While the two biggest teams controlled the roost during Sunday’s Kohler Grand Prix at Road America, a couple of the smaller squads did steal some of the thunder.
A group that has overcome the underdog tag for decades has been the Chicago-based Dale Coyne Racing group. Honoring former Chicago Bears running back the late Walter Payton on Sunday, the team’s lead entry with Dubai’s Ed Jones at the controls improved four places from the green flag to finish seventh.
In addition to his exploits on the football field, Payton was a part of auto racing, spending several years as a driver in the rough and tumble SCCA Trans-Am Series. Also from 1994 to his passing in 1999, he was a co-owner of the Coyne Racing team.
As for Jones, Sunday’s output is the highest placing for the Verizon IndyCar Series rookie, since he placed third at the 101st Indianapolis 500 last month. In both the event at the Brickyard and on Sunday, Jones advanced from the 11th starting position. The result is also the former Indy Lights Presented By Cooper Tires champion’s third top-ten finish since his teammate Sebastien Bourdais was injured in a qualifying crash at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last month.
According to the newcomer, today’s race was far from a joyride.
“It was a really tough race, the car was really loose,” said Jones. “I was hanging on the whole race, but the team had some good pit stops, and we were able to move up.”
Another team/driver duo that has taken on that tag with much success over the past three seasons has been the D-A Lubricants Honda team for Ohio’s Graham Rahal. Although teams such as Andretti Autosport have the most potential among the Honda-powered rides on paper, it has been Rahal and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing who have produced the strongest outputs.
With Andretti’s quartet non-existent in the first twelve places on Sunday, it was the popular No. 15 Honda chauffeur who made an appearance in the top half of the order in eighth-place at the checkered flag.
“Eighth is about as good as we could do today,” admitted Rahal. “We struggled with a very loose race car all weekend and just couldn’t put a dent in the problem.”
After making it into the Firestone Fast Six shootout in qualifying on Saturday, Rahal slid backwards at the start after being penalized for blocking by IndyCar officials. Falling back to 13th in the initial fuel stint, the Ohioan upped his pace in the remaining phases of the 55-lap event to capture his sixth top-ten result of 2017, including a two-race sweep of the Detroit event weekend.
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