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Graham Rahal ends 2016 with a strong melody

Phoenix International Raceway - Day 1

AVONDALE, AZ - APRIL 01: Graham Rahal, driver of the #15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honday IndyCar prepares for qualifying to the Phoenix Grand Prix at Phoenix International Raceway on April 1, 2016 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

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Graham Rahal has a lot in common with musicians: there’s nothing like finishing on an upbeat note.

Rahal, who has had an up-and-down year on the racetrack, finished the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season in strong fashion.

Not only did he finish second in Sunday’s season-ending GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma – tying his second-best finish of the season (Birmingham) – he also finished the season fifth in the final standings.

Admittedly, 2016 (one win, finished fifth) was a bit short of what Rahal accomplished in 2015 (two wins, career-best fourth-place season finish).

But the driver for the self-professed single car “little team that can” – Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing – ended the season with a lot to look forward to heading into 2017.

In three of the last five races of 2016, Rahal recorded two podiums – won at Texas, second at Sonoma – and one other top-five finish (fourth at Mid-Ohio).

“It’s been a weird year,” Rahal told NBCSN. “Overall, we’ve had our ups and downs, but I’m really proud of this team for all the effort they put in.

“I’m also proud to be the top Honda once again. We’ve led the charge for them the last couple years and there’s a lot of pride in that.”

Rahal was closing in on eventual race winner and new champion Simon Pagenaud in the closing laps of Sunday’s race, but couldn’t quite catch him.

“Just a good day and a good way to end it,” Rahal said. “I wanted to get Pags there obviously, but when I get behind him I get massively loose.

“I thought at one point it be best to salvage second then to do something stupid.”

Smart move, indeed.

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