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LONG POND, Pa. (AP) — Graham Rahal suffered a crushing blow in his IndyCar championship bid when he wrecked Sunday at Pocono Raceway.
Rahal entered the day only nine points behind leader Juan Pablo Montoya and was running in 19th place when he connected with Tristan Vautier and both drivers smacked the wall.
Rahal was livid, hopped out of the No. 15 Honda and walked on the track to confront Vautier. Rahal removed his helmet, and pointed and shouted at Vautier before the drivers were separated.
"Unfortunately, I was driving against a guy there who isn't using his head," Rahal said.
Vautier was on the low side as he tried to go three-wide and ran out of room, sending both drivers up the track and into the wall.
Rahal, the lone driver for Rahal Letterman Lanigan, and Vautier are both Honda drivers. IndyCar warned drivers before the race to stay clear of the ones in contention for a better shot of a clean finish with only two races left in the season. Rahal finished 20th.
"We were still in a good spot," Rahal said. "The real shame of it is that it's a Honda that took us out. That's the real shame because he probably just ruined Honda's chances of winning the championship."
Vautier was 21st in the standings for Dale Coyne Racing.
"There was nowhere to go," Vautier said. "I'm the bad guy when this happens."
Montoya was fifth at the time of the crash and Rahal already had trouble with a fuel stop in the pits earlier in the race. Rahal, with two wins, was racing for his first career championship.
The IndyCar championship will be decided next week in the season finale on the road course at Sonoma. Montoya's cushion went from nine points to 35 over Rahal.
Rahal said the double points could help, "but the likelihood is Montoya is going to be on top of his game."
Six drivers will head to California in contention for the title. Pocono race winner Ryan Hunter-Reay is mathematically eliminated, but picked up his second win of the season in what's been a disappointing year for Andretti Autosport and Honda. Montoya, Rahal, Scott Dixon, Will Power, Helio Castroneves and Josef Newgarden are still eligible for the championship.
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