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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.

IndyCar teams with NASCAR on IMS road course doubleheader in 2021

IndyCar NASCAR doubleheader 2021
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The NTT IndyCar Series will be sharing Indianapolis Motor Speedway with the NASCAR Cup Series in a race weekend doubleheader for the second consecutive season, but both series will be on the road course in August 2021.

IMS announced Wednesday that IndyCar will hold an Aug. 14, 2021 race on its 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course. It’ll be a day before NASCAR’s premier series runs the same layout for the first time after the Brickyard 400 was contested on the 2.5-mile oval for the first time in 27 years.

This season’s rescheduling of the IndyCar GMR Grand Prix to July 4, 2019 (a day before the Brickyard 400) led to the first NASCAR-IndyCar doubleheader weekend. The Xfinity Series also raced on the IMS road course for the first time July 4 after the IndyCar race ended.

INDYCAR AT IMS THIS WEEKEND: Harvest GP schedule, entry lists

IndyCar will be holding its second race weekend this year at the IMS road course Friday and Saturday with the Harvest GP.

“Our first NASCAR-INDYCAR weekend was a big success last July, with positive feedback from
our loyal fans who watched the races on NBC and from the drivers, teams and participants
involved,” IMS president Douglas Boles said in a statement. “The Xfinity Series’ debut on the IMS road course provided exactly the kind of thrilling action from the green to checkered flags that we anticipated, so we know the teams and drivers of the Cup Series will put on a great show as they turn left and right for the first time at IMS.

“We can’t wait to welcome back fans to see NASCAR and INDYCAR together during this
exciting weekend as we add another memorable chapter in the long, storied history of the
Indianapolis Motor Speedway.”

It also will mark the first NASCAR Cup-IndyCar doubleheader with a crowd as fans weren’t permitted at IMS in July because of the novel coronvavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Over the course of Wednesday, NASCAR is releasing its 36-race slate for next season. IndyCar has yet to release its full 2021 schedule.