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Bobby Rahal is determined to prove the success of a one-car team in IndyCar.
The entire Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team is a shining example of this, bringing back the reality of having a truly competitive nature between single-car teams and multi-car teams. They are showing consistent success on the track, silencing the nay-sayers that their results are a fluke. Rahal noted how Graham’s pace in the first five races has put him in contention and displayed his abilities. “There’s nothing I love more than watching him drive a racecar,” Rahal divulged, “Come raceday, I think we’re going to be strong and that makes me pretty excited.” Two podiums on back-to-back weekends are a great reason to be optimistic and running fourth in points certainly doesn’t hurt either.
Mike Lanigan helps instill confidence in the team, admitting, “I like to say we’re the one-car team that CAN.” Even though they are proud of their one-car status, the team is running a second car this month for the 99th Running of the Indianapolis 500. Graham stated that when the idea was brought up, the only guy he wanted to talk to was Oriol Servia. They have a history together and work very well on the same team, dating back to their time at Newman Haas Racing. Graham was very complimentary when it came to Servia, saying “I’ve never met such a team player. He’s really helped out at the Speedway, and our cars are better than ever.”
Servia notes that this Rahal Letterman Rahal Racing team is the best it’s ever been. “It’s not that they’re just ‘clicking’, it’s that they are working really hard.” The entire team has the same aim right now, which is to get RLL Racing into Victory Circle on May 24th.
The younger Rahal explained that he has always felt that he could compete with Power, Dixon, Hinchcliffe, etc. This is the year however, where he thinks they are finally getting to that point: “You get a good car underneath you and a team with confidence, and they help elevate what the driver is.” He acknowledges how important this weekend is – qualifying results are rewarded with points and since they are running 4th right now, they want to stay in that fight at the top. Even this early in the season, every point matters when you have your eye on the Verizon IndyCar Series Championship.
Part of getting the team in a position to fight for wins, and then keeping them strong enough to stay a true competitor is knowledgeable leadership. Bobby Rahal believes that the mark of a good leader is knowing when to get out of the way and let the team you put together, do their job. He has not been in the pit box as much this season. Whatever that change signifies, it’s led to positive results and in this writers opinion, perhaps less “parental pressure” for Graham. I think giving him that space to grow, the chance to work with his team independently and most importantly, allowing him the opportunity to discover who he is as a driver outside of his father’s shadow, has been exactly what the young talent needed.
There have been talks since the announcement of IndyCar aero kits, that the track record could be broken at IMS this year during qualifying. Graham could very well be part of the field that makes history this weekend. The unofficial fastest track speed ever recorded was during a practice session on May 10th, 1996 when Arie Luyendyk clocked 239.260 mph. The official track lap speed record was also set by Luyrneyk – a qualifying lap of 237.498. Bobby however, is less concerned with speeds being broken and more concerned with the quality of the race itself. The higher the speeds, the higher the risks… and that’s not to be taken lightly at this mysterious, yet illustrious speedway.
“You think it sounds easy but there are so many nuances at this place (IMS) and then you add in the wind and the way that changes the handling of these cars at every corner – you have to make your car able to handle it all. So when you do put a good lap in here, it’s pretty awesome.” – Graham Rahal
A few interesting aspects to this year’s IndyCar season and Month of May in particular, note the series history and potential record-breaking. Bobby took a moment and recognized how he and other drivers left the track 20 years ago, thinking it was like any other year, not even entertaining the idea that it would be their last time competing in the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. The series split and Bobby retired a couple years later. “Obviously the split didn’t work,” he said, “…because here we are.” Rahal addressed the comments that inevitably make their way around during the season and even in the off-season, “You hear people talk about how the racing was best in the CART days. That’s nonsense. The level of competition is deeper and more intense now than ever before. Hundredths of a second are separating rows. It was never like that in CART.”
For that and many other reasons, it’s not beyond logic to believe that IndyCar is in the midst of resurgence. New teams are entering the series (more on that later), new sponsors are investing in the series, the tracks, the events, the teams and the drivers – Steak ‘n Shake with RLL being a prime example – and the competition is fierce, forcing teams to work together more than ever in order to find success and get creative in order to get a leg up on the competition. Or more accurately, a nose.