Skip to content

Graham Rahal’s team seeks balance, better weekends all around

Jun 14, 2013, 1:53 PM EDT

Firestone 550 - Practice Getty Images

At a track where he has two front row starts and finished second in 2011, Graham Rahal is in need of a turnaround at this weekend’s Milwaukee IndyFest.

Although he’s only 24, what was expected to be a big season in the confines of his father Bobby’s Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team has been a struggle. The team chemistry and dynamic is just fine between Rahal, engineer Gerry Hughes and his mechanics. Still, team and driver have often struggled to roll off the trailer with the setup nailed.

Part of the issue is that Rahal’s driving style is very sensitive to the rear of the car, which is a 180-degree difference for RLL than what Takuma Sato has had last year. The issues were amplified last week at Texas, when Rahal had what he called the worst night of his racing career.

“We were terrible. Texas was the longest night of my career,” Rahal said Friday in the Milwaukee media center. “We took six percent out of the front wing. The first 100 laps were brutal. It was difficult confidence wise.”

This week, Rahal rolled out with a more conservative setup as created by the team’s second engineer, Eddie Jones, who works on teammate James Jakes’ car. Jones has a knack for finding the right setup at the short ovals – Rubens Barrichello thrived under Jones’ direction at Milwaukee and Iowa last year – and the plan was to get Rahal and Jakes more comfortable over longer runs.

Although Jones has taken the reins on the team setup strategy, it’s not a foreshadowing of any changes coming down the pipeline in the team. As Rahal noted, Hughes’ Formula One background isn’t immediately compatible with oval setup.

“Just these two events we’re trying his setup,” Rahal said. “Gerry came from F1 and he’s almost going in blind on ovals. Plus Sato crashed here last year so there’s not a great read. We’re at the point as a team going forward, where, if you have an idea, you need to speak up. We value all opinions and we have a great team, with our assistant engineers and mechanics. Everyone’s working really hard, and we feel like we’re working harder than most.”

One of the other issues Rahal has worked to overcome has been a lack of testing. He’s had only two full days this calendar year since an electrical issue didn’t allow him to run the second day of INDYCAR’s official test at Barber Motorsports Park.

Rahal has a best finish of second at Long Beach this year. Although he finished in the top-10 in both Detroit races, he said the all-around weekend performance could have been better. The series completes its mad dash of six races in five weekends next weekend in Iowa.

Latest Posts
  1. NASCAR AMERICA: Tony Stewart still shaken following fatal crash (VIDEO)

    Sep 29, 2014, 9:30 PM EDT

    Tony Stewart Press Conference Getty Images

    NBCSN’s Marty Snider has more from Stewart’s press conference today in North Carolina.

  2. NASCAR AMERICA: Jeff Gordon, 24 team make statement at Dover (VIDEO)

    Sep 29, 2014, 8:30 PM EDT

    AAA 400 Getty Images

    Instead of racing to protect his position in the Chase, Jeff Gordon went into attack mode Sunday at Dover – and it paid off with a win. Check out his Victory Lane interview with NASCAR AMERICA’s Kelli Stavast here.

  3. Everything you need to know about the 2014 Chasers at Kansas

    Sep 29, 2014, 7:30 PM EDT

    Kevin Harvick AP

    All the notes and numbers to keep in mind as the Contender Round begins on Kansas’ 1.5-mile oval.

  4. WATCH LIVE: NASCAR AMERICA recaps Dover, Tony Stewart presser at 7 p.m. ET

    Sep 29, 2014, 6:45 PM EDT

    AAA 400 Getty Images

    Coming up: Highlights from the first cut race of the Chase; reports on Kevin Harvick’s tire failure and Hendrick Motorsports; Tony Stewart speaks about trying to carry on after his involvement in a fatal sprint car accident.

  5. F1: Kevin Magnussen prepared for future – whatever it may be

    Sep 29, 2014, 5:45 PM EDT

    Kevin Magnussen AP

    Time will tell if K-Mag will have a sophomore season in F1. But he reckons that if he didn’t do well this year with McLaren, he wasn’t cut out for the series in the first place.

