(Getty Images)

Graham Rahal ends 2016 with a strong melody

1 Comment

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.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Lewis Hamilton receives Daytona 500 invitation from Bubba Wallace

Lewis Hamilton Bubba Wallace
Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Lewis Hamilton is a fan of the new NASCAR Cup Series team formed by Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan to field a car for Bubba Wallace.

Will the six-time Formula One champion also be a fan in person at a NASCAR race in the near future?

Wallace is hoping so.

After Hamilton tweeted his support Tuesday morning about the news of a Hamlin-Jordan-Wallace team making its debut with the 2021 season, Wallace responded with a sly invitation to the Daytona 500.

Much would need to be worked out, starting with how much garage and grandstand access would be afforded for a 2021 season opener that likely would occur during a still ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

But it would seem fitting given that Hamilton and Wallace have been two of the world’s most outspoken Black athletes about the quest for diversity and racial justice. Hamilton recently reaffirmed his commitment to activism after his donning a Breonna Taylor shirt sparked an FIA inquiry.

The idea of Hamilton attending the season opener already had legs, too. The Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 driver has expressed a desire to race the Daytona 500 after he has retired from Formula One.

He was a spectator (with racing legend Mario Andretti) at four-time champion Jeff Gordon’s final Cup race as a full-time in the 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 2011, Hamilton swapped cars with three-time champion Tony Stewart at Watkins Glen International.

Having rubbed shoulders with other racing greats so often, it only would be fitting if Hamilton — who is one victory from tying Michael Schumacher’s career record and also could tie the F1 record with a seventh championship this season — spent some time with the greatest basketball player of all time.

Jeff Gordon was flanked by Mario Andretti and Lewis Hamilton before the 2015 Cup season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).