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.”

Bob Fernley announced as president of McLaren IndyCar

Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images
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Bob Fernley will bring his experience as former deputy team principal at Force India F1 to McLaren Racing’s IndyCar effort in 2019.

Fernley will report directly to McLaren Racing’s CEO Zak Brown.

“Heading back to the Brickyard will be a very special experience for me,” Fernley said at IndyCar.com. “I am proud to be leading this McLaren project and team. The 500 is a hell of a challenge and we have incredibly strong competitors to overcome if we’re to be successful. We will need to prepare well for the month of May and that work starts now.”

Fernley’s appointing come of the heels of last week’s announcement that McLaren will create a brand new team to compete in the 2019 Indy 500.

MORE: Fernando Alonso to return to Indy 500 in 2019

For now, Fernley’s responsibility is to create an entry that is capable of allowing two-time F1 champion Fernando Alonso to win the Indy 500 in just his second start. But speculation has been widespread that the entry will be a jumping off point for a much broader involvement in IndyCar.

In 2017, Alonso qualified on the middle of row two (fifth), led 27 laps and succumbed to mechanical failure. His effort was impressive enough to be name Rookie of the Year for the Indy 500.

“Bob is a fantastic operator and someone I respect greatly,” Brown said. “His experience and leadership will be essential for us on this project. He is particularly talented at putting effective teams together and extracting maximum performance with finite resources. The Indy 500 is no easy race and Bob’s is a key role, so I’m delighted he’s on board.”