Thirty years after father bumped at Indy 500, Graham Rahal endures the same nightmare


INDIANAPOLIS – Bobby Rahal thought he never would experience the same nightmare twice in his life of getting bumped out of the Indy 500 starting lineup.

It happened to Rahal as a driver in 1993, just one year after he had won the 1992 CART championship.

Thirty years later as a team owner, the nightmare scenario developed at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. All four of the Rahal Letterman Lanigan cars were slow – so slow, in fact, they were in a class by themselves in the back of the pack.

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The saving grace for Rahal, the team owner, was with 34 cars entered for the 33-car starting lineup, three of his four drivers would make the race.

Unfortunately, that driver turned out to be Rahal’s son, Graham.

The 34-year-old Rahal has enjoyed a special relationship with his father. He was precocious as a youngster, extremely self-confident – almost cocky – as a young adult and driven as a man.

As a team owner, Rahal has to be impartial to all four of his drivers, including Christian Lundgaard, a talented 21-year-old from Denmark, Jack Harvey, a likable but underperforming 30-year-old from England, Graham Rahal and for this year’s Indianapolis 500, 42-year-old Katherine Legge of England.

Legge had not driven an Indy car in 10 years but was able to earn the last starting position – the outside of Row 10 – in Saturday’s first day of qualifications for the 107th Indianapolis 500. Legge’s four-lap average in the No. 44 Honda was 231.070 miles per hour.

AUTO: MAY 21 INDYCAR Series The 107th Indianapolis 500
Graham Rahal absorbs failing to qualify for the 107th Indy 500 (Jeffrey Brown/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images).

The four drivers that had to fight for the final three positions in last chance qualifying included Dale Coyne Racing’s Sting Ray Robb, and all three of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s drivers.

“Today, felt like we were in the ‘Hunger Games’ with our own team,” Harvey said.

It was another example of how cruel the Indianapolis 500 can be to a racing team, a race driver, or the Rahal family.

Lundgaard was the first driver to make a four-lap run Sunday afternoon and was the fastest of the slow, with a four-lap average of 229.649 miles per hour. Robb was next and ran a four-lap average of 229.549 mph in the No. 51 Honda.

Harvey went out third and his time was the slowest yet – just 228.477 mph which put him tentatively in 33rd position and on the Bubble.

It was Graham Rahal’s turn.

His father once coined the term “It’s Great to Be Graham” when he was a 17-year-old driver in the Champ Car Series driving for the famed Newman Haas Lanigan team in 2007.

When the Champ Car Series folded and was absorbed by the old Indy Racing League to become today’s NTT IndyCar Series, Rahal drove to victory in his first race in the combined series, becoming the youngest winner in IndyCar history when he won the 2008 Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

Rahal’s team had scrambled in Gasoline Alley making changes to the No. 15 United Auto Rentals Honda to ensure that Rahal made the Indy 500 starting lineup.

To do that, however, he would have to bump out his teammate, Harvey.

Rahal hit the 2.5-mile oval in his Honda and put down two decent laps at 229.614 mph and 229.298 mph.

But there was trouble brewing in Rahal’s Honda on the first lap.

The weight jacker broke and the driver was having to hang on to the race car to make sure it remained in control while still running a speed fast enough to make the race.

“That ruins the handle of the car and the aerodynamics, but you can’t do anything,” Graham said. “You try to adjust the tools on the car with the front bar, but everything that need to happen, it didn’t happen.

“It also failed on us on practice, too, but we thought we had fixed it. Then it happened again.”

Bobby Rahal watched the Indy 500 drama involving his IndyCar team from a golf cart on pit lane (Bruce Martin).

Sitting on a golf cart on pit lane, 70-year-old Bobby Rahal as he tried to remain calm but was obviously concerned.

Graham’s third lap was 228.975 mph, an expected drop-off from the Firestone Firehawk Tires that begin to lose grip when Indy cars are running on the aged edge.

Rahal’s final lap was 228.751 mph, and that gave him a four-lap average of 229.159 mph.

There were 38 minutes remaining in the Last Chance Qualifying session and teams are not allowed to work on the race cars, other than put air coolers on the car in an attempt to cool it off.

The idle time on track only added to the drama.

Graham Rahal takes off his helmet after getting bumped from the Indy 500 (Bob Goshert/For IndyStar/USA TODAY Sports Images Network).

Even Bobby Rahal wondered what Harvey’s crew might do. They sent Harvey out at 4:41 p.m. to run two laps in the 172-mph range, simply to cool off the car.

“You can’t touch the car,” Bobby Rahal told NBC Sports on pit lane. “It took half an hour to run four cars through and there were 21 minutes left. If we don’t send Jack out, then Graham would be in.

“But we can’t consider that.

