Not a huge surprise, but after months of speculation and waiting since RACER’s Robin Miller originally reported this back in October, the National Guard will sponsor Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing in the 2014 IndyCar Series season.
RLL confirmed the news Thursday, and the Guard will in fact be the primary sponsor for Graham Rahal’s No. 15 Honda. The AP reported Thursday that RLL had submitted the winning proposal in the fall, and the U.S. Government Accountability Office denied Panther’s appeal last month.
“This is an historic day for all of us at Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing,” Bobby Rahal, RLL co-owner, said in the team’s official release. “I can’t overstate how proud and how privileged we feel to represent the men and women of the Army National Guard. This is a huge responsibility that each of us feels and we are looking forward to working with the National Guard to achieve their goals.
“And I can’t imagine a better ambassador for those men and women than Graham, as an American, driving the National Guard Dallara-Honda IndyCar.”
Graham Rahal was pleased as well with the news.
“I am really over the moon about driving the National Guard car,” he said. “Being an American and an extremely patriotic person, I am very proud of the men and women who fight for us and keep this great country safe and free. To have the opportunity to represent the National Guard and all that they do both here and abroad means more than anybody could ever know.”
An American driver did represent the Guard from 2011 through the 2013 Indianapolis 500 in the form of JR Hildebrand, before Panther terminated his contract after that race.
The question now shifts to the other brands and sponsors affiliated with RLL Racing. In 2013, Rahal’s No. 15 carried the Midas and Big O Tire brands, along with blu eCigs for select races. The team has confirmed Deltran Battery Tender as a major associate, and now the Guard, but no other partners as yet.
Whatever commercial affiliations the team is able to carry over from 2013 will likely play a key role in who will drive the team’s second Honda, the No. 16.
James Jakes is unlikely to return and there are a handful of names being tossed around with respect to the seat. Who gets it seems to depend on who you’re talking to – ultimately, only Bobby Rahal and co-owners Mike Lanigan and David Letterman know for sure.