IndyCar Driver Review: Graham Rahal

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With the IndyCar season in the books and a limited amount of news to come since the season finale at Fontana, my MotorSportsTalk colleague Chris Estrada and are taking a look back at the 2013 season just past. Chris and I each ranked our top 10 drivers and some of the biggest stories; now we take a look back at the field driver-by-driver.

P18, the second son at his father’s team in 2013 standings, Graham Rahal…

2013 SEASON PREVIEW

Graham Rahal

  • Team: Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
  • 2012: 10th Place, Best Finish 2nd, Best Start 3rd
  • 2013: 18th Place, Best Finish 2nd, Best Start 6th, 1 Podium, 2 Top-5, 5 Top-10, 6 Laps Led, 17.7 Avg. Start, 14.8 Avg. Finish

DiZinno says: In 2012, Marco Andretti hit relative “rock bottom” with one runner-up finish, three top-10s in 15 races and 16th in the points. Graham Rahal’s homecoming to his dad’s team for 2013 was not supposed to mirror that, but it did. There was one runner-up finish, five top-10s in 19 races and 18th in the points. Andretti made the necessary adjustments to improve for 2013 – which he did – and young Rahal may need to do the same this offseason. Granted, he had his moments of glory (Long Beach, Iowa and Baltimore weekends were stout) and he was closer to the pace in qualifying once the team added Neil Fife to its engineering roster. But it was a terribly disappointing season and one he’d probably like to forget sooner rather than later.

Estrada says: All the optimism from Rahal’s return to the family team quickly vanished as the season wore on. Outside of a handful of efforts – his podium at Long Beach being the most prominent of those – the son of Bobby endured a very frustrating campaign that saw him struggle in qualifying (two Top-10 starts in 19 races) and also have some rough luck on race days, such as having to swallow a 17th-place finish at Baltimore due to late contact following a strong run. We’ll see if the addition of race engineer Bill Pappas to the RLL camp can help boost their fortunes next season.

Sage Karam, Tony Kanaan fastest in Monday’s practice for Indy 500

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In the second-to-last practice session of the week, Sage Karam paced the 33 drivers qualified for Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 on Monday.

Karam had a field-best speed of 226.461 mph, followed by Tony Kanan (225.123 mph), Ryan Hunter-Reay (224.820), Charlie Kimball (224.582) and Alexander Rossi (224.507).

Sixth through 10th fastest were Will Power (224.445), Helio Castroneves (224.368), Marco Andretti (224.148) and rookie Zachary Claman Demelo (224.91) and Scott Dixon (223.966).

Power and Castroneves ran the most laps of all drivers at 120 and 118, respectively.

Two other Team Penske drivers struggled to get speed out of their cars. Defending Verizon IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden was 28th-fastest (221.982 mph) and Simon Pagenaud, who was the slowest (220.902 mph) of the 33 cars on-track.

Pole sitter Ed Carpenter was 14th-fastest with a best speed of 223.573 mph in a 100-lap effort.

Most drivers were in race trim or were testing things for Sunday’s Greatest Spectacle In Racing such as fuel mileage, chassis setup and more.

Rookie Matheus Leist missed most of the session with an apparent electrical problem that kept him to just 19 laps.

There was one incident of note during the 3 ½ hour session: IndyCar rookie Robert Wickens crashed coming out of Turn 2 during the first hour of practice.

Wickens appeared to skim the outside SAFER Barrier, went left and then violently turned hard back into the outside retaining wall.

MORE: Wickens wrecks during Indy 500 practice

The Honda-powered machine for the Canadian driver suffered heavy damage to the right side, particularly the right front tire and the right side of the front end.

There will be no further on-track activity for the Indy cars until Friday’s final practice to fine tune things for Sunday’s 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

We’ll have the full practice speed chart, as well as What Drivers Said, shortly. Please check back soon.

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