It is with great happiness and thankfulness that I give you my interview with Indycar driver Graham Rahal! Rahal began racing in Champ Car in 2007 for Newman Haas Lanigan Racing at the age of 18. I mean, the guy was still in high school! I’d brag to all my friends if I was him… Graham came to Indycar with Newman Haas Lanigan following the merger of Indycar and Champ Car in 2008. He won his first ever race in Indycar at the Streets of St. Petersburg, making him the youngest winner in the history of Indycar at an incredible 19 years of age. Graham ran with Newman Haas Lanigan again in 2009, but in 2010, he was left without a full time ride. He raced for four teams that year (Sarah Fisher Racing, Rahal Letterman Racing, Dreyer and Reinbold Racing, and Newman Haas Racing). He got a full time ride once again in 2011 and 2012 for Chip Ganassi Racing, finishing 9th and 10th in the Indycar Championship respectively with the team. And now, Graham has signed on to race with his father and racing legend Bobby Rahal on a full time basis! One thing that stands out to me when it comes to Graham was the maturity and genuine concern for the Wheldon family following the crash at Las Vegas that claimed the life of Dan Wheldon. Graham and several others came together and started the DW Auction to raise money for Susie, Sebastian, and Oliver Wheldon. Such a classy move. I’m expecting big results from Graham in 2013! Without further adieu, here is my interview with Graham! Enjoy:
1) First off, congrats on signing with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing! How did this deal come about and was it your idea, or your father’s?
GR: I don’t think it was either of our ideas per se. We have been talking about it for some time. When my option date came up with Ganassi, the sponsor had been working with them and they came to me and said ‘We want you and your dad to be together. We think it gives everybody the best opportunity for success.’ And I agree, whether it be for myself, the team or the sponsors. It gives us all a lot more media coverage and confidence going forward that we can give our sponsors a return on their investment and have the success that we all really want to achieve. It was kind of a mutual decision between everyone.
2) Why, in your opinion, did things not workout at Chip Ganassi Racing? Solid runs, but no wins nor a championship caliber season.
GR: You can say we had no wins but we handed away at least two or three race wins that we should have had. People look at Texas as one of those but if you go back to 2011, strategy cost us the race at Kentucky. Without a doubt we were the fastest car after Will (Power) had problems and it also cost us the race — or at worst a top-two finish – at Baltimore. We had a lot of solid runs but if you look at the stats we had a large amount of bad luck. And that’s the way racing is; sometimes you go though a string of three or four years when things don’t go your way. And then they do. You look at Ryan Hunter-Reay who was out of a ride a few years ago and now he’s the Champion. It’s just the way that things work. It’s hard to say why things didn’t go well; it just never clicked between us for whatever reason.
3) What are your expectations for the 2013 campaign at RLL?
GR: I have really high expectations. I think the team has done a fantastic job. The cars are quick and frankly I’m ready to perform. I’m excited to get out there.
4) Will you have a full time teammate or a teammate of any kind in 2013 at RLL?
GR: Yes, James Jakes, for the full season and Mike Conway for Long Beach as of now.
5) One full year in the DW12 is in the books. What are your likes and dislikes of the cars? Do you enjoy driving it?
GR: I love driving it; it’s a great car. I like that it’s roomier, I like the feel of the car better versus the old car. My only dislike is that I would like to see the series allow the manufacturers to produce more horsepower. I think the cars need to be faster. We need more horsepower to separate the men from the boys.
6) What’s one track not on the schedule that you would like to see on it for 2014?
GR: Road America is the obvious one. It is one of the greatest — if not the greatest — tracks in this country and around the world
Thanks to Graham Rahal for the time and everyone on the RLL staff for the cooperation and assistance! Let me know what you think of the interview.
-Matthew Hickey @Indycar_MN