April 6 in Motorsports History: Graham Rahal, 19, wins at St. Pete

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On April 6, 2008, Graham Rahal made IndyCar history.

Graham Rahal celebrates after winning the 2008 Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Photo: Jim Haines/IndyCar

After overcoming a spin early in the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Rahal passed Ryan Hunter-Reay (who was driving for Rahal’s father, Bobby) to take the lead after a Lap 64 restart and led the final 19 laps through the checkered flag for his first IndyCar victory.

At 19 years, 3 months and 2 days, Rahal became the youngest winner in IndyCar history at the time, breaking a record previously established by Marco Andretti at Sonoma in 2006.

Rahal held on to this title for 11 years, until Colton Herta became the youngest winner in series history by winning IndyCar’s inaugural race at Circuit of The Americas in 2019 at 18 years, 11 months and 25 days of age.

Rahal’s victory is also notable as it was the first victory for Newman/Haas Racing post-reunification and came in his first start in the reunified IndyCar Series.

After competing as a rookie in Champ Car’s final season in 2007, Rahal missed the 2008 IndyCar opener March 29 at Homestead-Miami Speedway after crashing his car in a test (the team lacked parts to fix it).

“It can’t get any sweeter than this,” Rahal told ESPN after the win. “Especially after last week, not racing. Certainly, this makes it a whole lot sweeter.”

Also on this date:

1885: Jules Goux, the winner of the 1913 Indianapolis 500, was born in Valentigney, France. Driving a Peugeot, Goux reportedly drank four bottles of champagne while driving in the race, though that claim is believed to have been exaggerated. Goux died in 1965.

1986: Kevin Cogan won the CART season opener at Phoenix International Raceway. The veteran, who finished second to Bobby Rahal in the Indy 500 a month later, lapped the field in what wound up being his lone victory in the series.

2013: Max Angelelli and his first-year co-driver, Jordan Taylor, had a straightforward win for Wayne Taylor Racing in Grand Am’s Porsche 250 at Barber Motorsports Park. Angelelli took over for Taylor just after halfway, assumed the lead with 43 minutes to go and went on to take the checkered flag by over four seconds over the No. 99 GAINSCO duo of Jon Fogarty and Alex Gurney.

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter @michaele1994

Cadillac confirms WEC driver lineup with Chip Ganassi Racing that will race Le Mans in 2023

Cadillac Ganassi Le Mans
Cadillac Racing
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Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing announced their driver lineup for a 2023 entry in the FIA World Endurance Championship, the sports car series that includes the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The Cadillac V-LMDh entry will be driven by Earl Bamber and Alex Lynn, who were teamed on the No. 02 Cadillac that competed in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship DPi class this season and won the Twelve Hours of Sebring. The third driver will be Richard Westbrook, who will return to Ganassi after helping the team to a GT class win at Le Mans in 2018.

The team also will compete in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in the rebranded Grand Touring Prototype premier category, which is designed for crossover between the top prototypes in IMSA and WEC. Ganassi will field a second entry at Daytona with its No. 01 Cadillac that will compete full time in IMSA with Sebastien Bourdais and Renger van der Zande.

A Ganassi spokesman said the team hopes to run its second entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans but only its WEC team is confirmed (an AOC invitation would be required for the IMSA team). The team also is exploring options but currently plans to have the WEC’s team base of operations in Indianapolis.

Ganassi is the first American-based prototype team to confirm its entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans. It’s expected that Team Penske, which raced this year’s Le Mans with a full-time WEC entry in LMP2, also will race Le Mans with Porsche’s new LMDh car that is set for IMSA, but the manufacturer has yet to confirm its driver and team lineup.

Next year will mark the return of Cadillac to Le Mans for the first time since 2002.

Before joining Ganassi last year, Lynn made 28 WEC starts since 2016, winning the LMGTE Pro class at Le Mans in 2020.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to continue with Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing,” Lynn said in a release. “It’s a huge honor to drive for Chip in any capacity but certainly on a full factory sports car program, it’s seriously cool. Cadillac has so much heritage as a luxury North American sports car brand, so to be able to represent them is a huge privilege. I’ve had a lot of fun in my first year doing it and to continue that onto the World Endurance Championship stage is fantastic.

“For me, returning to WEC is sort of what I’ve always known and it’s a bit like going into my wheelhouse. This year in IMSA was a bit different with getting to know all-new circuits and a new style of racing so 2023 will be filled with a bit more of what I’m used to with more of a European focus. I think what’s significant about WEC is without a doubt Le Mans. As a sports car race, Le Mans is the crown jewel and everything that we want to win. To be able to take Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac back to Le Mans to fight for overall honors is a huge honor and that’s something that I’m going to work tirelessly to make sure we achieve.”

Bamber won the Le Mans overall in 2015 and ’17 with Porsche teams and also was a 2019 GTLM champion in IMSA.

“I am really happy to continue at Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac,” Bamber said in a release. “I’ve loved my first season in DPi and now to continue over into the LMDh era and WEC is super exciting. Looking forward to fighting for a world championship and another Le Mans victory.

“The World Endurance Championships gives us the opportunity to race at the world’s biggest race, which is Le Mans, the crown jewel of sports car racing. I’ve been lucky enough to win it before and it’s obviously a huge goal for Cadillac and everyone at Chip Ganassi Racing. To have that goal in sight is really exciting. It’s been great to have Alex as a teammate in 2022. We’ve been able to learn and grow together in the DPi, and we have a really good partnership going into WEC. We know each other really well and believe adding Richard will be a seamless transition.”

Said Westbrook: “After four really good years at Chip Ganassi Racing, I’ve got so many friends there and I’ve always dreamt to come back one day. It just worked so well between 2016 and 2019, and I’m delighted we found a route to come together again. I can’t wait, it’s an exciting era in sports car racing right now.

“I feel like I know Alex and Earl really well. I did Le Mans with Alex in 2020 and I’ve known him for years. It feels like I’m going back with an ex-teammate and exactly the same with Earl. Although I’ve never shared a car with Earl, we’ve always done the same sort of racing be it in WEC or in IMSA. We’ve had lots of battles, including this year in our dueling Cadillacs. We’ve always gotten along quite well, and I can say we’re going to have a great year together.”

The seven-race WEC season, which also includes a stop at Spa, will begin March 17 with the 1,000 Miles of Sebring at Sebring International Raceway in Florida.