Graham Rahal

Verizon IndyCar Series driver Graham Rahal understands the desire of a professional athlete to finish a champion.

So when Rahal and his newlywed wife, Courtney Force, make their way to Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., for historic Super Bowl 50 on Feb. 7, he’ll be cheering for Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. Amid speculation that this is Manning’s last season as an NFL quarterback, Rahal wants to see him earn another Super Bowl ring when the Broncos take on the Carolina Panthers.

“I think it would be cool if he could, you know, really live everyone’s dream, which is to go out on top,” said Rahal, who was a contender for the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series championship with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing up until the final race. “Who knows if this is his last? It will be interesting to see what happens.”

Rahal and Force are flying the day before the big game to San Francisco from Phoenix, where she is testing her NHRA Funny Car. Super Bowl 50 will be Force’s first, but Rahal is a veteran of the game and hoopla surrounding it.

Peyton Manning“It will be a whole new sort of experience for her,” he said. “It’s always fun to go to a Super Bowl. Like the Indianapolis 500, all of the pageantry that goes along with it is a lot of fun.”

Though their roles are vastly different, participation in the two iconic sporting events is something Manning and Rahal share.

In 2007, when Manning was quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts and the team was fresh off winning Super Bowl XLI, he served as the honorary starter, waving the green flag at the beginning of the 91st Indianapolis 500. Rahal, who is preparing for the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil in May, will cheer on Manning from the stands this weekend as he seeks his second Super Bowl victory.

Maybe Rahal will bring Indianapolis Motor Speedway luck with him. And if Manning wins, maybe he’ll return to Indianapolis for the 100th running as part of his celebration.

Even if the game doesn’t go the Broncos’ way, Rahal won’t be too upset. Five former standouts from Rahal’s beloved Ohio State University team now play for Carolina.

“It would be cool to see those guys win because I watched them all in their college days,” Rahal said.