Graham Rahal

Graham Rahal received some relief from a rocky start to the 2023 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season after qualifying second for The Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Presented by the 2023 Accord Hybrid.

An Ohio native and the 2015 series race winner at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Rahal delivered a rousing performance by driving the No. 15 Fifth Third Bank Honda to a lap of 1 minute, 6.3528 seconds (122.509 mph), narrowly missing out on the NTT P1 Award by 0.0432 of a second.

SEE: Qualifying Results

It marked the first time Rahal has started on the front row since early in the 2019 season, at Barber Motorsports Park.

“Yeah, really nice for the team,” Rahal said. “It's been a long time coming. We've been beat up. We've been bruised. We've been knocked down.

“For us as a team to rebound this way, I could have told you last night after the practice, yeah, I was P20, but I told everybody I don't think that's real at all. I told the guys in the engineering room I said, ‘Actually, I think I've got P2, P3 pace’ and I don't normally say that unless I'm fairly confident that we do."

And that feeling was validated in second practice on Saturday morning after rolling out with one set of the Firestone primary tires and ending the session in seventh.

“Yeah, I felt good,” Rahal said. “To be honest with you, this is the first weekend I felt like I've had the car to where I can drive it the way I want to drive it, and it's rewarded me because finally -- like this isn't a long year, and it's finally to the place I can charge the entries, I can do the things that I like to do with my style, and it's just nice to finally see the result come.

“It almost feels in a weird way like today you don't have to drive nearly as hard as you were the last two years combined. You knew the speed was there. You weren't over by pressuring yourself. You just simply needed to work through it and get there. It certainly was nice to see the result, as I said, for the whole team.”

Rahal was the stalwart of what was a strong outing for the entire organization at Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, with teammate Christian Lundgaard also advancing to the Firestone Fast Six. The Dane propelled his No. 45 Vivid Clear Rx Honda to fifth. The No. 30 Permco Honda of Jack Harvey also enjoyed a respectable run, breaking into the Fast 12 and claiming 11th.

O’Ward’s Self-Inflicted Mistake Part of Difficult McLaren Outing

Expectations were high for Pato O’Ward, especially as the driver who won the pole last year on the 13-turn, 2.258-mile natural terrain road course.

The Mexican continued to show that pace in the return, with his No. 5 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet leading Friday’s opening practice and then ending up fourth in second practice on Saturday morning. However, it all came to an abrupt halt moments into Round 1 of qualifying when he spun off Turn 2 and slid into the wet grass on the inside of the track – at the Keyhole – before stalling and bringing out a red flag with under six minutes to go.

O’Ward, currently fourth in the championship standings, saw his attempt finished and he will roll off the grid 26th for Sunday’s 80-lap race.

“It was my mistake,” O’Ward said. “I just feel for the team. We had a really fast car, but that doesn't mean we can't go forward tomorrow. So yeah, it was all on me in that one. I just lost the rear and it got to an angle where I couldn't save it. And then stalled it as soon as I got into the grass. It just frickin’ (stinks).”

It was also a tough showing for the team’s No. 7 entry driven by Alexander Rossi, who missed out on advancing to Group 2 and ended up qualifying 13th. After his running was over, Rossi immediately went to debrief over where the time was lost.

“We're trying to figure it out,” Rossi said. “It's disappointing. I don't know that we thought we had a car for pole, but I think we should have gotten out of our group.”

Felix Rosenqvist was the lone bright spot for Arrow McLaren, advancing into the Fast 12 and claiming a respectable 10th. The Swede has started in the top 10 in eight of the nine rounds this season.

McLaughlin: Defending race winner

Scott McLaughlin wasn’t part of the Firestone Fast Six, but it wouldn’t have been known if the only sight was seeing his appreciation to his team after stepping out of the No. 3 Good Ranchers Team Penske Chevrolet.

The defending race winner of the event, McLaughlin squeezed out a best lap of 1 minute, 6.1926 seconds (122.805 mph), which left him missing out of advancing out of Round 2 and into the final of six spots by 0.2081 of second.

McLaughlin will roll off eighth, alongside Team Penske teammate Will Power in seventh.

“I think they were really good,” McLaughlin said, of his team. “You know, were some of my best laps of the weekend. I think we've made the car, the Good Ranchers Chevy, a lot better. We just missed it. It's just INDYCAR; so tight. We can win from eighth. Really proud of everyone. A lot of perseverance here this weekend. Working hard. Who knows what the weather's going to bring and see what we got.”

Odds and Ends

· Conor Daly has been tabbed to substitute in the No. 60 AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda by Meyer Shank Racing if Simon Pagenaud, who suffered a wild crash in Saturday morning’s practice, is not medically cleared to return to the cockpit on Sunday morning. Daly has already been given a debrief of the team-specific steering wheel, with his mother en route to deliver necessary gear and equipment from Indianapolis – roughly three hours away – as part of the unexpected preparation.

· After claiming nine poles in17 rounds during the 2022 season, Team Penske remains shut out from an NTT P1 Award through the opening nine races of 2023.

· Sunday’s Honda Indy 200 will be Graham Rahal’s 251st INDYCAR start with Honda power, which will tie him with Tony Kanaan for the most Honda-powered starts in INDYCAR history. Rahal made his first series start, which he won, with the Japanese manufacturer in the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in April 2008.

· Myles Rowe, the championship leader in USF Pro 2000, finished 11th in the opening race of the doubleheader weekend. The driver of the No. 99 Pabst Racing entry will have a chance to rebound in the second race, when he will start on pole.

· Logan Adams, the grandson of former INDYCAR SERIES driver Mark Dismore, finished 15th in his debut race in USF 2000 driving the No. 9 entry for Jay Howard Driver Development. An incident in the second race left him with a lowly 21st of the tripleheader weekend.