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.”

Dean Wilson’s life as a privateer reconnects the rider to his roots

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One of the added benefits of subscribing to NBC Sports Gold is the in-depth interviews from each Saturday’s action. Last week between the first and second rounds of qualification for the Glendale Supercross race, a relaxed and confident Dean Wilson joined Race Day Live’s Daniel Blair and Jim Holley to review his fourth-place finish in the season opener and his mindset moving forward.

Losing factory support from Rockstar / Husqvarna at the end of 2018 was not exactly what Wilson had in mind, but after getting off to a great start in the first two races this season, it may well have been a blessing in disguise.

The life of a privateer is not exactly relaxed, but it affords a rider the opportunity to call his own shots. For Wilson, it is also a way to reconnect with the grassroots feel that attracted him to Supercross in the first place.

“I think that’s what I like,” Wilson said on Race Day Live. “I think that’s the environment and atmosphere I like – it’s just more low key. At Anaheim I, you would think I was local racing at Glen Helen. I had a Sprinter and I had another trailer just to chill in, do my spins. It was so cold I had a little propane heater to warm me up. But I like that. That’s what works for me.”

MORE: Dean Wilson’s Cinderella story at Anaheim 

The program Wilson was able to put together during the offseason produced back-to back top 10s – a much better start to the 2019 season than he experienced last year.

In 2018, Wilson did not score a top 10 until his fourth feature at San Diego. His first top five would not come until late March in Indianapolis.

This year Wilson got the hole shot and led 14 laps at Anaheim in the opener before finishing fourth. Last week in Glendale, he finished eighth.

“What was going through my head was ‘it’s about time; it’s about five years too late to lead some laps here,’ ” Wilson described his emotion as he led at Anaheim. “It was nice because I did a lot of work in the off-season and my starts were really good. The thing is I haven’t over-analyzed my starts and practice.”

At Anaheim I, Wilson struggled with visibility as his goggles began to get fouled by mud. A once comfortable lead was eroded by Justin Barcia. With pressure from behind, Wilson made a minor mistake that was then compounded by lapped traffic.

“I was leading my laps; I was just trying to hit my marks. I was doing really well until I made a couple of mistakes. I couldn’t hit that middle double, double … the rut was getting real chewed out, but I was already on the right side where you couldn’t double the middle part so you had to go roll, roll, roll – and Barcia was already on me.”

Wilson’s pair of top 10s was enough to keep him fifth in the standings, three points behind Glendale’s winner Blake Baggett.

For more, watch the video above.

Next Race: Anaheim II Jan. 19, 11 p.m., NBCSN

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