Graham Rahal hopes lightning strikes again for him in Angie’s List Grand Prix

(Getty Images)

If there was a turning point to Graham Rahal’s season in 2015, it likely was in the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis.

After finishing second the race before at Birmingham, Rahal scored his second consecutive runner-up of the season in the Indy road course event.

That would propel him to a streak of four top-fives in five races, eventually two wins – a single-season career high with triumphs at Fontana and Mid-Ohio – and ultimately the best overall season finish in his IndyCar career: fourth place.

The driver of the No. 15 Steak ‘n Shake Honda came into last year’s ALGPI ranked eighth in the standings; he enters this weekend’s race sixth in the rankings.

“The start to last season and this season are seemingly identical,” Rahal said. “I would have loved better results this year, and frankly feel the team deserves them.

“But due to my mistakes in Long Beach and bad luck in St. Pete, we have found ourselves in a similar position. I think this weekend will be key for a good kickoff to our month of May.”

Rahal hopes luck is on his side in Saturday’s race as it was in last year’s race. He deftly avoided an incident on the first turn of the opening lap, gathered things back up and roared to his runner-up finish.

“The race last year was interesting,” he said. “We struggled in qualifying, but due to the first corner mess, I was able to get into sixth place on the start.

“After that it was work as usual and trying to get by everyone with strategy and some passes. Luckily we were able to do both and it worked out great.”

With three of the first four races of 2016 thus far having been contested on either a street course (St. Petersburg, Long Beach) or road course (Birmingham), Rahal has been on somewhat of a roller coaster ride.

While he’s finished all four races and all but one lap this season, it’s been up and down, up and down.

He finished 15th at St. Petersburg, leaving him 16th in the Verizon IndyCar Series season standings after the first race.

From there, he went to Phoenix – the only oval thus far this season – and finished fifth. In doing so, he jumped to seventh in the season standings.

Then it was backslide time again, finishing 15th at Long Beach, and dropping back to ninth in the IndyCar standings.

In the most recent IndyCar race at Birmingham two weeks ago, Rahal did almost everything right and came home in second place – his second consecutive runner-up finish at Barber Motorsports Park and his best showing since his win at Mid-Ohio last year.

That allowed Rahal to jump back up again in the standings to sixth.

“We have been very solid and I think we are only scratching the surface,” Rahal said. “We will continue to work hard and see what we can gain.

“(The road course at Indy) is similar to Barber (Birmingham), which is why I expect to be good. The main difference is there are no elevation changes and a little bit faster speeds.

“To run up front and be very competitive, that’s what I expect everywhere now. I love being here and love racing in Indy. I can’t wait.”

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Cadillac confirms WEC driver lineup with Chip Ganassi Racing that will race Le Mans in 2023

Cadillac Ganassi Le Mans
Cadillac Racing

Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing announced their driver lineup for a 2023 entry in the FIA World Endurance Championship, the sports car series that includes the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The Cadillac V-LMDh entry will be driven by Earl Bamber and Alex Lynn, who were teamed on the No. 02 Cadillac that competed in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship DPi class this season and won the Twelve Hours of Sebring. The third driver will be Richard Westbrook, who will return to Ganassi after helping the team to a GT class win at Le Mans in 2018.

The team also will compete in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in the rebranded Grand Touring Prototype premier category, which is designed for crossover between the top prototypes in IMSA and WEC. Ganassi will field a second entry at Daytona with its No. 01 Cadillac that will compete full time in IMSA with Sebastien Bourdais and Renger van der Zande.

A Ganassi spokesman said the team hopes to run its second entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans but only its WEC team is confirmed (an AOC invitation would be required for the IMSA team). The team also is exploring options but currently plans to have the WEC’s team base of operations in Indianapolis.

Ganassi is the first American-based prototype team to confirm its entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans. It’s expected that Team Penske, which raced this year’s Le Mans with a full-time WEC entry in LMP2, also will race Le Mans with Porsche’s new LMDh car that is set for IMSA, but the manufacturer has yet to confirm its driver and team lineup.

Next year will mark the return of Cadillac to Le Mans for the first time since 2002.

Before joining Ganassi last year, Lynn made 28 WEC starts since 2016, winning the LMGTE Pro class at Le Mans in 2020.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to continue with Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing,” Lynn said in a release. “It’s a huge honor to drive for Chip in any capacity but certainly on a full factory sports car program, it’s seriously cool. Cadillac has so much heritage as a luxury North American sports car brand, so to be able to represent them is a huge privilege. I’ve had a lot of fun in my first year doing it and to continue that onto the World Endurance Championship stage is fantastic.

“For me, returning to WEC is sort of what I’ve always known and it’s a bit like going into my wheelhouse. This year in IMSA was a bit different with getting to know all-new circuits and a new style of racing so 2023 will be filled with a bit more of what I’m used to with more of a European focus. I think what’s significant about WEC is without a doubt Le Mans. As a sports car race, Le Mans is the crown jewel and everything that we want to win. To be able to take Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac back to Le Mans to fight for overall honors is a huge honor and that’s something that I’m going to work tirelessly to make sure we achieve.”

Bamber won the Le Mans overall in 2015 and ’17 with Porsche teams and also was a 2019 GTLM champion in IMSA.

“I am really happy to continue at Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac,” Bamber said in a release. “I’ve loved my first season in DPi and now to continue over into the LMDh era and WEC is super exciting. Looking forward to fighting for a world championship and another Le Mans victory.

“The World Endurance Championships gives us the opportunity to race at the world’s biggest race, which is Le Mans, the crown jewel of sports car racing. I’ve been lucky enough to win it before and it’s obviously a huge goal for Cadillac and everyone at Chip Ganassi Racing. To have that goal in sight is really exciting. It’s been great to have Alex as a teammate in 2022. We’ve been able to learn and grow together in the DPi, and we have a really good partnership going into WEC. We know each other really well and believe adding Richard will be a seamless transition.”

Said Westbrook: “After four really good years at Chip Ganassi Racing, I’ve got so many friends there and I’ve always dreamt to come back one day. It just worked so well between 2016 and 2019, and I’m delighted we found a route to come together again. I can’t wait, it’s an exciting era in sports car racing right now.

“I feel like I know Alex and Earl really well. I did Le Mans with Alex in 2020 and I’ve known him for years. It feels like I’m going back with an ex-teammate and exactly the same with Earl. Although I’ve never shared a car with Earl, we’ve always done the same sort of racing be it in WEC or in IMSA. We’ve had lots of battles, including this year in our dueling Cadillacs. We’ve always gotten along quite well, and I can say we’re going to have a great year together.”

The seven-race WEC season, which also includes a stop at Spa, will begin March 17 with the 1,000 Miles of Sebring at Sebring International Raceway in Florida.