Early season results have been hard to come by for Graham Rahal in recent seasons. A fortuitous podium in St Petersburg and a top 10 at ISM Raceway last weekend leave the Honda driver in unfamiliar territory.
“It’s good for us to be fourth in points and to be as close as we are because historically that hasn’t been our strength”, explained Rahal who will carry TOTAL colours on his No 15 Honda this weekend.
“Historically we have not been good at starting off the season, so we’re in a better position that we have been in probably ever so I’m excited about that and I think that’s going to help us.”
Rahal bucks the trend, battles complacency
Rahal’s comments somewhat underplay his typical form over IndyCar’s opening trio of events. 2017 was a particular low point with 17th, 10th and 13th place finishes at St Petersburg, Long Beach and Barber respectively.
Even with a mid-season resurgence those results limited Rahal to a 6th place finish in the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series. The Ohio-native has ripped up the history books so far in 2018.
Though he sits just 14 points off championship leader Josef Newgarden, the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing driver is not going to allow complacency to derail what could be his most promising title challenge since 2015.
“We obviously got some good points in Phoenix, but we would have obviously liked to have been better but Long Beach is going to be important to continue that momentum and not lose any ground.”
Work to be done for Rahal and RLL at Long Beach
The American’s podium finish in the IndyCar season opener at St Petersburg was not the result of raw pace. Starting from dead last a combination of good strategy and the misfortune of others allowed Rahal to finish 2nd behind surprise winner Sebastien Bourdais.
Despite struggling for pace in Florida, the 6-time IndyCar race winner is confident he will be in contention this weekend: “I think we should be competitive at Long Beach. St. Pete wasn’t the best for us so from a street course perspective, I think we have some work to be done.”
“But I also know that Tom (German, Rahal’s race engineer) and everyone is working hard to find a solution to make the cars perform more competitively than we did in St. Pete.”
Long Beach: not a favorite with the Rahal’s
Long Beach has not been a happy hunting ground for Rahal or his father, Bobby. The former IndyCar champ and Indy 500 winner raced on the streets of Long Beach fifteen times without a win.
For the pride of the Rahal family, Graham is eager to go one better than his own 2013 runner-up finish – which of course came for his father’s team.
“Forty four years is a lot of history for IndyCar racing and a lot of close calls for the Rahals in Long Beach, so hopefully this year we can make it happen and get a win after a lot of second-place finishes.”
Though history might not be on Rahal’s side for this weekend’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, his early season form proves history does not always repeat itself.
The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach starts April 13 with practice from 10am (Pacific Time). Qualifying starts 3.30pm (Pacific) on April 14 with the green flag dropping on the race itself Sunday 15 April around 1.35pm (Pacific).
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