Bobby Rahal

Graham Rahal bio, history

Bob Rahal slipped into the Turn 1 grandstand to take in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, though in logoed team shirt the three-time Indy car champion and 1986 Indianapolis 500 winner wasn’t as anonymous as maybe he would have preferred.

“The crowd was all excited that I was up there and they were buying me beer,” the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing co-owner said. “I enjoyed it because you could see a lot of the passing and it’s good to see how the car compares to the others going through Turn 1. It’s another set of eyes on another part of the track.”

Rahal has taken leave of the pit stand of the No. 15 Honda driven by his son Graham for different perspectives at the four Verizon IndyCar Series events.

“At St. Pete I was with a bunch of friends in Turn 1, which is a great place to watch the race because it’s where most of the passing is,” he said. “At NOLA I was in (team co-owner) Mike Lanigan’s suite on the front straight, where you could see a lot of the track. Long Beach I was up on the 17th floor of the Hyatt with a friend of mine who rents a room up there every year; you can see quite a bit of the circuit from up there as well.”

On April 26, he joined spectators atop the main building parallel to pit lane at Barber Motorsports Park to watch the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama. This time, with the No. 15 Steak ‘n Shake entry starting eighth and overtaking three cars in the final 10 laps to move into second place, a reserved seat wasn’t necessary. The runner-up finish was Graham Rahal’s best since placing second in the first round of the Belle Isle doubleheader last May and his second top 10 of the season.

Bob Rahal regularly offers input and, of course, is heavily involved in the business operation. He decided after last season, in which the Belle Isle result and fifth place at Mid-Ohio were the only top-five finishes in the 18 races, to turn over race communications to another.

“I bear the responsibility for why we didn’t perform the last two seasons,” he said. “This year, the people we have are really good and have been together before and have worked with Graham before like (head of vehicle ride control development) Martin Pare and (head of vehicle dynamics) Mike Talbot. We’ve worked together a long time so they know my view on strategy, which I think has been good over the years and they frankly have some better ones at times.

“I have a lot of confidence and faith in the guys running the team, (race strategist/team manager) Ricardo Nault and (race engineer) Eddie Jones, and everybody on the team and I need to leave them to it and not interfere.”

Graham is in his third season with the team that also is co-owned by David Letterman. In junior formulas and early in his Indy car career, his father also wouldn’t be on pit lane during the races.

“I used to have to do it all the time when he drove for Chip (Ganassi) or for Carl (Haas) and Paul Newman; it was their team so I was never in the pits,” Bob Rahal said. “To be honest, I kind of prefer to watch rather than be in the pits where you don’t see much. It’s probably better for everybody. It keeps them away from the emotions that a parent can have when they see their child out there. We’ve run into that in years previous with some of our drivers so last winter I just recognized that it’s probably best to let people do what they’re supposed to do.

“It seems to be working.”