Nationwide Guard brings a new dynamic to Rahal Letterman Lanigan: Graham Rahal’s Autoweek site: Verizon IndyCar Series driver assured ahead of 2014 season opener in St. Petersburg

Verizon IndyCar Series driver assured ahead of 2014 season opener in St. Petersburg

By: Graham Rahal on March 27, 2014

Rahal is confident about his chances in 2014.

LAT PHOTOGRAPHIC – Graham Rahal will be driving the National Guard car for the 2014 IndyCar season.

First of all, it’;s wonderful to finally get the Nationwide Guard sponsorship deal carried out, and to signify the more than 350,000 civilian soldiers who live and function between us each day to keep us secure. There’;s a lot of pride and honor in that for me, especially getting an American. It indicates a whole lot to our group, to my dad, myself, and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing staff co-owners Mike Lanigan and David Letterman. It’;s something that certainly has the electrical power and potential to consider our program to a entire new degree, and we’;re very lucky to have the National Guard on board.

On the competition side, the largest effect the deal has on our staff is funding. With no funding, we do not go racing. This package can get us far forward, and it’;s some thing we’;ve needed for a long time. Getting related with the National Guard … if you request me, it really is the premier sponsor in IndyCar racing. It has attracted a lot of great men and women to our group since of that, which includes engineers like Bill Pappas and John Dick — who was with him at Dale Coyne Racing, and we have seen what that team has been ready to achieve in recent seasons — and who worked at our crew with Kenny Brack, winning races. It’;s wonderful to have him back. There are new guys on the mechanics side, exact same thing. It may take a little time for everybody to get on the identical web page 100 %, but it is hunting actually good so far.

Testing at Sebring a couple of occasions went very well, we had been actually aggressive there and appropriate with the Team Penske boys and Ryan Hunter-Reay’;s Andretti Autosport car. These guys are always a good measuring stick. The current check at Barber Motorsports Park was much more of a struggle, even so I don’;t see that as too much of a unfavorable since we had some minor mechanical difficulties and we missed working in the best track circumstances. So I know for a fact we had much more pace in-hand than we have been in a position to show. So I am not panicked about the situation. We undoubtedly have function to do, I have perform to do, but I never consider we are that far off.

Without a doubt the automobile already feels far better than it did last year. I truly feel way far more confident in it, the crew, than ever prior to. I come to feel like there have been a couple spots we’;ve gone, Sebring in particular, the place it isn’;t going to even truly feel like I’;m driving the exact same auto. Setups can make a huge change, shocks and dampers can make such a massive big difference on these autos and I believe that is in which Penske, Ganassi and Andretti have had such an benefit, even Sam Schmidt’;s group, as well. We now have the capability to phase up our game in that region.

I am confident that Honda’;s new twin-turbo V6 — moving away from the old single-turbo architecture — will get much better and far better, and naturally our crew and my dad have lengthy-standing ties to Honda going back to when he was the 1st guy to run Honda engines in CART. So we have loads of faith in the men and women at Honda.

Greater picture as far as the 2014 season: There’;s a great deal for IndyCar to be constructive about these days. Verizon is now the title sponsor, and ABC is televising these early races so it’;ll be really simple for the followers to comply with the action. I actually think the Grand Prix of Indianapolis on the road program at the Speedway is going to be a wonderful point for our sport, and the Indy 500 itself is nevertheless the biggest motor race in the globe.

Guys like Jacques Villeneuve coming back and getting a portion of Indy, Juan Pablo Montoya returning to IndyCar full time and even Kurt Busch working the 500 just adds that much far more interest to it, so it is great to have them. There’;s a great deal of media curiosity they can carry to the table. Villeneuve is a excellent race-auto driver. He’;s won races all over the world, and as a previous Indy 500 winner, he has loads of knowledge. Busch? New challenge. I think it is going to be an eye-opening experience for him, especially when he will get out there in targeted traffic. But he is going to be in an Andretti car, and if you happen to be going to leap into the 500 as a a single-off, an Andretti vehicle has been the best a single to do that with. But although it really is a great automobile for Kurt to be in, I nonetheless consider it’;s going to be a difficult challenge appropriate off the bat.

I know a good deal of you have probably witnessed the back-and-forth among me and Dale Earnhardt Jr. about possibly driving each and every other’;s cars quickly. That is anything I’;ve been contemplating about for a prolonged time, to do a seat swap with him. Now with the National Guard sponsoring us the 2, there are a lot of ties here. My dad and his NASCAR crew owner, Rick Hendrick, are near buddies. My dad and Dale Sr. had a extremely great relationship from their IROC days. And now we have the National Guard in common, so I feel this would be a extremely excellent point for us to move across the board, hopefully swap vehicles for a day and have some exciting. It would be something new for every of us — and it would be actually great. As a great deal of individuals noticed on Twitter, the media interest that surrounds it could be definitely out of this planet, and would be wonderful to do and fun for the followers, also.

Will it actually occur? I hope so, but we shall see. At the least it would be wonderful to have Dale Jr. come to a race, practice day or even a test day to check it out in particular person. The crossover of fan bases could only be a great factor to support the Nationwide Guard proceed to recruit fantastic guys and ladies to support defend us all. So stay tuned on this one particular.

Now I’;m off to St. Petersburg for this weekend’;s season opener — it truly is time to see in which we stand.

Editor’s note: Autoweek Editor at Velocity Graham Rahal, 24, drives the No. 15 National Guard-sponsored entry in the Verizon IndyCar Series. Rahal debuted in the Champ Car Globe Series in 2007 and a 12 months later on became the youngest winner in significant open-wheel-racing historical past when he won in his IndyCar Series debut in St. Petersburg, Fla., at the age of 19. He is the son of 3-time CART Planet Series champion, 1986 Indianapolis 500 winner and his race-group owner Bobby Rahal.

In addition to his open-wheel accomplishments, Rahal was element of the driver lineup that claimed the all round win in the Daytona Prototype class at the 2011 Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Rahal started his racing profession in karting and created his way to IndyCar through various junior series prior to making his specialist open-wheel debut for Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing in Champ Auto. In 2005, he won the SCCA Runoffs Formula Atlantic division to become the youngest-ever SCCA national champion.

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