  6. IndyCar Driver Review: Josef Newgarden

    Sep 29, 2014, 5:15 PM EDT

    newgardenpost Getty Images

    Josef Newgarden ends P13 in 2014, after a year where an overall top-10 finish was possible.

  7. NASCAR: Dale Jr. hails ‘Dinger, Almirola after they’re eliminated from Chase

    Sep 29, 2014, 4:47 PM EDT

    AAA 400 - Practice Getty Images

    A nice display of sportsmanship after a tough day at the Monster Mile.

  8. IndyCar Driver Review: James Hinchcliffe

    Sep 29, 2014, 4:15 PM EDT

    James Hinchcliffe AP

    It was a tough year for James Hinchcliffe, who ended P12 in the IndyCar points.

  9. F1: Mercedes prepares for Suzuka, homestretch of World Championship fight

    Sep 29, 2014, 3:33 PM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Singapore - Qualifying Getty Images

    Hamilton hopes to join the list of famous names that have won at Suzuka, while Rosberg turns the page on his disappointing Singapore Grand Prix.

  10. IndyCar Driver Review: Ryan Briscoe

    Sep 29, 2014, 3:15 PM EDT

    Briscoe072914 Getty Images

    Ryan Briscoe’s return to IndyCar was quiet, clean and productive.

  11. Pagenaud: “It’s a tremendous opportunity for my career”

    Sep 29, 2014, 3:05 PM EDT

    PowerPag AP

    Simon Pagenaud leaves the past behind, and readies for Team Penske opportunity.

  12. NASCAR: Successful Challenger Round in the books for Joey Logano

    Sep 29, 2014, 2:15 PM EDT

    AAA 400 - Practice Getty Images

    Lack of bonus points notwithstanding, Logano’s pleased about where he and his No. 22 Team Penske crew stand going into the next round of the Chase.

  13. Weekend wrap-up: Was first Chase elimination race an exciting one?

    Sep 29, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT

    Jeff Gordon AP

    Also: Tony Stewart opens up; IndyCar’s Simon Pagenaud jumps to Team Penske; and the stage is set for a wild season finale in Red Bull Global Rallycross.

  14. Stewart: Racing is healing, and Dover was best run in a while

    Sep 29, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT

    StewartDover Getty Images

    P14 for Tony Stewart at Dover felt like one of his better runs of the season, he explained Monday.

  15. Tony Stewart speaks, cites overwhelming support in the search of return to normalcy

    Sep 29, 2014, 12:10 PM EDT

    StewartMon929 Getty Images

    Tony Stewart addresses the questions, and faces the media, in Charlotte.

  16. The strong get stronger as Pagenaud secures life-changing Penske IndyCar chance

    Sep 29, 2014, 10:48 AM EDT

    IndyCar Detroit Auto Racing AP

    Pagenaud to Penske means IndyCar’s “big three” now have 12 cars between them – four apiece.

  17. Simon Pagenaud confirmed at Team Penske in fourth IndyCar

    Sep 29, 2014, 10:06 AM EDT

    Pagenaud AP

    Simon Pagenaud makes it official: he’s driving for Team Penske in 2015.

  18. IndyCar: Chaves, Gonzalez to test for Schmidt Peterson

    Sep 29, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT

    ChavesFreedom AP

    Gabby Chaves (pictured) and Rodolfo Gonzalez set for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports IndyCar tests.

  19. 8Star places Indy Lights car order

    Sep 29, 2014, 9:30 AM EDT

    Photo: 8Star Motorsports Photo: 8Star Motorsports

    8Star Motorsports commits to Indy Lights with first car order placed.

Video from NASCAR America

Stewart's first comments since Ward tragedy
Top 10 NASCAR Driver Searches
  1. J. Gordon (1546)
  2. K. Harvick (1373)
  3. T. Stewart (1058)
  4. K. Busch (936)
  5. J. Logano (904)