Graham Rahal snapped a 125-race winless streak in the IndyCar Series after holding off Tony Kanaan, Marco Andretti and Juan Pablo Montoya following the last restart with just three laps to go in Saturday's MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway.
This 500-mile race at this 2-mile Southern California oval featured an Indy car racing-record 83 lead changes. But the final part of the event, which had featured four and five-wide battles for the lead, had two serious accidents, including one just prior to the last lap when Ryan Briscoe and Ryan Hunter- Reay crashed on the frontstretch, causing Briscoe's car to flip in the air before it landed on the infield grass. Neither driver was injured in the incident.
With nine laps left, Will Power and Takuma Sato made contact and collided hard into the wall along the frontstretch while traveling at speeds more than 200 mph. Power and Sato walked away from the crash unscathed. IndyCar officials displayed the red flag to halt the race with five laps to go to avoid having the event end under caution.
The race did conclude under caution due to Briscoe and Hunter-Reay's crash.
With IndyCar's new aero kit for the Chevrolet and Hondas for oval races this season, there had been major concerns about pack racing in this event. After the race ended, many competitors, including Power, criticized IndyCar for dangerous racing conditions.
"When you have a pack race like what we had today, you have to take a lot of risks to gain track position," Power said. "As exciting as it is, it's intense at the same time."
Rahal, the driver of the No. 15 Honda for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, scored his second career IndyCar win but his first since April 6, 2008 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida. Seven years ago, he became the youngest driver ever to win an IndyCar race, at the age of 19 years and 93 days.
"Our weakness has been these ovals, and I told the guys (No. 15 crew) this morning that the next three races will define our year," said Rahal, who started this race in 19th. "It's been so long coming. It's awesome."
During a late-race round of pit stops, Rahal was released from his stall while the fuel hose was still attached to his car. The front part of the hose broke off and remained attached to the car before it fell on the track moments later, forcing a caution. Rahal's team will likely receive a penalty by IndyCar for an unsafe release on pit road sometime next week.
Kanaan, who won this race last year, finished second, while Andretti placed third. Montoya was fourth and rookie Sage Karam fifth.