Graham Rahal’s third pre-Indy 500 golf tournament follows in the late Paul Newman’s footsteps

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Among other things, IndyCar driver Graham Rahal is known for his profession, his romance with drag racer Courtney Force and his father, team owner and 1986 Indianapolis 500 winner Bobby Rahal.

But Rahal, just 25, has quietly and with little fanfare become quite the philanthropist and charitable sort. While other drivers are planning strategy for the Indy 500 on May 25, Rahal is also making plans of a different sort: to raise several hundred thousand more dollars for charity.

Just four days before the 500, the aptly-named Graham Rahal Foundation will host its third annual Drivers Tournament benefiting Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation for Childhood Cancer and the SeriousFun Children’s Network.

Instead of worrying about how to get more speed out of their cars, drivers and other tournament entrants will enjoy a significantly slower pace where golf carts will be their mode of transportation around the Brickyard Crossing Golf Course, located within the expansive Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The golf tournament has raised more than $300,000 for Rahal’s foundation in the event’s first two years.

“We hope this year’s event proves to be our most successful in the history of the foundation, and in-turn, allows us to raise more money to help more children through Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation for Childhood Cancer and SeriousFun Children’s Network,” Rahal said. “A big thank you to all the sponsors involved in this year’s event and for making it all possible. Together we are helping to make a difference and working for a great cause.”

The tournament will have a number of competitions contained within, including prizes for hole-in-one, longest drive and closest to the pin contests. A silent auction of IndyCar memorabilia and a variety of entertainment experiences will also take place, followed by an awards ceremony and recognition lunch.

The younger Rahal was inspired to begin his foundation in part due to charitable efforts of the first team owner he raced for in the Indy car world, the late actor Paul Newman.

Newman founded SeriousFun Children’s Network in 1988 to serve children with serious illnesses at no charge to their families. It has served nearly 450,000 children and families from more than 50 countries.

Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation began in 2000 when four-year-old Alexandra “Alex” Scott decided to open a lemonade stand to raise money to find a cure for childhood cancer. Sadly, while Alex died from cancer in 2004, her foundation has gone on to raise more than $75 million toward cancer research, including funding over 375 pediatric cancer research projects nationally.

For more information on the Graham Rahal Foundation and the upcoming golf tournament, visit GrahamRahal.com/Foundation.

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Coyne transitioning from underdog to Indy 500 threat

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For most of the team’s existence, Dale Coyne Racing has been the Chicago Cubs of American Open Wheel Racing – a team whose history was more defined by failures, at times comically so, than success.

The last decade, however, has seen the tide completely change. In 2007, they scored three podium finishes with Bruno Junqueira. In 2009, they won at Watkins Glen with the late Justin Wilson.

The combination won again at Texas Motor Speedway in 2012, and finished sixth in the 2013 Verizon IndyCar Series championship. That same year, Mike Conway took a shock win for them in Race 1 at the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit.

Carlos Huertas scored an upset win for them in Race 1 at the Houston double-header in 2014, and while 2015 and 2016 yielded no wins, Tristan Vautier and Conor Daly gave them several strong runs – Vautier’s best finish was fourth in Race 2 at Detroit, while Daly finished second in Race 1 at Detroit, finished fourth at Watkins Glen, and scored a trio of sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, Race 2 at Detroit, and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

And 2017 was set to possibly be the best year the team has ever had. Sebastien Bourdais gave the team a popular win in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and then rookie Ed Jones scored back-to-back top tens – 10th and sixth – at St. Pete and the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach to start his career.

But, things started unraveling at the Indianapolis 500. Bourdais appeared set to be in the Fast Nine Pole Shootout during his first qualifying run – both of his first two laps were above 231 mph –  before his horrifying crash in Turn 2.

While Jones qualified an impressive 11th and finished an even more impressive third, results for the rest of the season became hard to come by – Jones only scored two more Top 10s, with a best result of seventh at Road America.

But, retooled for 2018, the Coyne team is a legitimate threat at the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Bourdais, whose No. 18 Honda features new sponsorship from SealMaster and now ownership partners in Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan, has a win already, again at St. Pete, and sits third in the championship.

And Bourdais may also be Honda’s best hope, given that he was the fastest Honda in qualifying – he’ll start fifth behind Ed Carpenter, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, and Josef Newgarden.

“I think it speaks volumes about their work, their passion and their dedication to this program, Dale (Coyne), Jimmy (Vasser) and Sulli (James Sullivan) and everybody from top to bottom. I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity, for the support,” Bourdais said of the team’s effort.

Rookie Zachary Claman De Melo has been progressing nicely, and his Month of May has been very solid – he finished 12th at the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the IMS Road Course and qualified a strong 13th for the “500.”

“It’s been surreal to be here as rookie. I’m a bit at a loss for words,” Claman De Melo revealed after qualifying. “The fans, driving around this place, being with the team, everything is amazing. I have a great engineer, a great group of experienced mechanics at Dale Coyne Racing.”

While Conor Daly and Pippa Mann struggled in one-off entries, with Mann getting bumped out of the field in Saturday qualifying, Daly’s entry essentially puts three Coyne cars in the race – Daly’s No. 17 United States Air Force Honda is a Dale Coyne car that has been leased to Thom Burns Racing.

Rest assured, the days of Coyne being an “also ran” are long gone, and a Coyne car ending up in Victory Lane at the biggest race of the year would complete the Chicago Cubs analogy – the Cubs won a World Series title in 2016, and an Indy 500 triumph would be the crowning achievement in Coyne’s career.

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