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MOTOR RACING

Graham Rahal's misfortunes continue with opening-lap crash

The driver won his first IndyCar Series race last season at age 19 but has not been able to return to Victory Lane.

August 24, 2009|Jim Peltz

SONOMA, CALIF. — After Graham Rahal won his first IndyCar Series race at the tender age of 19 last year, it was widely assumed it wouldn't be long before he returned to Victory Lane.

But Rahal has not won since his victory at St. Petersburg, Fla., early last season and he endured more misfortune Sunday in the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma.

Rahal, son of 1986 Indianapolis 500 winner Bobby Rahal, had been among the fastest drivers in practice and qualified sixth. But moments after the race started, he was collected in a multi-car crash on the opening lap.

He limped to the pits and then had a broken drive shaft as he left that required more repairs, and Rahal ultimately completed only 30 laps and finished 21st.

"We parked it when we knew there was no reason to stay out, since we couldn't gain positions," said Rahal, who has only three top-five finishes this season for his Newman-Haas-Lanigan Racing team.

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Injured drivers

Nelson Philippe and Will Power remained hospitalized Sunday following their crash during practice, IndyCar spokesman John Griffin said.

Philippe suffered a broken left foot and a hairline fracture of the fibula in his right leg, Griffin said.

Power, who slammed into Philippe's car in Saturday's accident, broke two vertebrae in his lower back and was being fitted for a brace.

Power was expected to stay at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital for a few more days, Griffin said. Both drivers also suffered concussions in the crash.

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TV tension

An IndyCar official said he expects the DirecTV satellite television system and Versus, the programming network that began carrying most IndyCar races this year, to resolve their contract dispute before Aug. 31, when DirecTV has said it would drop Versus.

As reported Saturday in The Times, DirecTV subscribers have been seeing a crawl on their TV sets telling them that as of Aug. 31, DirecTV will no longer carry Versus.

Terry Angstadt, president of the commercial division for IndyCar's parent, the Indy Racing League, referred to DirecTV's stance as "a little negotiation going on" and said IRL officials "think they'll find a solution."

The Times on Saturday also quoted a DirecTV spokesman as saying Versus' "overall ratings are poor," but Angstadt said IndyCar's first-year ratings have exceeded Versus' forecast and IndyCar continued to view Versus as "an outstanding move" for the series "especially a year from now, two years from now."

J.R. Hildebrand of Sausalito won the second-tier Firestone Indy Lights race at Infineon, widening his already commanding lead in the series' championship standings.

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james.peltz@latimes.com

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