Rahal on doubleheaders: “I like it as a driver; I don’t as a team”

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DETROIT – A media session with Graham Rahal usually proves to be an enlightening and entertaining one, and today’s in Detroit was no different.

Among the items Rahal addressed were doubleheaders – Detroit is the lone doubleheader round on the Verizon IndyCar Series schedule – and what Alexander Rossi can do for the sport after winning the 100th Indianapolis 500.

Specifically related to doubleheaders, Rahal probably spoke for more than just himself in noting the challenge and thrash that the crews have to take and prep street course cars for Detroit less than a week after a 500-mile race.

“I like it. I like it as a driver. But I don’t like it as a team. Because our guys are dead,” Rahal said Friday in Detroit.

“We’re not Penske, we’re not Ganassi. We don’t have many guys at shop that could help. Ganassi might only have a handful.

“Our guys are dead.”

Rahal wasn’t done noting the challenging items from this weekend.

“The other thing I don’t like is, I don’t get why this race starts at 3:50, or whenever it does,” he said. “It makes no sense whatsoever.

“Now our guys don’t leave here (Sunday) until 8, get home at 1 or 2 (a.m.) whenever they do, have to go to work the next day because they have to build a car for Texas. It makes no sense. But I don’t make the rules, I don’t set the schedules.”

That being said, Rahal was quick to note there is still fan interest in the doubleheader format.

“One thing I said this week on Twitter (see below) though is that INDYCAR doesn’t need to continue to expand. We need to look at strengthening the events we currently have, and I do think there’s an interest the fans currently have in having a doubleheaders,” Rahal said.

“It’s a genuine good thing. I liked it in Toronto too. I don’t have a problem with it.

“It’s just that this, in particular though, is just tough on our people, to have to build a car to race next week. Our guys have to go home, get home extremely late, that sucks.

“We’re very fortunate in our organization that our guys are tight knit. But if we had a team that wasn’t that way, you’d see a lot of turnover. Because they don’t want to do that.

“It’s tough. I enjoy it though. It’s a good challenge.”

Rahal, who was sixth in the morning’s opening practice session, will be in Group 2 of qualifying today and looks for his third straight year in Detroit to score at least one podium finish. He enters the weekend a perhaps misleading 12th in points, having fallen from fifth after a tough Indianapolis 500 where he ended an unrepresentative 14th.

He’s in the No. 15 United Rentals Honda for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing this weekend, the team debuting a new AERO Paint livery in black and blue chrome.

Meyer Shank Racing wins second consecutive Rolex 24 at Daytona to begin GTP era

Rolex 24 Meyer Shank
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The Grand Touring Prototype era began just as the previous one ended as Meyer Shank Racing’s Acura captured its second consecutive Rolex 24 at Daytona with star Tom Blomqvist emphatically starting and finishing the race.

The No. 60 ARX-06 won the 24-hour endurance classic at Daytona International Speedway by 4.190 seconds over Filipe Albuquerque of Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti Autosport, giving Acura a sweep of the top two spots.

The Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac V-LMDh cars took the next two spots with Renger van der Zande (the No. 01) and Earl Bamber (No. 02) as four of the nine new GTP cars finished on the lead lap within 12 seconds of each other – quashing the prerace hand-wringing of mass failures for the highly technical cars in the debut of the hybrid prototype premier category.

There were major problems for the manufacturer newcomers Porsche Penske Motorsport and BMW M Team RLL, whose two pairs of cars all finished at least a dozen laps down or more because of major mechanical problems in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season opener.

Just as he capped the 2022 season by winning the Petit Le Mans season finale in the No. 60 Acura to clinch the final championship of the DPi division for MSR, Blomqvist was behind the wheel again for his third overall victory in IMSA.

“That was crazy,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports’ Kevin Lee. “I knew we had a fantastic car. I’ve been working hard. Unbelievable. Massive, well done, everyone being part of this project and worked together on this project. What a car we’ve built.

“I was just a bit nervous. The 10 was definitely second fastest car, but we held them off

It was the second consecutive Rolex 24 victory for MSR’s trio of Blomqvist, Simon Pagenaud and Helio Castroneves, who were joined this year by Colin Braun (winning his first Rolex 24 overall).

Castroneves joined select company in winning the Rolex 24 in three consecutive years (his first win was with Wayne Taylor Racing in 2021). Castroneves and Pagenaud are entering their second consecutive year as teammates for Meyer Shank Racing’s Dallara-Hondas in the NTT IndyCar Series.

“Can you believe that?” Castroneves told Lee. “Big props to everyone. Everyone did an amazing job. Everybody worked so hard together. We got it! Another one. I can’t believe it. This is absolutely a dream come true.”

The four-time Indy 500 winner led the team in his signature fence-climbing celebration afterward — just as he had when he finished MSR’s victory in last year’s Rolex 24 and when he won the 2021 Indy 500 for the team.

“It’s always fun to climb the fence with Helio,” said Pagenaud, who drove the second-to-last stint before Blomqvist closed it out: “The competition as amazing. It was tough out there. So much fun. Hope you had as much fun as we had. I’m going to savor this one.”

Winners in other classes were the No. 55 ORECA 07 of Proton Competition (which triumphed on a last-lap pass by James Allen on Ben Hanley), WeatherTech Racing’s No. 79 Mercedes in GTD Pro, Heart of Racing’s No. 27 Aston Martin in GTD and AWA’s No. 17 in LMP3.