A day after his wife's dragster exploded in a ball of fire in an NHRA event, IndyCar driver Graham Rahal dominated the first leg of the Detroit Grand Prix doubleheader Saturday, winning the IndyCar Series' 70-lap race from the pole.
Rahal finished the race in 1:35:48.702, with an average speed of 103.015 miles per hour and won the poll prior to the race, becoming the seventh different IndyCar driver to win the first seven races of the year.
"I never felt that confident in my career", Rahal said after his fifth career victory and fourth in two-plus years.
Rahal led 41 of 70 laps in a race that ran without a caution until Canadian James Hinchcliffe's Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda stopped on the course on lap 66.
Sato fell to fourth in the No. 26 Ruoff Home Mortgage Honda for Andretti Autosport after scoring his first pole position in three years in the morning.
Sato, who qualified in Group 2, will start Sunday's 3:30 p.m. race alongside Hunter-Reay on the front row with Rahal, who won Race No. 1 Saturday in the No. 15 Honda for Rahal/Letterman/Lanigan Racing, starting in the second row with Team Penske driver Helio Castroneves in his No. 3 Chevrolet.
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Points leader Scott Dixon starts from the outside of Row 4 in the No. 9 Camping World Honda. Charlie Kimball couldn't avoid a slowing Conor Daly on the backstretch, and the contact that followed broke a piece of Kimball's auto.
"I didn't think he had anything for us as long as we had clear traffic", Rahal said.
The second race of the doubleheader will by held Sunday at the Belle Isle.
Mikhail Aleshin, of Russian Federation, drives through the second turn during the first race of the IndyCar Detroit Grand Prix auto racing doubleheader, Saturday, June 3, 2017, in Detroit. Dixon leads Castroneves by two points heading into the race.
The 2014 champion initially started the second segment in competitive form, becoming the first driver to set a time faster than Hunter-Reay's initial benchmark from the first segment. "It's hard. Obviously when you have it, you don't want to miss opportunities, but hopefully the weather holds up and we can do it again".
"I think it's awesome", Barber victor James Hinchcliffe said about the recent run of parity. Following that race, the series will shift to Texas Motor Speedway for a race under the lights on June 10.