SEBRING, Fla. -- Graham Rahal jokes with crew members servicing the No. 15 Honda-powered car for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing as if it was another IZOD IndyCar Series race weekend. But these three days at Sebring International Raceway are almost as much developmental for team synergy as they are for the car in 2013.
Track time for Rahal, the newest member of the team co-owned by his father, was curtailed by a late-afternoon thunderstorm. But the 49 laps on the 1.65-mile short course is a start.
Rahal talks about the first day and answers a few other off-the-cuff questions:
Tell me about your first time in car; a day to get up to speed with your new team?
“It’s been great today. I’ve had just a ton of fun. The car has been extremely good handling-wise; we’re right up to speed. Lap times aren’t as quick as they were in the spring because the track just doesn’t have the grip, but that doesn’t matter. We’re here to learn, we’ve tested a lot of stuff and we’re making the car better.
“A lot of these guys I’ve known for a long time, but it’s the first test day I’ve ever worked with them and it’s been fun to kind of plug away. We’re still a long ways off from the season but we have extremely high hopes and that’s what we’re working toward. To get a head start, to get a few days here means a lot to all of us.”
As an ardent Ohio State football fan, in your estimation would the 12-0 Buckeyes beat 12-0 Notre Dame in the national title game if they had the opportunity?
“I think they’d beat Notre Dame. I think Notre Dame is good enough to be 12-0, but they won five games by three points or less? Do I think Notre Dame can beat Alabama? No. Do I think Ohio State could beat Alabama? No.
"You’ll always take 12-0. (The Buckeyes) had something to prove, but what I thought was most impressive was they didn’t lose a game not only because it was an undefeated season but because as a player what do you have to play for that year? Nothing; you know you’re not going to a bowl. For some of those guys, they’re playing for the NFL draft. It would have been very easy to say, ‘Ah, if we lose a game it doesn’t really matter.’ But they didn’t and I thought that was pretty good.”
What's the best Christmas present you ever received?
“Christmas and my birthday (Jan. 4) are kind of two in the same. The one gift that I got is the Rolex watch that Dad got for winning the 1986 Indy car championship. While it’s a gold Rolex and something that I probably wouldn’t wear, it means the world to me. That’s irreplaceable to me. There are a lot of gifts that come to mind, but that is the one thing that sticks out.”
Last week, a survey listed "Seinfeld" as the favorite sitcom of all time by respondents. The "Honeymooners" was second. Do you have a favorite TV comedy?
“I don't because I don’t watch TV very much. But I would go right along with comedy, even a favorite movie would be a comedy. If I watch TV I’m watching a sports game, I’m watching a race or something like that.”
You're hosting a SeaDream cruise next week with some exotic ports of call. What does you 'on-duty' time entail?
“I’ll help welcome the guests on board, do a Q&A. It’s a good way for me to interact with fans or other people on the cruise who may have no clue who I am. It’s a good way to connect with the passengers and hopefully make some new fans.”