Graham Rahal on what’s next with Romain Grosjean: ‘I’m not alone in my frustrations’

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Having met with Romain Grosjean after their May 1 dustup at Barber Motorsports Park, and since talked to IndyCar officials, Graham Rahal has done all he do – for now.

So does that mean the Rahal Letterman Racing driver believes things are settled with Grosjean heading into May at Indianapolis Motor Speedway?

Maybe.

“I suppose we’ll find out next time we’re wheel to wheel, which it seems we are every weekend, he and I,” Rahal told NBC Sports during a sponsor event last week about where things stand with Grosjean. “So, we’ll see what comes of that.”

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What almost certainly won’t come of it is a situation similar to the closing laps Sunday at Darlington Raceway. While NASCAR affords, and even encourages, the frontier justice allowed by fenders, IndyCar’s open-wheel racing has no such provision for retaliation.

So how does Rahal send a message without being able to send an opponent the same way that Joey Logano did to William Byron?

“The beauty of IndyCar racing is understanding how to race wheel to wheel,” Rahal said. “Race hard, race clean and properly execute a pass. I think that’s one of the greatest things about IndyCar racing is the mano a mano battle that takes place both mentally and physically in the race car to put yourself in the position to properly execute a pass and to properly go beat somebody cleanly.

“I was probably side by side with Scotty (McLaughlin) 10 laps in a row at Barber (and) never touched, never had a problem. One hundred percent clean racing. That’s the way it should be.

“NASCAR obviously is a little bit different (with) big fenders. The style is a little bit different on an oval. The easiest way around (is) ‘I’m just going to give you the old nudge.’ But that’s not what the core of IndyCar racing has been about. You go back to my dad’s era and everything else. Clean, hard racing. That’s what it’s about. So for me, that’s what I enjoy. And we’ll see how it is going forward. Literally, that’s all I can say.”

Grosjean was channeling NASCAR in an interview with The Associated Press while attending the F1 Miami Grand Prix last week. The Andretti Autosport driver quoted the movie “Days of Thunder” in addressing his contact with Rahal at Barber.

“Racing is rubbing, or rubbing is racing,” Grosjean told The AP. “I don’t know, I was on for some good points and I wanted more. It was racing. That’s it.”

But the incident reverberated longer for Rahal, who said he received texts from more than 10 IndyCar drivers in support of his pointed criticism of Grosjean while accusing the Frenchman of intentional contact. (Rahal addressed the incident in a lengthy reply comment to an Instagram post.)

“I’m not alone in my feelings and my frustrations, so we’ll just leave it at that,” Rahal said. “This is not just me.”

In their postrace meeting at Barber, Rahal added he and Grosjean “agreed to disagree, and we’ll see each other at the (GMR) Grand Prix.” Practice begins Friday at 9:30 a.m. ET (Peacock Premium) on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course for Saturday’s 3 p.m. race on NBC and Peacock Premium.

Rahal will enter ninth in points despite run-ins with Andretti drivers in two of the season’s first four races.

In the March 20 race at Texas Motor Speedway, Rahal finished 22nd after his No. 15 Dallara-Honda was wiped out by Devlin DeFrancesco, who subsequently received a grid penalty for Long Beach.

“I think we all go through phases in our career where this is common, and it feels like you can’t kind of get a break, getting hit all the time or whatever,” Rahal said. “But at the end of the day, it’s also important that we all respect each other tremendously because there’s just a lot that can happen in an open-wheel vehicle. It’s just important that we take care of each other.”

That’s partly why Rahal said he talked to IndyCar race stewards Arie Luyendyk and Max Papis after Barber.

“In all fairness to Arie and Max. I think they do get it,” Rahal said. “They are stylistically more lenient than maybe others have been. But as I told them, leniency is OK. Leniency is fine, but consistency is key. As I pointed out, I just think it’s important that they take that into consideration.

“But I have nothing ill to say about Max or Arie or (IndyCar president) Jay (Frye) or (race director) Kyle (Novak). I think everybody is trying their best to put on a good show. Barber looked like a great show. There’s a lot of stuff happening. A lot. That’s what we want as a sport.

“So let’s just keep going down that path. We can have our differences. We can argue. But at the end of the day, we just have to keep the train moving down the right tracks. That’s all.”

Miguel Oliveira wins MotoGP Thai Grand Prix, Bagnaia closes to two points in championship

MotoGP Thai Grand Prix
Mirco Lazzari / Getty Images
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Miguel Oliveira mastered mixed conditions on the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand to win the MotoGP Thai Grand Prix. Oliveira showed the adaptability as he navigated a race that began in wet conditions and turned dry over the course of the race. Oliveira won the Indonesian GP in similar conditions.

“It was a long race, but I can’t complain,” Oliveira said on CNBC. “Every time we get to ride in the wet, I’m always super-fast. When it started raining, I had flashbacks of Indonesia. I tried to keep my feet on the ground, make a good start and not make mistakes and carry the bike to the end.”

All eyes were on the championship, however. Francesco Bagnaia got a great start to slot into second in Turn 1.

Meanwhile Fabio Quartararo had a disastrous first lap. He lost five positions in the first couple of turns and then rode over the rumble strips and fell back to 17th. At the end of the first lap, Bagnaia had the points’ lead by two. A win would have added to the gain and for a moment, it appeared Bagnaia might assume the lead.

Early leader Marco Bezzecchi was penalized for exceeding track limits, but before that happened, Jack Miller got around Bagnaia and pushed him back to third. Oliveira was not far behind.

After throwing away ninth-place and seven points on the last lap of the Japanese GP last week, Bagnaia did not allow the competition to press him into a mistake. He fell back as far as fourth before retaking the final position on the podium.

“It’s like a win for me, this podium,” Bagnaia. “My first podium in the wet and then there was a mix of conditions, so I’m very happy. I want to thank Jack Miller. Before the race, he gave me a motivational chat.”

Miller led the first half of the Thai Grand Prix before giving up the top spot to Oliveira and then held on to finish second. Coupled with his Japanese GP win, Miller is now fully in the MotoGP championship battle with a 40-point deficit, but he will need a string of results like Bagnaia has put together in recent weeks – and he needs Bagnaia to lose momentum.

Miller’s home Grand Prix in Australia is next up on the calendar in two weeks.

Bagnaia entered the race 18 points behind Quartararo after he failed to score any in Japan. The balance of power has rapidly shifted, however, with Quartararo now failing to earn points in two of the last three rounds. Bagnaia won four consecutive races and finished second in the five races leading up to Japan. His third-place finish in Thailand is now his sixth MotoGP podium in the last seven rounds.

Aleix Espargaro entered the race third in the standings with a 25-point deficit to Quartararo, but was able to close the gap by only five after getting hit with a long-lap penalty for aggressive riding when he pushed Darryn Binder off course during a pass for position. Espargaro finished 11th.

Rain mixed up the Moto2 running order in the MotoGP Thai Grand Prix as well. Starting on a wet track, Somkiat Chantra led the opening lap in his home Grand Prix. He could not hold onto it and crashed one circuit later, but still gave his countrymen a moment of pride by winning the pole.

Half points were awarded as the race went only eight laps before Tony Arbolino crossed under the checkers first with Filip Salac and Aron Canet rounding out the podium.

American Joe Roberts earned another top-10 in eighth with Sean Dylan Kelly finishing just outside the top 10 in 11th.