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IndyCar Portland

Rahal rues lost IndyCar shot from Portland pole: “Wrong place, wrong time”

Graham Rahal was left frustrated after failing to convert a promising start from pole position into victory in Portland, with his hopes dashed by a variety of factors.

Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, start

The 34-year-old Ohio native started on a set of softer alternate tires and jumped out to lead the opening 21 laps of the 110-lap contest.

He pitted on Lap 22, pushing one lap farther than any other driver that began on the same tire strategy, but was plagued by traffic during his out-lap and fell to fourth once the field cycled through their stops.

From there, it became a slow decline down the running order, which accelerated following a fueling issue on his final pit stop on Lap 81, dropping him from eighth to 12th. Then he lost another spot when Race Control held the yellow flag for several seconds after Agustin Canapino (Juncos Hollinger Racing) was stalled off course in Turn 11 on Lap 83.

The caution finally came out the following lap but the damage was done as the No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda was stuck in 13th. Following a late spin by Colton Herta, Rahal was able to move up one position to finish 12th.

No driver that started the race on alternates finished in the top five.

“Wrong place, wrong time a lot,” Rahal said. “Every time we came out of the pits, we were in a gaggle of cars.

“Every time we came into the pits, we had lapped cars in front of us. That cost us a lot of time. The Canapino deal cost me four or five seconds on an in lap, which cost me three or four spots three spots.

“Obviously, the last stop we had a little fueling issue and that cost us, we should have been well ahead of [Team Penske’s Scott] McLaughlin and instead we were four cars behind by the time all the bull**** had cleared. I'm clearly not happy.

“I'm not pointing fingers. There were times that, I don't know, maybe I didn't maximize it. I can't think of a clear mistake I made today, but I'm sure there was a lap or two that I could have gotten more out of it.

“Our balance on blacks, the first stint on blacks was really loose, really, really loose. And I think that hurt us. Shoulda, coulda, woulda. We can go on about this all day long.

“At the end of the day, we didn't. I think the first stint we controlled well until [Alex] Palou came up behind us, it was clear that the guys that had started on blacks were in the catbird seat. We [Rahal points to engineers] were just talking about, we were this close to starting blacks. We just thought being on pole that was probably a little bold, but we probably should have.”

Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda

Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda

Photo by: Phillip Abbott / Motorsport Images

The aggression was more apparent at the 1.964-mile, 12-turn circuit, with plenty of contact and daring moves among the 27-car field. That’s something that Rahal also took notice of.

“Yeah, a lot of these young guys drive by braille more than they do by finesse,” Rahal said. “It's just a changed environment, and that's fine but you've got to be ready to hit 'em, too. That's what's tough.

“You see some of the dive bombs in [Turn] 7 and stuff, guys just pushing each other off. It's pretty fascinating.

“It's not the way that I came up racing. I don't think it's the way [Scott] Dixon and all these other guys did, but that's the way it's become. And that's fine. You know, we just got to be prepared for that. I thought [it] was hard racing in the mid there.

“I ran out of overtake, so I was screwed. The last restart, guys like [Kyle] Kirkwood and Christian [Lundgaard] would've never gotten me if I had overtake. Disappointing.

“But that middle stint, Newgarden was behind me on new reds, I was on blacks. I eventually pulled him during the stint, but for about a good eight laps I was having to use way too much [push-to-pass] and ran out.”

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