Graham Rahal wins two-month long IndyCar race with last-lap pass

BY foxsports • August 27, 2016

When you've held on to something for two months, you're not really willing to give it up.

Such was the case for James Hinchcliffe, who had led the Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas, since the green flag flew 76 days ago on June 12.

Hinchcliffe did everything but win the race Saturday night, with Graham Rahal pipping him to the the line by 0.008 seconds.

The race had been suspended until Aug. 27 due to rain, with James Hinchcliffe listed as the race leader. The 29-year-old Canadian race driver led the field back to green on Lap 75 Saturday night.

Ryan Hunter-Reay and Helio Castroneves both gave Hinchcliffe a run for his money early on in the night, but both dropped back as the race went on. As the night progressed, Hinchcliffe was able to extend his lead, to the point where he could be the last car to pit and still come out with the lead despite having turned laps on older tires.

The race was clean and green until 36 laps to go, when Scott Dixon went for a high-speed spin after contact with Ed Carpenter on the frontstraight. Helio Castroneves also clipped the spinning car of Dixon, but was able to continue without any damage.

Hinchcliffe and Carpenter did not pit under the caution, and so led the field back to green with 28 laps to go. Castroneves was making his way through the field to challenge the leaders but, as he caught Carpenter, the American spun in Turn 4 and the two collided, bringing out the third caution of the night.

Hinchcliffe led the field back to green with 19 laps to go ahead of Tony Kanaan, but the race was soon slowed again for an incident in Turn 4 between Mikhail Aleshin and Jack Hawksworth.

Hinchcliffe was under a greater threat from the cars behind on the following restart as, with less than 15 laps to go, the lapped cars were forced to drop to the back.

Hinchcliffe led Graham Rahal and Castroneves on the final restart with 9 laps to go, with Kanaan and Simon Pagenaud restarting in fourth and fifth positions respectively on fresh tires.

What followed in the final eight laps was some fantastic racing, with three cars - Hinchcliffe, Rahal and Kanaan - dicing for position every lap, while Newgarden backed off to safeguard his points finish while Castroneves dropped back due to his damage. However, none of the drivers were able to make it on by Hinchcliffe until the final lap when Rahal pulled the move off in the final turn.

Rahal began to celebrate before he crossed the line, but still got their first to lead his first - and only - lap of the night. It was his first win since Mid-Ohio in 2015.

It was the fifth closest finish in IndyCar history, with Rahal edging Hinchcliffe by just 0.008 seconds.

Following the race, Hinchcliffe didn't hold back in admitting that he was disappointed with the result:

“Our pit stops were clean, our in and out laps were clean, we were good in traffic and the car was just a rocket ship,” Hinchcliffe told NBCSN. “It was the yellows at the end that killed us. I think where we made it work today was the long runs.

“Congrats to Graham, that was a great race, and TK is one of the best guys to race with and I just hate it man, we led them all except the one that mattered and it’s tough to be this disappointed with our best finish of the season.”

While overjoyed with the win, even Rahal confessed that Hinchcliffe had had it in the bag.

“James did a great job tonight, I mean in all honesty he deserved to win this thing, he led it start to finish, but you’ve got got to lead that last lap,” Rahal told NBCSN. “I knew I couldn’t get him on the high side, everybody kept pushing me up way up into the wall, even if we were three wide they were still just coming on up the track so it was pretty intense, but if Texas Motor Speedway fans didn’t love that then they don’t love racing because that was by far the best thing we’ve ever seen here.”

Unofficial race results:

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