Graham and Bobby Rahal talk about father-son partnership

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This year’s Indianapolis 500 isn’t the first time IZOD IndyCar Series driver Graham Rahal has teamed up with his father, 1986 Indy winner Bobby Rahal, to take on “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” In 2010, Graham finished 12th for the Rahal Letterman Lanigan team at Indy.

But 2013 will mark the first “500” for Graham as a full-time driver for the family team, and both father and son believe that it was important for Graham to get experience driving for other squads before he “returned home,” so to speak.

“I think it was important for Graham as a person, you know, to go out and see what the rest of the world, how they go about it,” Bobby said on Friday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “He was very fortunate to be with great teams.”

Graham started his IZOD IndyCar Series career with Newman-Haas Racing, but when sponsorship couldn’t be found to keep him there, he was forced to drive for multiple squads in 2010 before landing at Chip Ganassi Racing for what would be a two-year run.

When his time with Ganassi came to a close, the second-generation racer decided this off-season that the competitive RLL team was now the right place for him.

“It was right to go out and be with the other operations that I drove for, but at the same time it’s best that we’re here,” Graham said. “I think for…everybody within this team, you have to look at what’s best for each and every one of us.

“As I talked to a lot of different teams last fall, it just became clearly apparent to me that this is where I wanted to be and this is where I needed to be to further my career, to have the success that I want to have, and the dedication to our program.”

Rahal has qualified this afternoon for the “500,” posting a four-lap average of 225.139 miles per hour in his No. 15 RLL Honda.

Schmidt Peterson confirms all-Canadian lineup of Hinchcliffe, Wickens

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The Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team is going for a diet of denim, maple syrup, pace and politeness in its 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series lineup, with an all-Canadian pairing of James Hinchcliffe and Robert Wickens confirmed for next season.

Hinchcliffe was known to want a driver of Wickens’ caliber alongside him in the second seat after three less-than-fruitful seasons with James Jakes (2015), Mikhail Aleshin (2016) and a combination of drivers (Aleshin, Sebastian Saavedra, Jack Harvey) rotated through the second car the last three years.

Recent changes have brought them to this point and now leads them to becoming full-time teammates for the first time in a decade, since the defunct country-focused A1 Grand Prix series in 2007-2008.

Hinchcliffe has re-signed with Schmidt Peterson after three seasons with the team. His first was shortened due to his near life-threatening injuries sustained in an accident in practice for that year’s Indianapolis 500. A rapid and welcome recovery followed throughout the second half of 2015 before his comeback to action in 2016, with an Indianapolis 500 pole and a couple near-misses on wins that followed. In 2017, he won Round 2 at Long Beach but faltered in the second half of the year through a litany of mechanical woes and bad luck.

Wickens, meanwhile, faced an uncertain future when Mercedes-Benz announced earlier this year it would withdraw from DTM at the end of 2018. One of Hinchcliffe’s long-time friends, Wickens hasn’t raced full-time in North America in more than a decade since they were both in Formula Atlantic in 2007, at separate teams (Wickens at Red Bull Forsythe Racing and Hinchcliffe at Sierra Sierra Enterprises). As he pursued his Formula 1 dream and had a wealth of success in the junior series, he never got a proper shot, and has since gone onto several successful years with Mercedes in DTM.

A ride-swap between the two of them came together earlier this year where Wickens sampled Hinchcliffe’s No. 5 Arrow Electronics Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda at Sebring’s short course, while Hinchcliffe then flew to Italy to sample Wickens’ Mercedes-AMG C63 DTM after the St. Petersburg season opener. Hinchcliffe ended 13th in points in IndyCar, Wickens ninth in DTM this year, both with one win each during the year. Wickens also had a Friday to sample the No. 7 Lucas Oil SPM Honda at Road America this year, but had to relinquish the seat once Aleshin returned from a visa issue.

“Not only am I really excited to be able to say I’ll be back with SPM for next year and beyond, but I am also really looking forward to being teammates with one of my oldest friends,” said Hinchcliffe.

“Robbie and I grew up racing against one another, eventually took different paths, me staying in North America in open-wheel cars and him going off to Europe in sports cars, but it’s pretty neat that we both ended up here and we get to live our dream of being professional racing drivers, together on the same team.

“I think 2018 is going to be a great year for the SPM organization, from having Robbie here to the team’s new partnership with Honda and the 2018 aero kit; I just can’t wait to get back on track and bring some good results home for the Arrow Electronics crew.”

Wickens added: “This is an entirely new chapter to add to my racing career, and I am really excited for this opportunity that Schmidt Peterson Motorsports has given me.

“I think everyone knows the story by now that James and I grew up racing against one another in go karts, and to make it to the largest open-wheel racing series in North America together as teammates, it’s crazy to think about.

“I am very thankful for the six years I had with everyone at Mercedes and DTM; those are memories I will cherish forever. I can’t wait to truly see what the Verizon IndyCar Series is all about!”