LONG BEACH, California – Graham Rahal is looking to break through and deliver a win today at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. To date, it’s been an impossible task for the Rahal family and team.
The Rahal name has become synonymous with second place at the historic event. Graham’s father, Bobby, finished runner-up four times (1988, ’91, ’92, and ’93) in 15 Long Beach starts before his retirement as a driver in 1998. Graham has raced on the Long Beach temporary street course 11 times and owns a single runner-up result in 2013.
“I have never had a lot of luck here,” Graham Rahal admitted. “I know sometimes it's been me as well, but even last year we were running up front and got a flat tire with two laps to go. This hasn't been a place that's been lucky for me, but I think that's kind of the name of the Rahal game here a little bit.
“None of us have ever won this race, so it's kind of a unique deal. Hopefully, we can all get that monkey off our back this weekend.”
Rahal hopes to turn those fortunes in today’s race (4 p.m. ET, NBCSN and Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network). He qualified fifth on Saturday in the No. 15 Total Honda for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.
The Rahal curse at Long Beach includes the team that Bobby has co-owned. Jimmy Vasser finished second for Rahal in 2002. Perhaps the ultimate heartbreak came the following year with Michel Jourdain Jr., who qualified on pole, led 48 laps and appeared on his way to victory until a gearbox failure took him out of the lead just seven laps from the finish.
Graham Rahal has claimed three of his six Verizon IndyCar Series wins on street circuits, including last year’s sweep of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear doubleheader. Ultimately, the 29-year-old Ohio native believes his knack for the unique track discipline comes down to mental approach.
“I used to be an overly aggressive guy. What I pride myself on today in my race craft is just not making any mistakes and being well in tune with strategy and knowing where I needed to get on lap counts,” said Rahal, who has scored nine of his 27 career podiums on street circuits.
“I've got all the lap counters and fuel and everything on my dash, so I can kind of do some strategy in the car and know where I need to be. I think that's been a big change on street courses because street courses just invite you to make mistakes. They invite you to brake a little too late, to hit a bump wrong, to put yourself in a bad spot.
“The last couple years, it’s really just been a mindset. We go out there and my goal each and every single session – but mainly on race day – is just don't shoot myself in the foot. Luckily, it's worked out well for us.”
Rahal felt fortunate to finish second in 2018 season opener on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida. Like every driver, he’s had to revise his driving style and car setup to suit the tendencies of the universal aero kit introduced on all cars this season.
“I feel like we're having to relearn quite a bit of things on our end from a team perspective as well,” he said. “Maybe for some guys it is working, I don't know, but for us it's been a little bit off.”
Rahal, in his 12th season driving Indy cars, will also lean on his ability to make a set of Firestone tires last in today’s 85-lap race.
“For whatever reason on street courses, we take care of tires better than everybody else,” he said. “You saw that at Detroit last year, and I don't know why that is. We've studied (it). I don't know if it's my driving style, but for some reason we don't get the tire wear typically that most guys do.”