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Graham Rahal fitting in with Penske’s IMSA program

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As Team Penske begins testing its brand new Acura ARX-05 in advance of the 2018 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, new signee for the endurance races Graham Rahal is taking advantage of the chance to get to know the team and its drivers.

With a little testing already under his belt – he first tested with the team last week at Daytona International Speedway – Rahal revealed on “Trackside” Presented by Verizon that the environment within the team is a little different from what he anticipated.

“I would say (Penske) is more relaxed than I expected, but a lot of fun. We had a great time,” Rahal told hosts Curt Cavin, IndyCar’s Vice President of Communications, and Kevin Lee, IndyCar on NBCSN pit reporter and commentator.

That environment is helped by the Acura connection. Aside from his 2007 campaign in the Champ Car World Series, which used Ford engines, Rahal has raced with Honda engines in the back of his IndyCar chassis every year, and that connection means he’s working with some familiar faces within the Penske and Acura camp. He also raced one of Michael Shank Racing’s new Acura NSX GT3s at this year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona, in the factory-run effort as the new cars premiered.

“It’s with Acura, so it’s family for me, with all my Honda guys and the HPD guys,” said Rahal. “All the engineers who are working on the Acura are some of the guys who have worked on my car before in IndyCar. I know all of them, so at least there’s no new faces on that side of things.”

Rahal explained further that the relaxed environment is also, perhaps surprisingly, a result of the expansive organization, which dwarfs many other race teams, including Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, with whom Rahal is a full-time competitor in the Verizon IndyCar Series.

“The IndyCar environment (with RLL) is lean, so everybody is so dedicated and focused on so many different areas that for a driver, it requires a lot more to be on your game,” Rahal explained.

“With Penske, when I first got there – first, the shop is the size of Keystone Shopping Mall. There’s a lot of people, 400+ employees. There’s a lot of guys who are dedicated to a certain task, and they’re very good at those tasks. From that standpoint, it’s a little bit relaxed.”

However, Rahal also knows that because the team is still testing, and early in its testing program at that, the intensity level has yet to be ramped up to where it will be on race weekends, especially at events like the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring.

“We’re durability testing, we’re pounding laps just doing long runs and stuff like that. It’s not as intense yet. Now, ask me when we get to the (Rolex 24 at Daytona) or (the 12 Hours of Sebring), that’s going to be a different feel to it, there’s no doubt about that,” Rahal added.

Further, Rahal is using the test days to get to know his new teammates, most notably Helio Castroneves, against whom Rahal sparred in IndyCar. He’ll co-drive with Castroneves and Ricky Taylor, who like Rahal is a son of a racing champion (Wayne Taylor).

Rahal noted that his impression of Castroneves as a teammate greatly differs from what he thought it would be.

“I had so many perceptions of Helio from competing against him. But then you compete with him, and the guy is awesome,” Rahal said of his relationship with Castroneves. “He is very relaxed. He’s obviously very quick, that doesn’t surprise anybody. He’s funny, that doesn’t surprise anybody. But it’s so cool to share the same car as him and learn from him as well. It’s been a pretty good group so far.”

Specifically, Rahal noted how Castroneves handles sharing a car with a driver who is significantly taller – Rahal stands at 6’2″ while Castroneves is 5’8″. The height difference means each driver requires different pedal positions, and while that may throw off some drivers, Rahal revealed that Castroneves didn’t even bat an eye about it.

“I’m a tall guy. I need those pedals as far away as I can get them. There are guys I’ve raced with before, if you move them (five millimeters), some scream and cry like a little baby. Helio’s the opposite. He’s just like ‘Yeah man, I’m good. You get ‘em where you need them and I’ll make it work.’ I guess I didn’t know that’d be what he’s like. It’s been awesome. We’ve had a great time so far.”

Rahal also tested the ARX-05 at Sebring International Raceway this week as Penske continues its development work of the car and chassis ahead of its debut at the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January.

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Will Power, Roger Penske collect Indy 500 trophies

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DETROIT (AP) Last year, Will Power finally broke through and won the Indianapolis 500, so he can cross that accomplishment off the list.

Now 37, Power is reaching an age when it’s fair to wonder how much longer he’ll keep at it.

“I’m really enjoying my racing. I’ve never been so motivated. I’m fitter than I’ve ever been, mentally on the game,” Power said. “I think once you get to this part of your career, you realize that you’re not going to be doing this forever. So you’ve got to enjoy it and you’ve got to go for it when you’ve got it, because, you know, probably only another five years at maximum, and you’re retired.”

Whenever Power’s career does wind down, his 2018 Indy 500 win will remain a moment to remember. He was in Detroit on Wednesday night with team owner Roger Penske for a ceremony in which they received their “Baby Borg” trophies for winning last year’s race. The Baby Borgs are replicas of the Borg-Warner Trophy that honors the Indy 500 winner.

Power finished second at Indy in 2015, and his victory last year made him the race’s first Australian winner. It was Penske’s 17th Indy 500 win as an owner, part of a banner year for him. Penske also won a NASCAR Cup title with driver Joey Logano.

“When you think about 2018, we had 32 race wins, 35 poles. I think we led almost 5,400 laps, with all the series,” Penske said.

On Wednesday, Penske collected another significant trophy, and he’ll be celebrated again in a couple weeks. He’s being inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Feb. 1.

“It’s amazing that a guy from the north can get into the Hall of Fame in the south,” Penske joked. “No, it’s special. … NASCAR has helped us build our brand over the years, certainly, with the reputation it has, and the notoriety we get, being a NASCAR team owner.”

Penske’s most recent Indy 500 title came courtesy of Power, who long preferred road courses to ovals but certainly looked comfortable at Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year.

“The 500 was one record that he didn’t have, and I think you saw the excitement he and his wife, and the whole team, when he was able to win the race,” Penske said. “He’s probably the best qualifier we’ve ever had, as a road racer, and no question his expertise. He didn’t like ovals to start with, but I think today, he loves racing on ovals.”

Power seems content with all aspects of his racing life at the moment. The aftermath of an Indy 500 victory can be a whirlwind, and it would be understandable for a driver to be weary of it eight months later, but for Power, it’s a new experience.

“I’ve been looking forward to this event for a few months now, to actually get the Baby Borg. You have the face on it – I didn’t realize that, you actually get your own face on it,” Power said. “It makes you realize the significance of the event, when you think about all the things that come with winning the 500.”

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Follow Noah Trister at http://www.Twitter.com/noahtrister