Graham Rahal thrilled with IndyCar’s reworked schedule for 2020

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Graham Rahal of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing feels good about the future of IndyCar, even during a dark time when all of pro sports has been shut down because of the growing COVID-19 pandemic.

Rahal, like the rest of America, is doing his best to get through it but is confident once the health threat subsides, it will be time to go back to work.

Meantime, the leadership of the IndyCar Series led by new owner Roger Penske, IndyCar CEO Mark Miles, IndyCar President Jay Frye and Indianapolis Motor Speedway President Doug Boles were working to save the season.

By “thinking outside of the box” they were able to dramatically rearrange the schedule and move the 104th Indianapolis 500 from May 24 to August 23.

It is hoped, by then, the COVID-19 pandemic will have subsided, and large events can once again bring people together, instead of sending them for shelter.

“We are very fortunate to have the ownership and leadership we have today,” Rahal told NBCSports.com. “Who knows how different this would have been if it had happened last year? I’m not throwing anybody under the bus, but Roger Penske is an incredibly organized problem solver. A guy that finds solutions and leads companies to a successful future. He’s been thrown to the wolves this year, not only with IndyCar and IMS, but all of his businesses.

“We’re in the automotive retail business, and it is brutal right now. At our dealerships, we are not allowed to sell a car right now. Not allowed. Even if we had a client that wants to buy one, we can’t sell it. Imagine how that affects Roger (who has dealerships across the United States).

“Here he is focused on IndyCar racing trying to put together this great schedule. Greg Penske — those of us involved know Greg is a chip off the old block; he is Roger — he has been heavily involved. You can’t thank those guys enough.

“Also, Mark Miles and Jay Frye have done a tremendous job putting this all together at not a very favorable time for all of us. It definitely turned out pretty good.

“It will still be the same for the drivers. The adrenaline is going, and you are ready to go. It’s Indy. We are excited about that.”

Rahal will participate in Saturday’s American Red Cross Grand Prix, the first race in the IndyCar iRacing Challenge. The virtual race featuring a field of 25 with many NTT IndyCar Series drivers along and seven-time NASCAR Cup champion Jimmie Johnson. It will be held at a virtual Watkins Glen International.

“I feel like it is an interesting concept,” Rahal said. “I’m going to put my sim together and see what comes of that. I’ve never done this. I have seen it. I’m aware of it. I drove a simulator 12 years ago and it’s pretty different from where it is and what it is today. I’m definitely excited. It’s a good way to kill time. I’m not a big gamer. I have businesses to run and everything else. For me, it’s cool to have this in the house and play with it and see what it is all about.

“It’s great. Even Jimmie Johnson is going to get in on it. Other guys want to come in and play. I already tweeted at Jimmie Johnson to run the IndyCar Grand Prix.

“We all know Jimmie Johnson is going to come here in the future. Right now, he wants to stay committed to his craft and what he is doing.”


Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Although events such as this keep Rahal’s reflexes sharp, he has upped his physical workouts at home.

“I’ve been full-on working out,” Rahal said. “It’s giving me a good combination of cardio and my lifting and try to get my weight down further. Being at home, you can control what you are eating better than when you are traveling.

“The crappy side for me is the same for everybody else. When I go to the gym to work out, I turn on the Columbus Blue Jackets or something to watch. Now, they aren’t on. It’s no fun, but it is what it is.”

There are times where Rahal, like the rest of us, gets restless being forced to stay at home. But he realizes that this a time to think of others and reflect on why lies ahead.

Once the season begins, whether it’s May 30 in the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix or possibly later, the pace of the schedule will be relentless, so enjoy the time off now because it will be non-stop action when racing returns.

“As Scott Dixon said, we have plenty of off time right now,” Rahal said. “All of our guys have plenty of off time. I don’t think our guys have been at the shop except for a couple days since St. Pete, and they won’t be for another week or two, until the governor lets everyone come back. They are getting a solid, month-plus off.

