Graham Rahal on June 24, previewing the upcoming three consecutive Verizon IndyCar Series races on ovals:
“We have some big races coming up obviously. There are three oval races in a row and it’s big for us from the point standing perspective because we’re in the thick of this thing. Ovals haven’t been our strong point up to now but we’re really trying to turn it around and get some good runs in the next few races.”
He nailed it.
Rahal was fifth in the Verizon IndyCar Series championship standings entering the first of the trio – the MAVTV 500 on the 2-mile Auto Club Speedway. After qualifying 19th for the 500-mile race, he prevailed in a shootout with Tony Kanaan to break a 124-race winless streak. He climbed to fourth in the standings.
Next up was the ABC Supply Wisconsin 250 at Milwaukee IndyFest at The Milwaukee Mile, where Rahal earned his fourth podium finish of the season in the No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda. He moved up one spot to third in the standings.
On July 18 in the Iowa Corn 300 on the .894-mile Iowa Speedway, Rahal advanced 13 positions relative to his starting spot to finish fourth. He advanced to second in the standings.
The rise of Rahal, who placed 19th and 18th in the standings in his first two years with the team co-owned by his father, to title contender is one of the major storylines heading into the homestretch. With the 500-mile race on the Pocono Raceway tri-oval splitting road course races at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and Sonoma Raceway, Rahal is 42 points behind Team Penske’s Juan Pablo Montoya. The GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma finale on Aug. 30 carries double points through the field (100 for winner, 80 for second, 70 for third, etc.).
Rahal overcame two different issues (right rear tire deflating and a gearbox malfunction) during the demanding 300-lap race.
“A day when the car wouldn't shift and we were down and out, but we were able to fight back shows what this team is made of,” he said. “Nights like (Iowa) are what build character, and what builds champions. It speaks volumes for this team that we are second in the points. We can win Honda a championship.”
Teams with Honda engines and aerodynamic bodywork packages have won four of the 13 races, most recently at Iowa Speedway with Ryan Hunter-Reay of Andretti Autosport.
"We've got three more races to go and are going to two tracks I think we can be really strong at (Mid-Ohio and Sonoma) and Pocono,” Rahal added. “We're just going to keep our heads down and go forward."