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Rahal and RLL overcome on day 1 in St. Petersburg

Mar 28, 2014, 3:32 PM EST

Rahal Getty Images

ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. – For Graham Rahal and the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team, Friday at St. Petersburg was a rousing success.

Second place in practice, and a trouble-free day considering the transporter fire that altered the game plan this week, was quite an end result for the driver of the No. 15 National Guard Honda.

“We weren’t planning on using (this transporter) until Long Beach,” Rahal told the assembled media after practice. “You can still smell the smoke at the truck, even though this one wasn’t affected.”

The transporter is a backup but the No. 15 car is still the primary chassis, and Rahal said he just feels in a rhythm at this track.

Additionally, he was pleased with how much the Honda twin-turbo engine has come just since the Barber Motorsports Park test two weeks ago.

“For some reason, I felt at Barber that we lacked something,” Rahal said. “But today, the engine felt totally different than it did two weeks ago. The thing is, we’ll get stronger.”

The team nearly had Oriol Servia, its second driver for the next four races, in a car this weekend. But some lucky last-minute intuition from the boss, Bobby Rahal, was a nice saving grace considering what happened.

“Oriol wanted to, and it was close… but dad said, ‘Something’s telling me we need to wait,'” said the younger Rahal. “He’s still in on debriefs, has the headset on. He’s watching every minute. He’s still the guy.”

Servia makes his season debut next race at Long Beach. Meanwhile for Graham and the rest of the RLL crew, who did well on the first day of the season, it’s onto practice 3 and qualifying on Saturday.

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