INDIANAPOLIS – Heading to Indianapolis for the Month of May, Graham Rahal had just one top 10 finish, a 10th place effort at Long Beach, and sat 17th in the Verizon IndyCar Series points standings. Now, two months and just five races later, here Rahal is contending for a championship.
Rahal, started 20th for the IndyCar Grand Prix on May 13 but charged forward to a sixth place finish on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. Then, in the 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 28, Rahal started 14th and finished 12th. He even led two laps that day, and if not for a tire issue forcing an unscheduled stop late in the race, he was destined for a top 10 finish.
The next weekend on the streets of Belle Isle, Rahal shined. He started first and third in the two races respectively, and combined to lead 96 of the 140 laps that weekend en route to victories in each duel.
At Texas, he started 11th and finished fourth for his fourth top six finish in five races.
Now, he sits sixth in the standings heading to another strong track for him – Road America.
“We certainly have momentum right now,” Rahal said ahead of this weekend’s race. “It feels like we’re headed down the right path as a team. We’ve had a lot of good results lately although (our result at) Indy is still a bummer because I really feel like we had a car that could have contended to win, so to not see that come together is still disappointing. But we definitely have momentum on our side. We would like to keep that going and roll through the summer. This is an important time, an important stretch of the year for us points-wise. It’s where we really excelled in 2015 and I hope that we can do it again. Road America is a track that we’re comfortable and confident at. I’m excited to go there. There is just a great atmosphere there and I hope we can go there and hopefully keep our strong performance going. Adding five more laps (to the race length) will hopefully get it away from being a fuel-strategy race. Not that last year was that bad, but you were just stuck at the number of laps that we were all faced with making (per stint), so this might free that strategy up and give us an extra stop and hopefully just make everybody push harder from the start and put on an exciting race.”
Rahal, has made two starts on the 4.014-mile Elkhart Lake road course, both resulted in a third place effort. Last year, he started sixth but had a fast enough No. 15 Honda to contend, despite being on a slightly different strategy than the rest. He had a different tire strategy, using his Firestone Alternates in the end. The rest didn’t do that and despite charging through the field, his tires obviously dropped off compared to everyone else.
Now, he comes back to Road America, looking for a third straight podium there and another top six finish, closing the gap even more to the leaders in the standings.
“It’s always great to go to Road America,” Rahal. “I would say it’s the best circuit in North America that I have ever seen, and I think my dad and many others would agree. It’s awesome to go back there this year, and particularly with where we are at in the championship, it should be a good place to try to continue our momentum. Last year we had a great run at Road America. We qualified in the Fast Six, ran up towards the front and finished third, which we were very happy about, but obviously, we would like to get a win.”
Moral of the story is this, Rahal has a chance to be even more of a title contender leaving the scenic Wisconsin road course this weekend.
He will start in the top six for a second straight year.