“It really doesn’t pay for Sting Ray to go out because he is in. I would doubt seriously we would see a big move in speed from the time we did earlier. They also have to cool the engines off, which takes a long time. They may not get the engine cooled off in time to go out.

“In Graham’s case, the weight jacker broke and that is a problem. He still turned in a pretty good time, but it would have been a lot better if it hadn’t failed.

“I haven’t spoken to them (Harvey’s crew) to see what their strategy might be. But if I were them, I’d wait until the end to go back out.”

Meantime, Rahal remained in the cockpit of his car, ready to run if he had to make a last chance run.

Harvey went out for another run at 4:55 p.m. and turned in a 228.929 mph average for four laps. It wasn’t enough to bump Rahal from the field.

He quickly came back down pit road; the team slapped on a fresh set of Firestones and immediately sent him back onto the track.

It was make-or-break time for Harvey.

By the time his four-lap run was completed at 229.166 mph, he made the field and broke Graham Rahal’s heart.

Graham climbed out the car, realizing he could do nothing as his teammate knocked him out of the race.

A nice-sized crowd that came to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday erupted in a loud roar when Harvey made the race and Graham Rahal was crushed.

“That’s the difficult part, you can’t run again, you are stuck there,” Rahal told NBC Sports. “Everybody puts a lot into this. We just came up short.

“I’m surprised with the heat soak and everything that Jack was able to do it.

“This place, it doesn’t come easy. It doesn’t just happen. We weren’t good enough. We were the slowest of our cars on pure pace all week.

“You have to be positive. You have to be humble and gracious in victory and defeat.

“This sucks here.”

Rahal began to feel the emotion of the moment as he tried to reflect on when he knew earlier this week that there were problems with the car and the lack of speed.

“I knew from the start we were in trouble,” Rahal told NBC Sports before he broke down in tears and had to walk away.

He cried hard from the pain of missing the Indianapolis 500. His wife, Courtney, and his two young daughters, Harlan Anne, and Tinley, came to console the crestfallen man.

Graham Rahal is tall, strong and can sometimes have an upfront personality.

But he’s just a man who feels pain and heartbreak like everyone else.

On Sunday, it hurt, and it hurt him bad.

He cried into his wife’s arms. Then one of his little girls came over to make sure Daddy was OK.

Graham hugged her tight to his tear-drenched face.

It was a private, personal moment that was on full public display and a place that creates bigger than life heroes but has a cruel side that is dark and grim.

“To see them, definitely makes this better,” Graham admitted before breaking down a second time in tears.

Graham Rahal shared a moment with his daughters after getting bumped from the Indy 500 (Bruce Martin Photo).

On the 30th anniversary of when Bobby Rahal was the first defending IndyCar series champion to get bumped from the Indianapolis 500, the “Rahal Nightmare” returned.

It’s a nightmare that will haunt the Rahals, but like all dreams, they eventually will be able to move past it.

That’s what Bobby Rahal did when he had to return to the 1993 Indianapolis 500 and watch the race from the Miller Suite to help his sponsor entertain guests after he missed the biggest show in racing.

“I was up in the suite, and I wasn’t in tears, but I knew I didn’t belong there,” Bobby recalled.

This was certainly a nightmare Bobby Rahal never thought he would revisit, but here he was 30 years later reliving the pain.

“This is my team and I have to be as neutral as I can,” Bobby Rahal told NBC Sports. “Are you conflicted? Sure. But I’m glad for Jack and for his guys. Kudos to Sting Ray’s guys for putting it together. I’m happy for Christian Lundgaard.

“For Jack, I’m really happy for him.

“Having been there before, hey, we weren’t fast enough and that is what racing is all about, being fast enough.

“But we will be back.”

Graham Rahal hugs Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing teammate Jack Harvey after their Indy 500 qualifying session (Kristin Enzor/For IndyStar / USA TODAY Sports Images Network).

As a father, how does Bobby Rahal console his son when it was a teammate that had to deliver the crushing blow.

“I feel bad for him, but I feel worse for the cars we gave our drivers,” Rahal said. “We have to get our act in order.

“Jack hasn’t had many things to cheer about this year or last. I’m happy for Jack. I really am. This might be the one thing that gets him going again mentally. Naturally, I’m really disappointed for Graham.

“It hurts. Believe me, it hurts. But we’ll get better by this. That is the only thing you can do. It’s unfortunate he had the weight jacker break, but ‘woulda, coulda, shoulda.’

“When we come back here and win next year, I’ll totally forget about this year.

“But this place can be cruel. It can be cruel.”

It was back in 2020 when Bobby Rahal was with co-team owners David Letterman and Michael Lanigan celebrating Takuma Sato’s victory in the Indianapolis 500.

