Graham Rahal ends 2016 with a strong melody

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Graham Rahal has a lot in common with musicians: there’s nothing like finishing on an upbeat note.

Rahal, who has had an up-and-down year on the racetrack, finished the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season in strong fashion.

Not only did he finish second in Sunday’s season-ending GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma – tying his second-best finish of the season (Birmingham) – he also finished the season fifth in the final standings.

Admittedly, 2016 (one win, finished fifth) was a bit short of what Rahal accomplished in 2015 (two wins, career-best fourth-place season finish).

But the driver for the self-professed single car “little team that can” – Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing – ended the season with a lot to look forward to heading into 2017.

In three of the last five races of 2016, Rahal recorded two podiums – won at Texas, second at Sonoma – and one other top-five finish (fourth at Mid-Ohio).

“It’s been a weird year,” Rahal told NBCSN. “Overall, we’ve had our ups and downs, but I’m really proud of this team for all the effort they put in.

“I’m also proud to be the top Honda once again. We’ve led the charge for them the last couple years and there’s a lot of pride in that.”

Rahal was closing in on eventual race winner and new champion Simon Pagenaud in the closing laps of Sunday’s race, but couldn’t quite catch him.

“Just a good day and a good way to end it,” Rahal said. “I wanted to get Pags there obviously, but when I get behind him I get massively loose.

“I thought at one point it be best to salvage second then to do something stupid.”

Smart move, indeed.

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SuperMotocross set to introduce Leader Lights beginning with the World Championship finals


In a continuing effort to help fans keep track of the on track action, SuperMotocross is in the process of developing and implementing leader lights for the unified series.

Currently Supercross (SMX) utilizes stanchions in the infield that are triggered manually by a race official. At least two stanchions are used in each race as a way to draw the eye to the leader, which is especially useful in the tight confines of the stadium series when lapping often begins before the halfway mark in the 22-bike field. This system has been in place for the past two decades.

Later this year, a fully automated system will move to the bike itself to replace the old system. At that point, fans will be able to identify the leader regardless of where he is on track.

The leader lights were tested in the second Anaheim round this year. An example can be seen at the 1:45 mark in the video above on the No. 69 bike.

“What we don’t want to do is move too fast, where it’s confusing to people,” said Mike Muye, senior director of operations for Supercross and SMX in a press release. “We’ve really just focused on the leader at this point with the thought that maybe down the road we’ll introduce others.”

Scheduled to debut with the first SuperMotocross World Championship race at zMax Dragway, located just outside the Charlotte Motor Speedway, a 3D carbon fiber-printed LED light will be affixed to each motorcycle. Ten timing loops positioned around the track will trigger the lights of the leader, which will turn green.

SMX’s partner LiveTime Scoring helped develop and implement the system that has been tested in some form or fashion since 2019.

When the leader lights are successfully deployed, SuperMotocross will explore expanding the system to identify the second- and third-place riders. Depending on need and fan acceptance, more positions could be added.

SuperMotocross is exploring future enhancements, including allowing for live fan interaction with the lights and ways to use the lighting system during the race’s opening ceremony.