The Andretti-Rahal legacy. What’s in a name?

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MarcoAndrettiVSGrahamRahal

How Time flies! Can you imagine that this up-coming season will mark the tenth year for Marco Andretti in the series, and the ninth season for Graham Rahal? Both of these driver’s had very promising starts to their careers. Marco winning one race during his rookie Indycar season in 2006, while becoming the youngest driver to ever win an open wheel race. In the 2008 IndyCar season Graham Rahal would barely beat out Marco as the youngest IndyCar winner of all time, in what would be Graham’s second season in open-wheel racing (Counting Champ Car).

Marco’s 1st year at the Indy 500 showed much promise when Marco placed second, finishing before his father, and arguably putting on one of the most exciting endings to any race I have ever watched. Marco losing just yards away from the yard of bricks against seasoned veteran Sam Hornish Jr..

It would be seventy-nine more races until Marco won number-two at the Iowa Speedway. In nine years of racing (145 starts) Marco has finished in the top three positions a total of sixteen times, with those including four 3rd place or better finishes at the Indy 500. (These numbers do not include his two win’s) Marco’s best finish for the IndyCar championship would be in 2013, while coming in 5th place in the point standings.

As for Graham Rahal, it will be his eighth season in the Champ Car/IndyCar Series (Ninety-three starts) . In these eight season’s Graham has one win at the Honda GP of St. Petersburg, including his stint in Champ Car, Graham has placed in the top three a total of twelve times. As for the Indy 500 Graham has not fared as well as Marco, having only one respectable 3rd place finish in 2011.

Lets face it, both drivers were born with carbon fiber spoon’s in their mouths. But having said that, I have seen flashes of greatness in both driver’s, probably more so in Marco’s career. It can be argued that Graham, for whatever reason, has had his share of near misses atop the podium as well. And for whatever reason, whether it has been at the hands of  Graham’s car or his driving style, Graham it seems has always found away to keep from tasting the champagne, or for that matter even the sloppy seconds out of another drivers bottle.

So who is at fault for such dismal starts by these two drivers? Two drivers that looked to have such promising careers ahead of them in the early going of their careers? You can’t throw blame at many areas of an IndyCar team, because when all is said and done you have a team owner and a driver.  So lets say you blame the team. What are you going to do, get rid of Michael Andretti or Bobby Rahal? Oh no you say, it’s the drivers fault! When was the last time any of us have fired our own sons, or for that matter benched one for having a lousy little league game? Exactly! And you can’t blame the cars, hell everyone on the IndyCar grid has the same spec car.

So lets put this all into perspective: Below are the top six winning drivers of all time in USAC/Cart/IndyCar.

Top 5 Indy Car wins:
1 A.J. Foyt 67
2 Mario Andretti 52
3 Michael Andretti 42
4 Al Unser 39
5 Bobby Unser 35
6 Al Unser Jr. 34

With Graham Rahal turning 26 years old in early 2015, and Marco Andretti turning 28 later in 2015, we can speculate that both drivers respectively have a good 10 more years left in their IndyCar careers. Having said that, how many races will both need to just tie Al Unser Jr? Lets do the math below.

 

Marco Andretti will need during a 17 race IndyCar schedule:

1) Three race wins per season for the next ten seasons to reach 32 total wins.

2) On Marco’s last 10th year season, Marco will need to win a total of five races just to tie Al Unser Jr’s mark of 34 races.

3) If Marco were to race just another five years, he would need to win six races a year, with an extra two races added to his five-year race win total.

4) For Marco to tie the all time race win leader A.J. Foyt with 67 total wins, Marco will need to win six races a year for the next ten years. With Marco in his tenth season needing a total of eleven races just to tie A.J.’s mark of 67.

5) If Marco were to race just another five years, he would need to win 13 races per year total.  Just to equal A.J.’s all time IndyCar race wins title.

Graham Rahal will need during a 17 race IndyCar schedule:

1) Three race wins per season for the next ten seasons to reach 32 total wins.

2) On Graham’s last 10th year,  Graham will need to win a total of six races just to tie Al Unser Jr’s mark of 34 races.

3) If  Graham were to race just another five years, he would need to win six races a year, with an extra three races added to his five-year race win total.

4) For Graham to tie the all time race win leader A.J. Foyt with 67 total wins, Rahal will need to win six races a year for the next ten years. With Graham in his tenth season needing a total of twelve races just to tie A.J.’s mark of 67.

5) If Graham were to race just another five years, he would need to win 13 races per year total. While winning an extra one race in his 5th year (Totaling 14 race wins in the 5th year)  just to equal A.J.’s all time IndyCar race wins title.

So there you have it. With both of these drivers, a five-year career is almost out of the question for them to reach even the 6th all time.

So what is in the works for these two driver’s futures?  I will be the first to admit that I haven’t the skill, nor the guts to strap myself into a car doing 220+ mph on a track like the Indy 500. And regardless of what any of us think about Marco and Rahal only having a seat in IndyCar because of the bloodline, they are still able to do something 99% of the world is unable to compete in.  At times both driver’s  have shown brilliance, while at other times their careers have reared its ugly head only to  show us signs of a Paul Tracy type under achievement!

Racing for teams with Racing Hall of Fame fathers, and even grandfathers can’t be easy. We all put these two drivers under a microscope and dissect their every blunder. Lest we forget, that on any given weekend IndyCar for the most part sends the usual suspects to the podium, with many drivers later stating how great it felt to wind up in the top ten. Maybe we hold these two to higher standards than we should? Maybe we just want to hear these two names from racing legacy past, thunder over the loud speakers as having won a race, and not crashing out of one?