“All of us need to sit back and try our best to enjoy this little bit of time that we’ve got because once we go back, it will be full-in. But we are all going to be happy for that. We will all be excited that is the case.”

Rahal believes an Indianapolis 500 in August will be just as exciting and spectacular as it is in May.

“I feel better about it, too,” Rahal said. “I think there is good direction and good leadership with what we are doing. We have a couple of months, which sucks, but we are hoping it all settles down. I’m hopeful that it will.

“If you look at the coronavirus issue and the spread, 300,000 people in May was going to be a tall task. Delaying that for a few months certainly is a better place. I’m excited by it.

“I think the promoters did a great job making this happen with IndyCar as well.”


By thinking outside of the box, it also has provided IndyCar and Indianapolis Motor Speedway with the chance to have IndyCar and NASCAR compete on the same race course on July 4.

The GMR IndyCar Grand Prix has been moved from May 9 to July 4 at the IMS Road Course. That same day, NASCAR Xfinity Series drivers will compete in the Pennzoil 150 on the same road course.

The following day, it’s the Brickyard 400 when NASCAR Cup drivers compete on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval.

“I think it’s huge,” Rahal said. “I’ve been a big proponent of it. With my wife, I proposed IndyCar and NHRA should run a double-header. IndyCar and NASCAR would be a great combination. It’s mutually beneficial for both to do this and for the health of motorsports.

“I’ve had so many tweets today of people who were not coming to Brickyard who flat out have said, now I know where I’m going to be in July. You already see the excitement. It’s a great thing that could, and should, continue.

“This schedule is eye-opening to us what could work, too? How can we be a little bit different and innovative schedule-wise? Yes, we get stuck in a rut sometimes, but how can this work and how can it be beneficial?

“From a TV perspective, to combine those two over a weekend is huge. I think it’s a great opportunity.”

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500 

IndyCar champion Will Power completes ‘Victory Lap’ at ceremony in Indianapolis

Will Power Victory Lap
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INDIANAPOLIS – Will Power went on his “Victory Lap” last week to celebrate his second career championship as the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series champion.

It began with several media interviews in Monterey, California, the day after he won the championship with a third-place finish in the Sept. 11 Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey.

From there, it was off to Los Angeles for more interviews and personal appearances that included a VIP Tour at the Petersen Automotive Museum, several appearances on SiriusXM and lunch at The Ivy, where the Team Penske IndyCar Series driver was treated to Wagyu Beef.

“It was one of the best steaks I’ve ever had in my life,” Power told NBCSports.com.

From L.A. back to Power’s North Carolina home, near Team Penske’s home base of Mooresville, there was one stop left on Sept. 17 — the Victory Lap Celebration at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum, an invitation-only banquet where Power and his No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet crew at Team Penske were honored for the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series championship.

They didn’t even have to check into a hotel and spend another night on the road. Power and his team left on a Team Penske plane from the Statesville, N.C., airport at 4 p.m. ET Saturday to fly to Indianapolis. On arrival an hour later, a limo bus took the team to IMS.

Power led the 2022 season with five NTT P1 Awards for pole, earning the NTT P1 Award as the best qualifier of the season for the fifth time in his career. Power also made history with his 68th career pole, breaking the all-time mark held by the legendary Mario Andretti.

Power and Scott Dixon also became just two of only five drivers to complete every lap of every race in IndyCar Series history.

“What a year,” Power said as he was awarded his personal Astor Cup trophy (the second in his collection after the 2014 championship. “What a phenomenal year coming off one of my worst seasons personally. We came back with a vengeance.

“I want to thank Roger and Kathy Penske for everything they have done for me over the years. I wouldn’t be standing here and have the numbers I have without what Roger has done for me. I’m given a car every week that is capable of winning the pole, races, championships, and Indianapolis 500s. I’m so grateful for that.

“Also, to Greg Penske, you are there every week now at every event and I know we will be in good hands moving forward with the Penske Family.”

