Graham Rahal continues to hang around in the Verizon IndyCar Series championship.
A fifth-place effort in Sunday’s Iowa Corn 300 at Iowa Speedway brought the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing driver his sixth top-10 finish in his last seven starts – including bookend wins in the sweep of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear doubleheader.
After 11 of 17 races, Rahal holds sixth in the championship, 66 points behind leader and fellow Honda driver Scott Dixon. Between Dixon and Rahal sit all four Team Penske drivers powered by Chevrolet.
At Iowa, Rahal started 10th but charged forward and broke into the top three by Lap 45 of the 300-lap race on the 0.894-mile oval. He never fell below sixth after that, other than briefly during the last sequence of pit stops that occurred under green-flag conditions.
“It was a good day,” said Rahal. “I’m disappointed coming in fifth because I think for most the day we were better than that. At the end there, I was getting pretty loose. In fact, I would say very loose that last stint, for whatever reason. But, solid day and a solid effort from our team. Just got to put our head down and soldier on. We should be pretty good at Toronto and hopefully we can keep it going.”
Rahal drove the No. 15 Honda with GEHL sponsorship at Iowa but will be in the Rousseau Metal entry this weekend at the Honda Indy Toronto on the 1.786-mile temporary street circuit at Exhibition Place.
The next two rounds of the schedule, on the streets of Toronto and the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, could prove favorable for Rahal. The 28-year-old Ohio native has two wins and three top-10s in four events on street circuits this season, since his team uncovered a setup improvement at Long Beach in April. Rahal is optimistic heading into the 85-lap Toronto race, despite only one career top-five there (2010) in 11 starts.
“My expectations are pretty high for the Honda Indy Toronto,” Rahal said. “I feel like we are in a pretty good spot with the basic setup for our race car for street courses, so I hope it's a really strong weekend for the Rousseau Metal Honda.
“The course is very similar to Detroit in many ways. It's very bumpy, very tight and there are no margins for error. There are a lot of different pavement types and it's very slippery on the concrete, which make it similar to Detroit. Going there with the setup basics that brought us two wins in Detroit gives us reason to be confident heading to Toronto and hopefully it works out like it did in Detroit."
Permanent road courses have proved more challenging this year for the second-generation driver, but with one win (2015) and three top-fives in his previous three races at Mid-Ohio, there is additional reason for optimism.
“Mid-Ohio, our road-course performance hasn’t been strong this year,” he admitted, “but home track … maybe we’ll be able to make some magic happen there again.”
Verizon IndyCar Series action at Toronto gets underway with a pair of practice sessions Friday (10:40 a.m. and 2:15 p.m. ET), followed by a third practice at 10 a.m. Saturday, ahead of knockout qualifying at 2:15 p.m. Saturday. All of those sessions stream live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com, with a same-day qualifying telecast airing at 6:30 p.m. Saturday on NBCSN.
A final warmup practice begins at 11:30 a.m. Sunday (RaceControl.IndyCar.com), ahead of the 85-lap race that airs live at 3 p.m. on CNBC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network. An encore race telecast airs at 7 p.m. Sunday on NBCSN.
For more information about Honda Racing, visit http://hpd.honda.com/.