Maybe it was Bob Rahal’s phone message that prompted NHRA champion John Force to offer his future son-in-law, Graham Rahal, a Lamborghini “if we didn’t have a wedding.”
“I left a message with him after they got engaged and said, ‘Man, I can’t wait to go to that huge wedding you’re going to have to throw in Southern California that’s going to cost like hundreds of thousands of dollars,’ ’’ the Verizon IndyCar Series team co-owner said. “I said if John was smart it would be a ladder and a fast car.”
Added Graham Rahal: “Then he said he’d give us a certain amount of money if we held it in his backyard to make it less expensive. That’s not going to happen.”
Whenever, wherever and the scope of the ceremony and reception to be decided, Rahal proposed to Courtney Force, an NHRA racer, in Venice, Italy, late last month.
“I kind of had the plan all along, which was to do it on a gondola,” he said. “If she said ‘No’ I would jump overboard. It all went down just fine. Unfortunately, it was freezing cold. She told me she was expecting it to come around Christmas, so at least I caught her off-guard a little bit. She said ‘Yes,’ which is the most important thing.
“With her season and mine, we basically have two months of offseason so we’re trying to find a location and date.”
The Rahals touched on a variety of topics during a free-flowing Q&A on and off the Verizon IndyCar Series stage at the Performance Racing Industry trade show at the Indiana Convention Center in downtown Indianapolis.
One subject with news value is Bob Rahal saying that he won’t be the race strategist for his son in the No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda during the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season.
“For the upcoming year, we have a talented group of guys so I’ve said. ‘You guys go run the team and my job will be to find money,’ ” the 1986 Indianapolis 500 winner and three-time CART champion said.
Rahal said that Eddie Jones will be the race engineer and strategist. The team tested in late October at Barber Motorsports Park.
“Things went extremely well, which was the key for that test,” Graham Rahal said. “We found some things that will help us in 2015 and at Barber, where we struggled in 2014. It’s tough to test right now because the race at Brazil won’t be with the aero kit, which will add about 3,000 pounds of downforce and will change how the car handles. So we’ve had to be cautious with our testing program this fall.”
Graham Rahal, a native of suburban Columbus, Ohio, about the Ohio State Buckeyes facing Alabama in the college football championship semifinals Jan. 1: “I think they can give Alabama a run; I think they’re better than people expect. As a diehard Buckeye, I think the days ahead are exciting. Being from Columbus, Ohio State is pretty much everything to us.”
Graham Rahal on the 2014 season and looking ahead: “There were probably six to eight races at least where I think we had a legitimate shot at a podium, and a couple where we had a legitimate shot at winning. Something always seemed to go wrong. That’s racing, but unfortunately when you hit these dry spells they hit you pretty hard and last longer than anyone would wish. We left probably 150 points on the table between a few races, which would have made quite a difference over the course of the season. Our team is made up of a lot of great people and everybody is working hard toward 2015, which is right around the corner.”
Bob Rahal about team co-owner David Letterman, who announced recently that the final telecast of the “Late Show with David Letterman” is May 20, 2015 – a few days before the 99th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race: “I said to him, ‘Well, it looks like you’ll have no trouble making the (Indy 500).’ He said, ‘Yeah, if you need a lap counter I’m available.’
“I don’t think there are many more things important to Dave than the Indianapolis 500. He’s come to St. Pete the past couple of years and to Long Beach. Hopefully, he’ll have more time to go racing.”
Bob Rahal about sponsorship, including the National Guard pulling out of motorsports: “Naturally, it was a blow to lose (the Guard sponsorship) after only one year. They were very pleased with our efforts on and off the track and having Graham as their spokesman. It’s a tough environment out there for (every motorsports series). We’re flat out sorting out the sponsorship for the (No. 15) car.
“I think there’s a better than even chance that we’ll be two cars but not better than even at this stage. My first focus is that we have one rally good car because when we have the right car (Graham) is up front. If we run a second car, we have to make sure it’s going to help make us a stronger team. I’d say it’s almost a sure bet that we’ll have a second car for Indy.”