After dream-fulfilling day, Graham Rahal isn’t worried anymore

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When Graham Rahal had his first victorious day, at St. Petersburg in the now distant year of 2008, his mother, Debi, wasn’t there.

She was in Greece with her youngest daughter.

When his second day came, seven long years later at Auto Club Speedway, she was busy taking care of her three grandchildren.

But at Mid-Ohio Sunday, Graham’s third day, she was finally there. She stood in Graham’s pit box watching him fulfill a dream he’d had his entire life:

Winning at the his home track, the only one that could rival Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“In fact, I had a dream Friday night that I won,” Rahal admitted. “I guess sometimes dreams do come true.  I don’t know what else to say.”

The dream became reality as his father and owner, 1985 and ’86 race winner Bobby Rahal, watched over him from his spotter position in Turn 4. It was his first time at an IndyCar race since before the Fontana win. 

“Coming here for so many years, I have been on the podium with dad before, saying, ‘Gentlemen, start your engines’ (1998, at age 9), it’s just like the ties to this are amazing,” Rahal said. “That’s why it’s so cool to have my whole family here and be able to do something like this.”

The dream reached its apex as Graham took a slow victory lap and conducted his second burnout in four races in front of a mass of cheering fans on a hillside.

“I couldn’t hear them, but I could see them.  I could see them all going crazy.  That was pretty cool,” said Graham, who saw fans standing on fences to cheer when he first cycled to the lead under caution.

“I was like, ‘This is awesome.’  Who knows if you’re ever going to see that day.”

After 2008 that was a question often raised of the heir to IndyCar royalty, who raced on five teams between that year and 2013, when he settled in at Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. In 2010 alone, without a full-time ride, he raced for four different teams.

In that time there were no wins.

“I feel very confident I would have won a lot more races earlier in my career if I had the maturity and the race craft that I do now,” says Rahal.

“I mean, I drove for some good teams and I had some quick cars, particularly 2009 with Newman/Haas, it was a great program.  I think if I had known what the heck I was doing then, we probably would have won some races.

“Seven years that taught me a lot, taught me to be a lot more thankful for the opportunities that have come throughout my career.

His opportunity now is with his father’s own team, a single-car operation that’s a different specimen from the Newman/Haas and Ganassi teams he once competed for and struggled with. Now, with the two races left and only nine points separating him and first place, Rahal says he’s finally not worried about when he’ll win again.

“I think I used to put so much pressure on myself just to win, I probably made some mistakes, in 2011, ’12, that I shouldn’t have,” Rahal lamented after a nearly flawless race.

“But now I feel like it’s kind of behind me.  Everybody always told me after I won my first, the second one would be a lot harder, then they would get easier from there.

“Hopefully that comes true.”

But he’s not worrying about it, at least not today.

“When it’s your day sometimes it’s your day.”

Adam Enticknap paves the way for the ‘Other 19’

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Once the 2020 Monster Energy AMA Supercross season kicks off in Anaheim, Calif. on January 4, eyes inevitably will begin to focus on the front of the field.

One rider will win that race. Two will stand on either side of him on the podium. Nineteen others will ride quietly back to the garage and if they’re lucky, get a few minutes to tell the tale of their race to a few members of the media. On their way off the track, the other 19 will take a minute to wave to the fans in the stands.

Adam Enticknap will motion for them to follow him.

One of the most engaging riders in the sport, Enticknap not only recognizes his role as a dark horse on Supercross grid, he revels in it.

“Not everyone is going to win,” Enticknap said last week at the Supercross media sessions. “There’s only one winner on a weekend; that’s it. There can’t be more than one winner. And everyone else has got to go home and eat too.”

A recognized Hip Hop artist known for his video ‘My Bikes Too Lit’, Enticknap is bringing new fans to the track – and as a result, he is putting a spotlight on riders deeper in the field.

Last year Enticknap was coming off a broken femur that marred his SX season. He made only three Mains with a 20th in Indianapolis, 15th at Houston, and an 18th at Las Vegas. In October, he earned a career-best 14th in the Monster Energy Cup at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas. He got there by being consistent in the three heats, finishing 16-15-15.

But that’s not the point for Enticknap. Yes, he wants to win but it is just as important to be the ambassador for those riders who are known only to their fans.

“I’ve made a path for riders that are not going to win,” Enticknap said. “And that’s not saying that I don’t want to win, or that I’m not going to win, but I’ve made it so that the guy who’s finishing 20th and barely making the Mains can make a full career out of it. I’m probably the most famous, slowest guy on the track. It’s come from the way I’ve marketed myself and the way I’ve been with my fans and I’ve appreciated every second that I’ve been here.”

On a good weekend, Enticknap is one of the “other 19” in the Main Event.

“Without all of us, there really is no winner. Everybody’s got to show up and everybody’s got to compete during the weekend. In our sport, everyone is so hyper-focused on the guy who is winning all the time, but I hope that I’ve opened people’s eyes that sometimes it’s not just about the guy who wins the race as much as it is about the guy who is succeeding during the weekend.”

For Enticknap, success looks different than for last year’s champion Cooper Webb or Eli Tomac who won six of the 17 races in 2019. It’s about knowing that when it’s time to ride back to the hauler – whether that is at the end of the Main or after a Last Chance Qualifier – that nothing was left on the track.

“My best finish was a 14th at the Monster Energy Cup – ever in my career,” Enticknap emphasized. “Making my way from the bottom is huge. I made my way from not even making the top 40 to finishing 14th in A-Main Event. That’s huge.”

And that’s progress.

In his second season with H.E.P. Motorsports, Enticknap predicts he will make 10 Mains this year.

Even if he advances to only half of the Features, it will be his best season in eight years at this level. Enticknap qualified for seven Mains in 2017 with a best of 18th at Vegas. He was in five Mains in 2018 with a best of 16th at San Diego before signing with his current team – and getting injured without rightly being able to show what he could do with them.

“I want to break into the top 10 – that’s my goal for the year – but as of right now I’m succeeding in all the little goals that I’ve set and I want to keep succeeding,” Enticknap said.

It’s not enough to want to finish well, however; riders have to visualize a path to success. For Enticknap, that will come with because of how he approaches stadium races. Towering over the field, Enticknap is not a small man by anyone’s measure so it’s ironic that he makes a comparison between Supercross and ballet. The indoor season is about precision, technical mastery, and finesse. And that is where Enticknap believes he shines.

“Supercross is more of a ballet. It’s more perfection. It’s something that takes so much talent – and you can see it in real life. When you watch an outdoor race, you’re like ‘that guy’s a beast’; he’s manhandling it; he’s hammering the throttle. And when you see a Supercross race it’s just so rhythmic and flowing and light. So much finesse on everything. Just such a fluent, technical race.”

Enticknap credits his background in BMX racing as one of the reasons why he is so fluid on a tight track.

“Supercross fits my riding style a lot,” Enticknap said. “I don’t like to just hang it out and get all sideways and just swap, swap, swap. I like to be very precise in all my movement. I’m a perfectionist. It helps in Supercross because everything is just timed by the millisecond.”

More: Michael Mosiman expects magic in this third year

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