NEWTON, Iowa – Graham Rahal’s crew knew it had to work overtime this weekend at Iowa Speedway, even if the car wasn’t damaged in the first race of the Iowa INDYCAR 250s at Iowa Speedway.
Instead, the team was going to showcase two different sponsors in the two races. On Friday night, Rahal’s No. 15 Honda was sponsored by One Cure. Saturday night’s sponsor was new to the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Team.
It’s Midwestern supermarket chain, Hy-Vee, which operates more than 240 retail stores in eight Midwestern states, including Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wisconsin.
That meant the RLL crew had to stay late Friday night and arrive early Saturday to help wrap the car in the new colors and sponsorship logo for Hy-Vee.
“We're fortunate to have the sponsors,” Rahal said. “Somebody else said that to me today, 'How many different colors can you have?' The need to swap sponsors all the time. I think the Hy-Vee car looked great. Obviously, it was quick. We would have liked to have done better for One Cure last night.
“The guys always do a good job. Obviously with the paint and stuff, the vinyl we use, it's pretty easy to pull apart, all that sort of stuff. It's good.”
Rahal gave Hy-Vee quite a ride in its first time with the team, starting 19th and finishing third. It was Rahal’s second podium result in the last three NTT INDYCAR SERIES races.
“The Hy-Vee car came in third, and I think we actually had the best car on track tonight,” Rahal said. “We passed a ton of cars. It was just hard at the end when Will Power was driving on the same line as me. It was difficult up high to get the grip to go by.
“Thanks to Hy-Vee for coming on board this weekend and thanks to Honda; the motor was a rocket. We’re proud to be powered by Honda. It was a great run right there and just a good rebound for our team after starting in the back. I’m super excited with P3, and we’re moving up in the championship. The entire team worked awfully hard. It was a great showing for Hy-Vee.
“And even better, we raised $24,900 for Turns for Troops with United Rentals this weekend, which is awesome.”
In racing, sponsorship makes the cars go round and round, especially on the high-speed, 7/8th-mile oval at Iowa Speedway. Rahal was part of another highly entertaining race, with drivers such as Rahal and Simon Pagenaud racing from the rear of the field into the top five.
Rahal made it to third from 19th, Pagenaud went from 23rd to fourth and Scott Dixon drove from 18th to fifth.
When a driver can do that, it makes for a fun race.
“I thought it was great,” Rahal said. “This racetrack is phenomenal for INDYCAR racing. It puts on a great show year in, year out. I think we saw that tonight. I really do.
“Obviously it was tough to battle. But, look, it's our first year with these new cars, like with the weight up high and everything, yet I thought everybody put on a really great show.
“It's always fun to come here. Personally, I'd be a fan of a doubleheader here every year.”
Rahal’s recent resurgence comes at an important time in the season. INDYCAR just completed five races in a 15-day period, including four contests in the past seven days with back-to-back doubleheaders at Road America and Iowa Speedway.
After two weekends off, the NTT INDYCAR SERIES reconvenes at the Honda Indy 200 on Sunday, Aug. 9 at Mid-Ohio, followed by the two weeks leading up to the 104th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge, scheduled for Sunday, Aug. 23. Mid-Ohio is located near Columbus, Ohio, Rahal’s hometown.
“I feel really good,” Rahal said. “As a team, I feel like we've made some great gains. I think a lot of people over the last couple years knocked our team quite a lot. Our guys kept their heads down. We're a contender.
“This race would be the first one you'd say, ‘Hey, they're not in the ballpark.’ But yet I think we rebounded pretty well.
“I'm excited for Mid-Ohio. I think we ought to be very, very good at Mid-Ohio based on what I saw at Indy GP and based on what I saw at Road America.
“I feel good about it. I'm excited to go home.”
If Rahal is able to continue his recent performance, including the oval prowess he displayed Saturday night, then he should have a real shot at contending for the Indianapolis 500 victory.
“I'm super confident going to Indy,” he said. “I feel that we ought to be very, very good there. My engineer, Allen McDonald, is somewhat of an Indy specialist. He is kind of known for that. So, I feel very good about what we should get going there. I just do.
“I think Indy should be a place that we are amongst the strongest of all of our tracks. I'm excited for that.”