“That is what is so odd,” Bobby said. “Three years ago, we had two great race cars. Now, we have four race cars that can’t get out of their own way.

“We have to figure out what the hell is going on and we have a couple days to do that.”

The team owner explained the issues with his cars are drag related. They changed gearboxes overnight, and that did not correct the problem.

After Graham Rahal regained his composure, he talked about the problems the team has had this year, especially on oval tracks.

He recalled the struggles at Texas Motor Speedway the last couple years, another oval on the schedule. Last year, there were two cars that started on the last row of the Indianapolis 500.

“We have to make sure we are doing the right things and fixing the inherent speed issue of the cars,” Graham said. “It’s hard to imagine it’s us in this position, but I could have told you at the test in April that we were in trouble.

“When you get to the test and feel that way, it’s too late. It just came to a head here.”

Rahal, who openly has talked about leaving RLL after this season, talked to Harvey on Saturday night, and the two friends realized it would be one or the other that would make it or fail.

“Whether it’s Jack in or me, we have one RLL car going home and that sucks,” Graham said. “We shouldn’t be in this position.

“Our cars build some of the nicest cars in the whole place. We have to make sure we are doing the right thing. What we have focused our time and energy on, clearly wasn’t needed what we should be focusing on.”

Down pit lane, Harvey was the hero of the day, but he didn’t feel like a super hero.

It was a tremendous attempt by the driver from Britain who made a brave run.

In a moment when he should be most proud of his effort, he felt hollow.

“It was an amazing, awful moment,” Harvey said. “I’m so happy we made the race. Why do you lay it all on the line? You lay it on the line because it’s the Indianapolis 500.

“This means the world to everybody. That emotion is pure, it’s real and it’s raw.

Jack Harvey reflects on making the Indy 500 on his final qualifying attempt (Bruce Martin Photo).

“The stress of Bump Day, I wouldn’t wish on anybody.

“Graham is one of my really close friends. Not only are we teammates, but we also give each other advice.

“It’s not a good feeling knocking him out. The flip side is I’m really happy to get the No. 30 PeopleReady car into the race.

“It’s awful. I hate it. I really don’t like it, but I respect it.

“But this is terrible. To knock out a teammate is (expletive) awful.”

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500 

Motocross 2023: Results and points after season opener at Fox Raceway


It was not the first time it has been done, but a rider winning in his Motocross debut is rare as the results show Jett Lawrence swept the motos at Fox Raceway in Pala, California and took the early points lead.

Dylan Ferrandis may not be quite 100 percent yet, but he was good enough to finish on the podium at Fox Raceway – Align Media

Lawrence became the 16th rider to win in his Motocross debut and was the 10th rider to do so in the season opener, At 19, he wasn’t the youngest to perform the feat; Rick Johnson was 17 in 1982 when he won the lidlifter at Hangtown, the site of next week’s race, but Lawrence’s inaugural win bodes well. The last time a rider performed this feat, Dylan Ferrandis went on to win the 2021 Motocross championship as a rookie in 2021.

Ferrandis did not sweep the motos that season while Lawrence’s performance on Saturday was perfect. He paced both practice sessions, earned the holeshot in each race and finished first in both motos after leading every lap to score maximum points. Lawrence started the weekend needing 85 points to climb into 20th in the combined SuperMotocross standings for the 450 class. Earning 50 with his perfect Motocross results at Fox Raceway, he is nearly 60 percent of the way to his goal.

RESULTS: Click here for full 450 Results; Click here for 250 Results

Chase Sexton was second across the board. He qualified in the second position and finished 2-2 in his motos. In the first race, he was a relatively distant runner-up behind Lawrence, crossing the finish line a little more than 10 seconds ahead. He got a great start in Moto 2 and pushed Lawrence for the entire race, never getting further back than three seconds. He tried to pressure Lawrence into making a mistake, but both riders hardly put a wheel wrong and they finished within a second of one another.

Returning from a concussion suffered in the Houston Supercross race earlier this season and exacerbated at Daytona, Ferrandis finished third in both motos to take third overall. His most important task at hand this week was to avoid trouble and start the Motocross season healthy at Fox Raceway so he can begin to accumulate strong results and move up in SuperMotocross points.

Ferrandis entered this round 25th in the standings and left Pala in 19th. With that position, he has an automatic invitation to the feature starting grid in the SuperMotocross World Championship as long as he does not fall back.

Click here for 450 Moto 1 [Lap Chart] | Moto 2 [Lap Chart] | Consolation Race

Aaron Plessinger and Cooper Webb both ended the race with 34 points, but Plessinger had the tiebreaker with a better finish in the second race. Notably, both riders sustained injury sometime during the season, but Plessinger had an advantage by coming back a week sooner in Salt Lak City for the Supercross finale. He finished second in that race.

