MotorSportsTalk continues its 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series driver-by-driver review. P19 after another tough season was Graham Rahal.
- Team: Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
- 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
- 2014: 19th Place, Best Finish 2nd, Best Start 4th, 1 Podium, 2 Top-5, 4 Top-10s, 28 Laps Led, 14.4 Avg. Start, 15.0 Avg. Finish
Graham Rahal’s second full season with his dad’s team could probably best be equated to former Ganassi teammate Charlie Kimball’s second there, in 2012. It was strange. Rahal dropped from 18th to 19th this year, but that owed more to the depth of competition than a lack of improvement by driver and team year-on-year.
There was a sense Graham gelled better with his new engineer Bill Pappas and the rest of the RLL crew. Additionally, having the sole focus on him most of the season – the team’s second car only ran eight races (six race weekends) – seemed to help.
The qualifying incrementally improved and particularly from Houston onward, Rahal had top-five finishing potential on a regular basis to go along with his sole podium in Detroit race one. Problem was, a litany of mechanical woes or other missteps – i.e. just missing out on fuel mileage at Sonoma – struck him along the way.
Rahal and the team are now in an odd position once more going into the offseason. Last year they seemed to put all the pieces together to set themselves up for a much better 2014. But now, the National Guard and its backing is out at the end of the year, there’s been another change in engineering, and RLL is suddenly back to being an endangered species in IndyCar – a single-car team. Rahal was better as a driver throughout 2014, and the team seemed to rally around him, but there will still need to be more improvements to make the leap into IndyCar’s elite status.