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.

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10-3 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 7 p.m. to USA Network. Peacock will have flag-to-flag coverage.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III