RLLR’s Graham Rahal finally put the brakes on a 125-race winless streak when he survived a crash-filled MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana yesterday for his 2nd career win. His 1st came at St. Petersburg in 2008. In fact, things got so wild at the 2-mile oval, some drivers might have thought they were at Talledega, particularly when Ryan Briscoe went airborne after colliding with Ryan Hunter-Reay with two laps left.
In fact, observers likened the race to video-game action as the cars “sling-shotted past each other at more than 205 mph, occasionally touching tires, and going 5-wide with less than 50 laps remaining.” There were even 2 rows of “4-wide” within the ensuing minutes of the competition. Even defending series champ Will Power wondered what the heck was going on with that kind of wild pack racing.
“We shouldn’t be racing like this,” added current Indy 500 champion and points leader Juan Pablo Montoya. “Sooner or later somebody is going to get hurt.”
In fact, many fans will recall how 2-time Indianapolis 500 champion Dan Wheldon lost his life during similar high-speed madness during the 2011 season finale at Las Vegas.
Drivers began swapping positions from the very beginning, with 80 overall lead changes (32 in just the first 100 laps), surpassing the IndyCar high of 73 set in 2001 at Auto Club Speedway. While Helio Castroneves led the most laps (43), he was unable to return to the track after crashing into the wall after being hard pressed between Power and Briscoe on lap 136.
In the end, however, Rahal (who started the race in 19th position) took the lead after inching past Briscoe by the skin of his teeth, just before contact between Power and Takuma Sato with 9- laps left to go.He also managed to avoid any sort of penalty for leaving pit road with part of his fueling mechanism still attached.
Tony Kanaan finished 2nd, followed by Marco Andretti, 3rd and Montoya in 4th place.