I do know this much. I played sports at the highest level and the pressure you feel if your last name happens to be one of someone famous is immense. But also having played in high stress environments myself, has shown me that what drives us to make us the best, is more than something we are born with.  What it takes goes well beyond a famous last name, and a bloodline that make’s everyone think you’re another chip off  the old block before ever having to prove yourself.

If you look at Mario Andretti he came from hard times. It’s seems he always knew what he wanted to be in life. But wanting it, and actually becoming it are two different things altogether. Mario Andretti worked hard to make his last name a household name in motor-racing lore. Furthermore, as I have witnessed in all great athletes throughout the past one-hundred years of sports history, there had to be a driving force behind them to make them the best, and to make them stand out above and beyond the norm.

By the time Michael Andretti was learning to plant his right foot down, Mario had already made it easier for his son Micheal to get a seat in racing. No late night Midget Racing in the dirt, then having to work on your own car, packing your gear and driving yourself to the next USAC race somewhere the next day. Mario paid the price for his son, and before long Micheal was winning races against his own father in CART races. I think you see where I am going with this? It’s seems to me the minute the spoon you are born with starts being made of a precious metal, maybe the drive it takes to be the best at anything in life just starts to subside.

Below are the statistics for both Marco Andretti and Graham Rahal. You do not need to be a mathematician to see that now both drivers have won less than 1% of all races they have entered. And to be fair they aren’t the only drivers in the current and past IndyCar Series that have posted the same kind of numbers. What I do know is this, if you pitched for the Yankee’s, how long do you think you would continue pitching for them with a 1% win percentage? What if you only made one out of every one-hundred-fifty field goals? Or only won 1% of your games in NFL?

I would dare to say Graham is in the worst position. If he loses sponsorship, his career could be over regardless of who owns the team he drives for. We will probably never see this take place, but the reality of both drivers worth would quickly be realized if they became free agents! Please look below.

Verizon IndyCar Series Statistics:Marco Andretti

Year Age Races Win Podium Pole Laps Led Earnings Rank AvSt AvFn RAF Miles LLF DNQ
2006 19 14 of 14 1 2 0 2253 73 1,377,705 7 10.8 10.3 11 3474.7 4 0
2007 20 17 of 17 0 2 0 2129 43 1,063,051 11 9.2 12.9 7 3172.9 6 0
2008 21 17 of 18 0 4 1 2387 330 1,827,065 7 8.0 12.9 10 3581.5 8 0
2009 22 17 of 17 0 0 0 2488 10 1,280,305 8 11.2 10.5 14 3676.3 11 0
2010 23 17 of 17 0 3 0 2344 85 1,690,505 8 11.6 9.9 16 4022.1 13 0
2011 24 17 of 17 1 2 0 1760 42 396,245 8 16.4 14.0 12 2997.1 10 0
2012 25 15 of 15 0 1 1 1841 65 393,480 15 11.5 14.5 12 3255.6 5 0
2013 26 19 of 19 0 2 2 2352 259 1,422,247 5 8.9 8.9 18 4365.6 15 0
2014 27 18 of 18 0 2 0 1959 23 1,317,223 9 12.4 12.2 14 3650.1 12 0
9 years 151 2 18 4 19513 930 10,767,826 11.1 11.7 114 32195.9 84 0

 

Champcar/Verizon IndyCar Series: Graham Rahal

Year Age Races Win Podium Pole Laps Led Earnings Rank AvSt AvFn RAF Miles LLF DNQ
2007 18 14 of 14 0 4 0 997 18 0 5 7.5 7.2 12 2229.7 10
1 year 14 0 4 0 997 18 0 7.5 7.2 12 2229.7 10 0
Year Age Races Win Podium Pole Laps Led Earnings Rank AvSt AvFn RAF Miles LLF DNQ
2008 19 16 of 18 1 1 0 1875 19 1,187,065 17 12.2 15.6 9 2858.8 5 0
2009 20 17 of 17 0 2 2 2335 11 1,340,805 7 5.9 11.2 13 3403.5 11 0
2010 21 12 of 17 0 0 0 1735 11 674,305 20 16.4 12.6 11 2933.4 7 0
2011 22 17 of 17 0 3 0 1797 29 696,945 9 11.5 14.1 14 3110.8 10 0
2012 23 15 of 15 0 1 0 1841 28 371,680 10 12.4 11.2 13 3284.5 11 0
2013 24 19 of 19 0 1 0 2348 6 1,075,297 18 17.7 14.7 16 4284.2 8 0
2014 25 18 of 18 0 1 0 2118 28 1,072,223 19 14.4 15.0 13 3664.9 8 0
7 years 114 1 9 2 14049 132 6,418,320 12.9 13.6 89 23540.1 60 0

The reality is thats its gut check boys! This writer wants just a couple of things! Neither one of these drivers to fail and to see which one of you will step up to the challenge during the 2015 IndyCar season and beyond?

I don’t think it will be long before Bobby and Michael come to the point of just saying “Sons, your ego’s are writing checks your bodies just can’t cash. And we will then see these two behind the pit wall, instead of in front of it. It is time to either win, or get off the track fella’s, and I suppose no one knows this better than you two.

Which driver will prove to all of us that “Whats in a name” is more than just last names spelled the same as their father’s, and grandfather’s? Time will tell very soon I’m afraid.

Tony Tellez

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