There are many on Power’s team and at home, that helped support Power throughout his career. None is bigger than Power’s wife, Liz, who told Power before the season that he would win the championship and break Andretti’s record.

“I must thank my wife. I’m so lucky to have a wife with that crystal ball that can tell me what is going to happen,” Power said. “I can’t think you enough, babe. I love you so much and you have been a big support to me my whole career. We’ve been together 17 years, and I’ve been in the series 17 years. She has been such a huge support to me. The mother of our child and she is a fantastic mother.

“She can’t tell the future. She just had faith in me.”

Liz Power’s premonition came true and that allowed Power and his No. 12 Dallara-Chevrolet team to celebrate Penske’s 17th IndyCar championship and 42nd title in the racing team’s history.

“The 12 crew this year, I’ve never had such a great group of guys,” Power said. “Trevor Lacasse (chief mechanic) is such a calm guy, but he does such a meticulous job on the preparation of the car. He is very, very good at keeping the whole crew happy. It feels as if there is no pressure on us. That’s a huge part in getting the most out of people. It was our first year together with you as a crew chief. What a great year to start our relationship.

“Dave Faustino (Power’s longtime engineer), we’ve worked together for 15 years. He’s almost like a wife to me, a partner … apart from sleeping together. We have a very good working relationship. Sorry Dave, I’m an awkward person and you are not.

“The things we have been through in our years together, it’s crazy that we continually improve and get better. We are standing on the podium after winning the championship and we are talking about the car, the race, and the tires. We weren’t talking about the championship.

“We never stop. The other boys were laughing at us, but I’m already thinking about next year.

“Ron Ruzewski (Team Penske IndyCar Managing Director and strategist) on the radio, always calm. He has actually made me a calm person. I rarely get upset on the radio anymore.”

Power also recognized the fans who helped boost attendance at many venues on the schedule this season as NBC Sports enjoyed its largest IndyCar audience yet.

“This series is growing,” Power said. “With open wheel racing now so popular because of Formula One, it’s really our time to push and put money behind it and go now and take IndyCar to another level because we have the best racing product in the world.

“I have to thank my teammates and (Team Penske president) Tim Cindric. I can’t tell you how hard we push each other. We are ultracompetitive and love each other and push each other hard, so thank you.”


Power won the championship by 16 points over hard-charging teammate Josef Newgarden, who finished second in the standings for the third year in a row.

“Overall, I’m filled with a lot of pride for our team and what we were able to do this year,” Newgarden said in his banquet address. “Any year that you step in the championship, you can easily see the challenges it presents everybody.

“It’s a very difficult challenge for the teams and drivers. To be a part of it, make it through it and for us at Team Penske, to topple it, is a very big deal. We’re all competitive.

“The tough thing about being in a championship fight, especially with teammates is we all want to be the best. That’s how it should be. We are competitive people and want to be the best. But it’s a team sport.

“Will, tremendous season, great, great job. I think the world of everybody on our team. It’s a big group. I’m so happy for all of you on the 12-car crew. There is so much we can take into next year.”

Six-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon was unable to attend the banquet because of the Goodwood Festival in England but sent congratulations to Power via a video message.

“I really want to congratulate Will Power,” Dixon said. “You drove a tremendous season this year. Even with some of the lows that you had, some of the mistakes with qualifying, you bounced back tremendously. I know how tough these championships are and to see you do it in the style that you did it in the last race of the season, massive congratulations.”

Power’s championship formula included one victory, nine podiums and 12 top-five finishes. Teammate Josef Newgarden was second in the championship with five wins but only six podiums.

Cindric saluted Power’s season in accepting the championship team owner award.

“Will, you took it to another level this year,” Cindric said. “You are the complete package. You completed every lap, had nine podiums, finished out of the top 10 just four times, broke Mario Andretti’s record, and you did it all without cussing at the officials on national TV.

