Rahal, Honda Run Second at Sonoma

Rahal, Honda Run Second at Sonoma
• Strong close nets Rahal fifth in championship
• Hunter-Reay battles to fourth at the finish
• Rossi finishes fifth, claims series Rookie of the Year Honors

Hot temperatures and resulting tire wear led to a variety of race strategies in Sunday’s Verizon IndyCar Series season finale at Sonoma Raceway, with Honda driver Graham Rahal coping best with the conditions to finish second, moving him to fifth in the championship after a strong end-of-season run that included a victory last month at Texas Motor Speedway.

Starting fifth, the Rahal Letterman Lanigan team kept its driver on a three-stop strategy that proved to be the correct plan, as utilized by the top six finishers in the 85-lap contest. In the final laps, Rahal closed on eventual race winner – and 2016 series champion – Simon Pagenaud, but was not able to make a move for the victory. Still, the second place result, coupled with his win in Texas, second at Barber Motorsports Park and five additional top-five finishes, netted Rahal fifth in the championship.

Honda’s Indianapolis 500 winner, Alexander Rossi, appeared headed for a fourth-place finish but ran short of fuel, enabling his Andretti Autosport teammate, Ryan-Hunter Reay, to nab the position on the final lap. Fifth was still more than sufficient for Rossi to claim 2016 Rookie of the Year honors and finish ninth in the championship.

Finishing fourth, Hunter-Reay added to a 2016 tally that included three podium finishes and a pair of fourths to end the season 10th in the championship.