Thursday, June 8, 2023

Graham Rahal is the Veteran for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing at Toronto

Graham Rahal practices at the 2022 Honda Indy Toronto
Graham Rahal practices at the 2022 Honda Indy Toronto. Photo courtesy of Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment.

TORONTO — Graham Rahal might as well be the old veteran at Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing at the Honda Indy Toronto, but he’s a fast veteran with the third fastest time in Friday’s practice session ahead of Sunday’s IndyCar Series race.

Rahal has a lot of laps around Exhibition Place. In fact he is the only driver on the RLLR team that has Indy car experience at the 11-turn, 1.786 mile street circuit.

This allows the New Albany, Ohio native to impart his wisdom to his younger teammates in Christian Lundgaard and Jack Harvey. While Harvey has a third and two second-place finishes at the track in Indy Lights, this is Harvey’s Canadian debut in the faster, more powerful cars since IndyCar could not visit Toronto in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic.

Rahal’s words of wisdom helped Lundgaard post the 11th fastest time in the opening session. Harvey was in 18th place, only 1.0490 seconds slower than session leader Alexander Rossi.

“Jack has been to a lot of places like this, he’ll get up to speed pretty quick,” Rahal said in the post-session press conference. “I feel like Christian has done a great job this year preparing, showing up at places and being competitive. I think the Honda sim plus the static sim he has at home, the kid pours a ton of laps into this place. He’s been very good.”

Rahal’s pace at Toronto was aided by a recent test at Sebring International Raceway. The runway-laden circuit has very bumpy pavement similar a street course, and the RLLR crew tried to go in a different direction with a few components for their setups.

“I feel like maybe we were way, way down the wrong path on damping, frankly,” Rahal said. “So we dusted off even some dampers from all the way back in 2008 just to see where we were at as a reference. I don’t think that we’re there yet, okay? I feel like we made some good gains.”

Rahal’s best finishes at Toronto have been fifth in 2010, sixth in 2014 and ninth three times in 2015, 2017 and 2019. His father and team co-owner Bobby Rahal won the first IndyCar race at Exhibition Place in the CART days in 1986, which continued a pattern of winning debut races at venues like Cleveland (1982), Detroit (1992) and New Hampshire Motor Speedway (1992).

The younger Rahal remembers visiting the Legoland Discovery Centre when he was here as a kid, and many kids were at Exhibition Place Friday as part of the organizer’s Free Friday promotion.

“To be back here, as Alex (Rossi) said, feels great,” Rahal said. “Such passionate fans, always has been. Surprised when I strapped in, looked at the last turn to see how full the stands were. Thank you to everybody for coming out.”

The IndyCar Series practices again Saturday morning at 10:00 a.m. ET and qualifies at 2:00 p.m. ET. The race will be Sunday afternoon with the live broadcast starting at 3:00 p.m. ET on Peacock.

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