Webb was cleared late in the week by doctors after being on concussion protocol from a vicious strike to his helmet in a Nashville Supercross heat race late in the season. He made a beeline to the track to run the Motocross opener. After missing last year’s outdoor season, he wanted to make certain that did not happen again. He still has a solid opportunity to catch Sexton for the No. 1 overall seed in the SuperMotocross standings., but he will need to make up 78 points.

Click here for 450 Overall results | Rider Points | Manufacturer Points

For the first time in history, Pro Motocross results from Fox Raceway show brothers as winners on the same day.

Battling a rib injury suffered practicing earlier in the week, Hunter Lawrence got a poor start to Moto 1 and had to overcome his 10th-place standing at the end of Lap 1. He methodically worked his way toward the front but might have settled for a position off the podium if not for heavy traffic in the closing laps. Lawrence was able to get through the field quicker than Justin Cooper and Jo Shimoda to finish third.

Hunter Lawrence overcame sore ribs to score the overall 250 win at Fox Raceway – Align Media

Lawrence’s second moto was much stronger. He earned the holeshot and led all 15 laps of the race to win by a more than eight seconds.

Haiden Deegan didn’t feel any pressure heading into this round. No one expected much in his third Motocross National and he would have been happy with anything in the top five. At least that’s what he said in the post-race news conference. Deegan said similar things after finishing fourth in his first Supercross race this season. In a stacked field of 40 riders at Fox Raceway, “Danger Boy” finished sixth in Moto 1 and second in Moto 2 for the second-place finish overall.

Click here for 250 Moto 1 [Lap Chart] | Moto 2 [Lap Chart] | Consolation Race

In only his third Pro Motocross National, Haiden Deegan finished second overall. – Align Media

RJ Hampshire had an eventful weekend. He dominated Moto 1 and won by a healthy margin, making a statement about how he will race now that Jett Lawrence is no longer in the field. He was a victim of mayhem in Turn 2 of Moto 2, which forced him to the ground. Another crash on an uphill portion of the track later that same lap put him in 39th. Hampshire salvaged as many points as he could and finished 11th in the second race to stand on the final box of the podium.

Tom Vialle came within a lap of scoring his first career podium. He had the position based on a tiebreaker over Justin Cooper and Maximus Vohland until Hampshire passed two riders on the final lap and earned one point more than that threesome. Instead, Vialle settled for his first podium in an individual moto with a 7-3 in the two races. More accustomed to this style of racing, Vialle will be a factor in the coming rounds.

Click here for 250 Overall results | Rider Points | Manufacturer Points

Cooper finished with a 5-4 in the two motos to sweep the top five and take fourth-place overall. Cooper started five rounds in the 450 class in Supercross this season and none on a 250, so he is starting with zero points in the SuperMotocross seeding, but with runs like this it won’t take long to make up the 89 he needs to climb to 20th.

One of the best performances of the weekend was put in by Vohland. He finished second in Moto 1 and had to withstand pressure from Lawrence in the closing lap. A poor start of 16th in the second race forced him to play catchup and he could only climb to ninth at the checkers.

2023 Supercross Results

Round 17: Chase Sexton, Jett Lawrence win
Round 16: Chase Sexton, RJ Hampshire win
Round 15: Chase Sexton, Hunter Lawrence win
Round 14: Justin Barcia, Max Anstie win
Round 13: Chase Sexton, Hunter Lawrence win
Round 12: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence win
Round 11: Eli Tomac bounces back with sixth win
Round 10: Chace Sexton wins, penalized
Round 9: Ken Roczen wins
Round 8: Eli Tomac wins 7th Daytona
Round 7: Cooper Webb wins second race
Race 6: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence win
Race 5: Webb, Hunter Lawrence win
Race 4: Eli Tomac, Hunter Lawrence win
Race 3: Chase Sexton, Levi Kitchen win
Race 2: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence win
Round 1: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence win

2023 SuperMotocross Power Rankings

Week 16: Chase Sexton takes SX title
Week 15: Eli Tomac is back on top
Week 14: Justin Barcia, most of top 20, hold steady
Week 13: Barcia leapfrogs the Big Three
Week 12: Eli Tomac gains momentum
Week 11: Cooper Webb, Tomac overtake Chase Sexton
Week 10: Sexton leads with consistency
Week 8: Sexton unseats Tomac
Week 7: Jason Anderson narrowly trails Tomac
Week 6: Perfect Oakland night keeps Tomac first
Week 5: Webb, Sexton close gap
Week 4: Tomac retakes lead
Week 3: Ken Roczen takes the top spot
Week 2: Roczen moves up; Sexton falls
Week 1: Tomac tops 450s; Jett Lawrence 250s