How did Graham Rahal beat off-season boredom? He got engaged to Courtney Force


With nearly six months off between seasons, IndyCar driver Graham Rahal admits it can be tough to stay focused and keep his mind on racing.

So what better thing to keep yourself engaged then … well … becoming engaged, right?

Yep, that’s what Rahal told Indianapolis TV station WRTV’s Dave Furst on Thursday at the opening day of the Performance Racing Industry (PRI) show in Indianapolis.

“I got bored, I had to do something,” Rahal joked of popping the question to NHRA drag racer Courtney Force in Venice, Italy for Thanksgiving last month.

“We had the plan all along, and luckily she didn’t say no,” Rahal said. “I can tell you, I was more nervous for that, by far, than any Indy 500 I’ve ever done. So at least it’s behind me now.”

With Courtney being the youngest daughter of NHRA drag racing Funny Car legend John Force, Furst asked Rahal the million dollar question: Did he ask John for his blessing to marry his daughter.

“I did,” Rahal said. “I told (Force) the day before we left – or I asked him – because he’s John, he’s going to say something. I was pretty much anticipating if I said it three weeks in advance, she would have already known.”

And how did the man nicknamed “Brute Force” react?

“He was pretty easy, he didn’t say much,” Rahal said. “He actually got pretty quiet, if you can imagine him being quiet. That was about that. There wasn’t a whole lot said.

“John’s powerful there (in the Force family), but of course, Lori, her mom, that’s the one you really have to convince. Luckily, she bought in from the start.”

How did 1986 Indy 500 champ Bobby Rahal’s son actually pop the question?

“I got down on one knee, I did the whole deal, it was on a gondola ride at night,” Graham Rahal told Furst. “It was tough, actually, because I planned it this way, but it was so dark and it’s not like a popular time of year in Venice, I guess, so nobody had their lights on.

“It was pretty hard to see, there was only spot with any sort of light for her to see the ring, but it worked out just fine.”

Rumors are Courtney’s engagement ring is north of four carats, which is a pretty pricey bauble. How does Rahal plan to pay for it?

“I’ve gotta get a couple wins (in 2015),” Rahal joked. “I’ve gotta do that.”

Click here to watch the entire interview with Rahal.

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After New York whirlwind, Josef Newgarden makes special trip to simulator before Detroit


DETROIT – There’s no rest for the weary as an Indy 500 winner, but Josef Newgarden discovered there are plenty of extra laps.

The reigning Indy 500 champion added an extra trip Wednesday night back to Concord, N.C., for one last session on the GM Racing simulator before Sunday’s Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix.

After a 30-year run on the Belle Isle course, the race has been moved to a nine-turn, 1.7-mile layout downtown, so two extra hours on the simulator were worth it for Newgarden.

INDYCAR IN DETROITEntry list, schedule, TV info for this weekend

JOSEF’S FAMILY TIESNewgarden wins Indy 500 with wisdom of father, wife

“I really wanted to do it,” he told NBC Sports at a Thursday media luncheon. “If there’s any time that the sim is most useful, it’s in this situation when no one has ever been on a track, and we’re able to simulate it as best as we can. We want to get some seat time.

“It’s extra important coming off the Indy 500 because you’ve been out of rhythm for a road or street course-type environment, so I really wanted some laps. I was really appreciative to Chevy. There was a few guys that just came in and stayed late for me so I could get those laps before coming up here. I don’t know if it’s going to make a difference, but I feel like it’s going to help for me.”

After a whirlwind tour of New York for two days, Newgarden arrived at the simulator (which is at the GM Racing Technical Center adjacent to Hendrick Motorsports) in time for a two hour session that started at 6 p.m. Wednesday. He stayed overnight in Charlotte and then was up for an early commercial flight to Detroit, where he had more media obligations.

Newgarden joked that if he had a jet, he would have made a quick stop in Nashville, Tennessee, but a few more days away from home (where he has yet to return in weeks) is a worthy tradeoff for winning the Greatest Spectacle in Racing – though the nonstop interviews can take a toll.

“It’s the hardest part of the gig for me is all this fanfare and celebration,” Newgarden said. “I love doing it because I’m so passionate about the Indy 500 and that racetrack and what that race represents. I feel honored to be able to speak about it. It’s been really natural and easy for me to enjoy it because I’ve been there for so many years.

“Speaking about this win has been almost the easiest job I’ve ever had for postrace celebrations. But it’s still for me a lot of work. I get worn out pretty easily. I’m very introverted. So to do this for three days straight, it’s been a lot.”

Though he is terrified of heights, touring the top of the Empire State Building for the first time was a major highlight (and produced the tour’s most viral moment).

“I was scared to get to the very top level,” Newgarden said. “That thing was swaying. No one else thought it was swaying. I’m pretty sure it was. I really impressed by the facility. I’d never seen it before. It’s one of those bucket list things. If you go to New York, it’s really special to do that. So to be there with the wreath and the whole setup, it just felt like an honor to be in that moment.”

Now the attention shifts to Detroit and an inaugural circuit that’s expected to be challenging. Along with a Jefferson Avenue straightaway that’s 0.9 miles long, the track has several low-speed corners and a “split” pit lane (teams will stop on both sides of a rectangular area) with a narrow exit that blends just before a 90-degree lefthand turn into Turn 1.

Newgarden thinks the track is most similar to the Music City Grand Prix in Nashville.

“It’s really hard to predict with this stuff until we actually run,” he said. “Maybe we go super smooth and have no issues. Typically when you have a new event, you’re going to have some teething issues. That’s understandable. We’ve always got to massage the event to get it where we want it, but this team has worked pretty hard. They’ve tried to get feedback constantly on what are we doing right, what do we need to look out for. They’ve done a ton of grinding to make sure this surface is in as good of shape as possible.

“There’s been no expense spared, but you can’t foresee everything. I have no idea how it’s going to race. I think typically when you look at a circuit that seems simple on paper, people tend to think it’s not going to be an exciting race, or challenging. I find the opposite always happens when we think that way. Watch it be the most exciting, chaotic, entertaining race.

Newgarden won the last two pole positions at Belle Isle’s 2.35-mile layout and hopes to continue the momentum while avoiding any post-Brickyard letdown.

“I love this is an opportunity for us to get something right quicker than anyone else,” he said. “A new track is always exciting from that standpoint. I feel I’m in a different spot. I’m pretty run down. I’m really trying to refocus and gain some energy back for tomorrow. Which I’ll have time to today, which is great.

“I don’t want that Indy 500 hangover. People always talk about it. They’ve always observed it. That doesn’t mean we have to win this weekend, but I’d like to leave here feeling like we had a really complete event, did a good job and had a solid finish leading into the summer. I want to win everywhere I go, but if we come out of here with a solid result and no mistakes, then probably everyone will be happy with it.”