Graham Rahal excited for fresh start with family team

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Graham Rahal is ready to write a new chapter in his career.

Rahal will be driving for his father, 1986 Indianapolis 500 winner Bobby Rahal, at Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing following a two-year run with Chip Ganassi Racing in which he went winless over 32 starts. But the Ohio native believes that his time in the Ganassi camp was still well-spent, and will prove valuable as he goes forward with RLL.

“Frankly, I don’t look at [my time with Ganassi] and say it was a complete failure,” Rahal said today in a media teleconference. “I think there were a lot of different things thrown our way and challenges that we didn’t think we would face going in there. Long story short, you learn from all these things.

“Every place I’ve ever gone, every team I’ve ever driven for, you learn through not only the way that they operate, the way that the engineers work, the mechanics…You learn about the business and how you want the car set up – I can tell you a Ganassi car was very different from the way I would’ve driven a Newman-Haas car in my past – but you figure those things out when you come and you learn the different styles. As a driver, my job is to write that down, try to remember it and carry it on to every other team that I may come across.”

This will be Rahal’s first full-time season with RLL (he drove for them in the 2010 Indianapolis 500), and the relaxed atmosphere at the team has him at ease going into 2013. He also believes that embarking on a full-time partnership with his father was destined to occur at some point.

“We’d been saying for a long time that this would eventually happen,” he said. “It was just really a matter of when, if and how. For us, we’ve always talked about it since I was a kid starting racing, but as many people know, Dad and I were very outspoken about having to earn it on your own and being out and competing for other teams, which is what I’ve done.

“However, at some point, everybody has to realize what’s in the best interests of myself as a driver, our family and of course, the team and our sponsors. It’s exciting for us to be together, and I’m looking forward to [the next three seasons with RLL] more than any seasons of my career.”

RLL returned to full-time competition in 2012 with Takuma Sato (now with A.J. Foyt Racing) behind the wheel and managed to collect two podiums at Sao Paulo and Edmonton. But it’s clear that the team wants more this coming season, and a refreshed Graham Rahal could be the key to it all.

Ricciardo set to see Dale Jr.’s final Texas ride in two weeks (VIDEO)

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We’ve written before about Daniel Ricciardo’s love of Dale Earnhardt and his love of the No. 3, which Ricciardo has selected as his permanent number for the duration of his Formula 1 career. And additionally, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has offered up the opportunity that one day Ricciardo could race a JR Motorsports car in NASCAR Xfinity Series competition, and Ricciardo has said he’d be up for it.

And although Earnhardt Jr. has only used the No. 3 on a handful of occasions in his career in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Ricciardo knows how much the number means to the NASCAR veteran as he prepares for his final few starts in the Cup Series the tail-end of this year.

After the Mexican Grand Prix next week, Ricciardo is set to stay in North America for the off-week between the Mexican and Brazilian Grands Prix.

In that break, he said he’ll see Earnhardt Jr. in person at the Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway (Sunday, Nov. 5, 2 p.m. ET, NBCSN) to ensure he gets to see him before he retires from full-time competition.

Ricciardo explained his planning during Thursday’s pre-race edition of the NBC Sports Group original digital series Paddock Pass, speaking to NBCSN’s Will Buxton at the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas in Austin.

“Well I’ll see him for the first time in Dallas. I’m gonna go to the NASCAR race in two weeks time at Texas Motor Speedway,” Ricciardo told NBCSN.

“Yeah, so, I gotta see him race before he hangs up the helmet.

“The Earnhardt family is a huge name in motorsport, not only in America but all over the world. Yeah I wish him well.”

Ricciardo is also optimistic he’ll get the chance to do a helmet swap with Earnhardt Jr. at the event.

“Hopefully I get to see him perform well in Texas. I’m gonna try to do a helmet swap with him. We’ll see how we go.”

Stay tuned for more on this over the coming weeks.