After an up-and-down day at Monday's rain-delayed Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Graham Rahal finished up in ninth place in his debut race with Sarah Fisher Racing.
Rahal started 15th in the 24-car field, having struggled with severe understeer and an overall lack of grip during practice and qualifying. Despite a few bumps along the way on race day, Rahal wound up claiming the first top-10 finish for the Dollar General-backed team.
"I felt like today was a good run for us," said Rahal. "I didn't know how things were going to go, but the car was pretty consistent in the race and we made changes on every single pit stop to try to make it better.
"I think we're slowly moving forward. We made some passes – and obviously got passed a little bit – but we just kind of hung in there and when everybody else started to falter, we picked up spot after spot. I thought we had a pretty good strategy.
"The car was good enough and consistent enough to move steadily up the field and to be competitive with all of those except for Dario [Franchitti.]," Rahal added. "It seemed like at the end there Dario had something no one else did, but we were pretty good. If we would have went on blacks all race long I feel like we would have been a little bit farther forward, but we went to reds for that short stint. We all know how that goes, but we took our best guess and, fortunately, it all played out."
Team owner Sarah Fisher, who stepped out of the car to make room for Rahal for this race and the next round at Barber Motorsports Park on April 11. "I'm very excited that we brought home the best finish of SFR today. Graham did an exceptional job. We consistently got better throughout the race, but definitely showed better on the black tires. We just kept moving forward and taking advantage of every opportunity. It was kind of a free for all out there today on track, so we'll learn from that."
Part of that "free for all" included Rahal's nudging Simona De Silvestro out of 10th place and into a spin in Turn 1 on lap 73, ending the Swiss rookie's own hopes of a top-10 result.
"The Team Stargate Worlds/HVM Racing crew did a great job giving me the fast car that I had," she said. "I got unlucky, though, when Graham Rahal and I got together, so I'm disappointed in that respect. We will recover from that and be better in the next race. I do know that we took a big step forward this weekend and I am really looking forward to the next race."