit is a pretty good result.”
It was mainly a clean race with only six lead changes and six caution laps. Conor Daly had a mechanical issue and crashed into Charlie Kimball on lap 26.
Saturday’s first race of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix was just as much fun for the fans as it was for the drivers.
Young race fan Zach Schubert and his father drove two and a half hours from Fort Wayne, Ind. to watch the race. Charlie Kimball is his favorite driver. Unfortunately, he finished second from the bottom.
“Every race is fun…most of them in different ways,” Schubert said. “This one is real fun for all of the passing. The guys are real competitive. They don’t let each other have any room. In turn three, they try to run each other right into the tire barrier. You have to break it or you’re going to crash. It’s real entertaining.”
Tony Mocadlo was born in raised in Garden City, Mich. but now lives in Albuquerque.
“It was very nice,” he explained. “We were using general admission tickets so we were kind of moving around all day. I am a fan of Graham. He’s a single car team so I pull for the smaller guy, I guess you could say. Father and son, that’s a good deal.”
Race fans Tom Okalski and Corey DeCoteau travelled about two hours from Carsonville, Mich. to Belle Isle for Saturday’s race.
“It was great, but the outcome was a little disappointing,” Okalski said. “I like Team Penske. It was great this year–hardly any crashes. Hinchcliffe spinning out on the first lap. I’ve got to give that guy a lot of credit because to be in last place and come all the way up to third, that was great.”
Another beautiful day on Belle Isle, the track was dry and the skies were blue and sunny. However, Sunday may be a different story. The same drivers will compete again in the second race of the 2017 Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear.
For tickets and more information about the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix, visit www.detroitgp.com.