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Rahal’s hope for a Hollywood ending comes up short at Long Beach

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In a land just south of Hollywood, Graham Rahal had a script in mind that ended with a big win in Sunday’s 42nd running of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

After crashing in practice Saturday, prompting extensive repairs to both the left front and rear of his Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, Rahal dreamed of roaring back and taking the checkered flag on race day.

He took a big step toward fulfilling that script, being the fastest in Sunday morning’s final practice session with his rebuilt car.

Unfortunately, practice was not the same as the race itself – a gamble on fuel strategy saw Rahal drop back after getting as high as ninth in the race.

Rahal started from the 17th position in the 21-driver field, and methodically climbed as high as ninth, only to fall back in the latter part of the race to an eventual 15th place finish and his worst outing on the streets of Long Beach since a 24th place finish in 2012.

The strategy was dictated by his second stop coming at Lap 48 of the 80-lap race, but without a yellow, Rahal had to engage major fuel saving mode and limped home in 15th, running out of fuel just past the start/finish line.

This result in the No. 15 PennGrade Honda follows a frustrating 16th at St. Petersburg, and a bounce back to fifth in Phoenix.

“I think we just made some mistakes today overall and put ourselves in a bit of a bind,” he said after the checkered flag. “With our strategy, we really needed a yellow but it’s what we needed to do to try to make up some ground after starting 17th and we did there for a while (when he got up to 10th).

“We coasted across the finish line with no fuel and barely made it.”

As he did after St. Petersburg, Rahal noted the difficulty in trying to pass even though the car was better than the result indicated.

“It kind of stunk for me today because I had a great car, I just couldn’t do anything.

“I’m proud of the PennGrade boys because they worked hard this weekend. I put them in a hole yesterday (Saturday’s crash in practice). And once again, the (pit) stops were great.”

Also great? Team co-owner David Letterman’s beard (see above). Letterman was on hand Sunday to support the team.

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Michael Schumacher’s son to make F1 practice debut at Nurburgring

F1 Mick Schumacher
Joe Portlock - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images
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MARANELLO, Italy — Mick Schumacher, son of the legednary seven-time champion, will have an official Formula One drive during an F1 race weekend for the first time next week at the Nurburgring, Alfa Romeo and Ferrari said Tuesday.

Schumacher gets the practice drive in an Alfa Romeo on Oct. 9 on his home track in Germany as a member of Ferrari’s young driver program, taking over Antonio Giovinazzi’s car for the first session of the weekend.

“I am overjoyed to get this chance in free practice,” Schumacher said in a statement. “I’m going to prepare myself well, so that I can do the best possible job for the team and gain some valuable data for the weekend.”

The 21-year-old Schumacher leads the Formula 2 standings after winning races in Monza and Sochi. He won the European Formula 3 championship in 2018 and tested a Ferrari F1 car in Bahrain in April 2019. He also has done demonstration runs in his father’s old cars, most recently this month ahead of the Tuscan Grand Prix in a championship-winning 2004 Ferrari.

Michael Schumacher holds the F1 record with 91 victories, which Lewis Hamilton is on the verge of tying.

Ferrari said two other drivers in its academy program will also get practice drives in Formula One.

Callum Ilott, a British driver who is second to Mick Schumacher in F2, will drive an F1 Haas at the Nurburgring on the same day as Schumacher. Russian driver Robert Shwartzman will drive in practice for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Dec. 11, though Ferrari hasn’t said for which team.

The German round was added to the F1 schedule after the coronavirus pandemic disrupted the season and will be officially known as the Eifel Grand Prix after a nearby mountain range. The Nurburgring last hosted F1 in 2013.