Sunday, November 26, 2023

Minimize Mistakes and ‘Kick Some Ass’ is Rahal’s Desired Recipe for Indy 500 Success

Graham Rahal is still seeking his first win in the Indianapolis 500.
Graham Rahal is hoping to put an end to sleepless nights and claim victory on Sunday in the Indianapolis 500. Image courtesy of Paul Hurley / Penske Entertainment

Graham Rahal wants a different end to the story in Sunday’s 106th Running of the Indianapolis 500.

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In last year’s race, there was little doubt he was in prime position to potentially claim his first-ever ‘500’ victory. At least, that was the case until the wheels fell off, literally, of his No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda on Lap 119 in Turn 2.

The Ohio native has replayed and relived that moment countless times since. Ultimately, he wants is to be known as an Indy 500 winner and not just the son of 1986 winner Bobby Rahal.

“Well, I mean, it’s definitely important to me,” Graham Rahal said. “I’ve grown up wanting nothing more than to win the Indy 500. I’ve dedicated, as have a lot of people, many, many years of my life, a lot of gray hairs and stress towards this event, specifically. I’ve had since last year, a lot of sleepless nights of wondering why and when my turn may be.

“And the answer to that, it may be (tomorrow); the answer may be never. You’ve got to remember that, too. You know, you think back to all the legends that have raced here that never won it, or maybe won it once, but should have won it 10 times based on their sort of careers. But, you know, that’s part of the game.

“I just hope that Sunday we put our best foot forward. That we look back, we have no regrets. We keep the mistakes to a minimum and we are absolutely ready to go kick some ass. That’s what we’re going to try to do.”

If fortune shines on Graham at the end of 500 miles on Sunday, he would coincidentally be the same age, 33, as when his father claimed victory at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Additionally, they would join Al Unser Sr. and Al Unser Jr. as the only father-son duo in history to win the Indy 500.

This year marks the second-generation driver’s 15th start in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” where he will start on the outside of Row 7 in 21st. While the starting position might look daunting in some respects, it’s only three positions less than where he starting in 2021. With that in mind, the attitude for Sunday is to simply to keep the eyes focused ahead and move forward.

“Yeah, I think we have to,” said Graham Rahal, who has finished third in the Indy 500 twice (2011, 2020). “I think this year’s been even more of a challenge than some of the years past. I actually think we started the month in the best place that we ever had. Like, it was quite good on Tuesday [the opening day of practice]. I was very pleased with the car and so on, but the challenges just kind of mounted from there. But we feel like we’re in a good spot.

“Very similar car, very similar performance to last year, but a better and a more motivated crew behind us. Same guys, but after last year everybody just took that to heart and really dug deep and the guys have been tremendous. They rebounded so well for us over the last 12 months, and they have a chance to to show their strength here on Sunday. I mean, pit stops are going to be critical. I’m excited to see what they put out as well.”

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