“One complaint I do has is while most of us think you might be from another planet, you never told us your wife was a fortune teller.”

Cindric also honored the seasons of Penske drivers Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin, who won three times in his second full season (“You are one of only two full-time IndyCar drivers that has driven for us in the past 23 years that hasn’t won an Indy 500 or an IndyCar championship. Your time is coming.”).

Kyle Moyer was named team manager of the year (his fifth time and Penske’s sixth). Pennzoil presented Lacasse with the chief mechanic of the year for the first time, the sixth time for Team Penske. The No. 12 crew also won the Firestone Pit Performance Award for the most pit stop performance award points in 2022.

Power, Newgarden and McLaughlin delivered nine of Chevrolet’s series-leading 11 victories this season, helping Chevy win the Manufacturer Award for the seventh time since it returned to the series in 2012 and the first time since 2017. Jim Danahy, U.S. vice president, Competition Motorsports Engineering for Chevrolet, accepted the award on behalf of his team.


Christian Lundgaard was honored as the 2022 NTT IndyCar rookie of the year. Lundgaard, from Denmark, scored one podium, two top-five finishes and seven top-10s in the No. 30 Honda fielded by Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. He edged David Malukas of Dale Coyne Racing with HMD by 18 points in the standings for first-year series drivers.

Christian Lundgaard (Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment)

“It’s been a tough season and looking at how it panned out, we struggled so much at the beginning of the season and how we were able to turn it around means so much to me and the team,” Lundgaard said. “It’s the one thing that you only get one shot at. I’m happy to have it.

“Being the first Dane at the Indy 500 certainly helps. Competing here for me is quite important and also special. To win this award and to be here in future years means so much to me. I have a chance to compete for wins and championships.

“This team gave me this opportunity at this track one year ago. We came back and got redemption. We got our first podium here. This year was 40 years ago that Bobby Rahal won the same award. It’s pretty special to keep it among the team.”

Sweden’s Linus Lundqvist was honored as Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires champion after a dominant season for HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing. Lundqvist won a series-high five races in the No. 26 HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing entry and clinched the Lights championship with a race to spare, ending with a 92-point advantage over Sting Ray Robb. HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing owners Henry and Daiva Malukas accepted the team championship.

“I’m very proud of that,” Lundqvist said. “It’s cool to see. We are starting to look to the future, and this might not be doing too bad. It’s been great. As most of you can guess with Henry and Daiva Malukas (team owners), it’s been an incredible journey. So much fun that we’ve had. To be on the grid this year was so much of a struggle for us. I didn’t even know I would be doing this until January.

“To be able to pull out the season that we had, I cannot thank this team enough. We will celebrate this for a long time. I’m so happy and proud about that.”

Outgoing IndyCar Director of Medical Affairs Dr. Geoffrey Billows also was honored as he is leaving that role while battling cancer.

“When I think of Dr. Billows, I think of two words,” IndyCar president Jay Frye said. “One is selfless and the other is tough. He’s gone through a lot these last couple of years, and he didn’t want anybody to know. He’s an amazing man, and we are very grateful for what you have done.”

Dr. Geoffrey Billows with IndyCar president Jay Frye (Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment)

Billows was presented with a framed checkered flag signed by all drivers in the series as well as other IndyCar officials and dignitaries.

“I was not expecting this at all,” Billows said. “This means so much for me to be part of this family for the past 30 years. I’ve been presented with opportunities I never thought I would ever have. I can’t tell you how much I love all of you guys and care for all of you guys.

“Thank you so much. I want to also thank my wife, Tammy, who has been a pillar of strength as I continue on this journey with cancer for the past two years as well. You will still see me as a consultant because I love this too much to quit altogether.”

When the evening concluded, Team Penske boarded a bus to the airport for the short return flight to Statesville. They were home by midnight.

Power’s Victory Lap was complete.

“The best thing about this is I get to sleep in my own bed tonight,” Power said.

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500