Graham Rahal to forego planned NASCAR Nationwide debut

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The NASCAR debut of Izod IndyCar Series driver Graham Rahal has been shelved for the time being, according to a report Friday by AutoWeek.com.

Rahal, the son of former three-time CART champion and 1986 Indianapolis 500 winner Bobby Rahal, has decided to delay what would have been his NASCAR debut in the Nationwide Series’ August 17 event at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. No reason has been given for why the younger Rahal pulled out of the race, other than telling the web site that it “won’t happen” this season.

The elder Rahal told the web site that his son, who will race Sunday in the IndyCar race at Iowa Speedway, still hopes to make his NASCAR debut eventually.

“That’s his desire,” Bobby Rahal said. “I think it would be great for him to try. I drove IROC (the now-defunct International Race of Champions series] and I drove a NASCAR race (1984 at Riverside, made an early exit due to mechanical failure and finished 40th), and it’s all interesting. Anything you can drive in, you get better. Now, I think he’s more concerned with making it happen next year. It would be really great for him to try and I think he would do very well at it.”

Had Graham Rahal, 24, gone ahead with the Nationwide Series race, it would have been an emotional appearance. He grew up in suburban Columbus, Ohio, less than an hour from the 2.3-mile Mid-Ohio, a track that was one of his father’s favorites during his racing career.

The younger Rahal has struggled in his first season with Rahal Letterman Lanigan, currently ranked 17th. That could be part of the reason why he pulled out of the NNS race, to potentially try and salvage what has been a rough season thus far. In nine races, Rahal has one runner-up finish (Long Beach) and two other top-10 finishes. On the flip side, he has five finishes of 16th or worse.

“I think he is interested in doing some of the road courses, but in NASCAR, everybody wants money,” Bobby Rahal said, “especially if you’re going to be with a team you can succeed with. You want to get Penske or Gibbs or Hendrick or any of those guys.”

Tempers flare as Graham Rahal, Sebastien Bourdais collide at Indy

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INDIANAPOLIS — A multicar crash with just over 20 laps remaining in the Indianapolis 500 had tempers flaring Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Graham Rahal angrily confronted Sebastien Bourdais after the two collided while racing for position entering the third turn. As they spun beside each other, Rahal threw his hands up in the air and continued to gesture wildly at Bourdais as their cars came to a stop.

Rahal scrambled out of his car and went directly to Bourdais’ cockpit to scream at the driver before the safety crew arrived. Rahal then yanked off his gloves and threw them in his car after punching the air a few times.

The crash began after Bourdais’ left rear tire hit Rahal’s right front as they entered the corner and Bourdais seemed to come down on Rahal’s line.

“I’m just very disappointed,” Rahal told NBC Sports after being released from the care center. “It’s just another year to sit and think about it. I respect Sebastien as a driver, but I don’t respect that move.

“At those speeds, that’s how you kill somebody. I’m just not a fan of squeezing and putting people in those positions.”

Bourdais climbed out of his car shortly afterward and seemed unhurt. He was cited for avoidable contact by the IndyCar stewards and seemed somewhat remorseful about the move in an interview with NBC Sports.

“I didn’t think he had as much of the car as he did,” Bourdais said. “It’s always a dynamic thing. He got a run, it stalled there for a while, we made contact, and it sets up the whole thing. At that point. I’m just trying to collect the whole thing. It’s always easy to say I should have given up going into the corner.”

Rahal and Bourdais were former teammates at Newman-Haas Raccing.

“He’s been struggling all day,” Rahal said. “I was lifting a little bit to manage my gap. You can see him squeezing me and turns into me, and there nothing you can do. With 20 to go, you have to go. I think Sebastien knows that, which is probably why he hasn’t said much to me.”

The race was red-flagged at 3:17 p.m. on Lap 180 of 200 to clean up the debris from the multicar pileup.