For a moment, it appeared that Graham Rahal had celebrated too soon.
After making a daring move under James Hinchcliffe going into turn 3, Rahal found himself alone in the lead coming to the checkered flag at Texas Motor Speedway. Seeing what appeared to be a guaranteed win, Rahal pumped his fist into the air as he came to the line.
Unbeknownst to Rahal, though, Hinchcliffe was coming back on the outside. After having “led” the race for over two months following a June 12 stoppage on lap 71 of 248 in June, Hinchcliffe needed one last ditch effort to try to cap off a dominant run with his first win of 2016. The two drivers came across the finish line in a near dead heat, forcing a frame-by-frame analysis to confirm the winner.
In the end, it was Rahal declared the winner of the Firestone 600, with a margin of victory of just .008 seconds, the closest in TMS history and fifth-closest in Verizon IndyCar Series history.
— NTT INDYCAR SERIES (@IndyCar) August 28, 2016
— Texas Motor Speedway (@TXMotorSpeedway) August 28, 2016
Rahal’s sudden surge to the front gave the Ohio native his fourth-career victory, and his first triumph of 2016. It also gives Honda their second victory of the year, and their first since Alexander Rossi’s fuel-mileage shocker in the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500.
Rahal’s joy came at the expense of Hinchcliffe, who saw a dominant night fall short in heartbreaking fashion.
Hinchcliffe led the field to the green flag in the race’s lap 71 restart, and immediately continued the dominant run begun two months ago. A group of challengers including Rahal, Helio Castroneves and Ryan Hunter-Reay challenged Hinchcliffe throughout the event, but the Canadian proved too strong to overcome, lapping drivers inside of the top five and leading a race-high 188 laps before a slew of late cautions allowed the rest of the paddock to sneak into contention.
In the end, Hinchcliffe would come up just short of his first victory since returning from a life-threatening crash at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2015.
Tony Kanaan came home in third after contending for the win late, with Simon Pagenaud and Helio Castroneves rounding out the top five. Charlie Kimball, Carlos Munoz, Will Power, Juan Pablo Montoya and Sebastien Bourdais completed the top 10.
The caution flag fell our times on the race, with one caution coming before Saturday’s restart. Josef Newgarden and Conor Daly missed the restart after crashing out on lap 42 to force the race’s first yellow. Scott Dixon was taken out in a crash with Ed Carpenter on lap 213, while Carpenter crashed out in his final start of 2016 on lap 224. Mikhail Aleshin and Jack Hawksworth collided on lap 232 to bring out the day’s final yellow.
Through it all, Rahal kept Hinchcliffe within range and surged by him on the final lap to take the victory.
The IndyCar Series will return on Sept. 4, when the series returns to Watkins Glen International for the IndyCar Grand Prix at the Glen.
About the author
A graduate of Ball State, Aaron rejoins Frontstretch for his second season in 2016 following a successful year that included covering seven races and starting the popular "Two-Headed Monster" column in 2015. Now in his third year of covering motorsports, Aaron serves as an Assistant Editor for Frontstretch while also contributing to other popular sites including Speed51 and The Apex. He encourages you to come say hi when you see him at the track.
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