Bachelart, Rahal, Johnson teleconference, part 2

Continued from part 1 Q: Steve, what is the current status of a sponsor for Atlantics? Do you expect to have one for this season? STEVE JOHNSON: Actually, we had meetings this week on that. I know if I say yes, I'll end up jinxing it.

Continued from part 1

Q: Steve, what is the current status of a sponsor for Atlantics? Do you expect to have one for this season?

STEVE JOHNSON: Actually, we had meetings this week on that. I know if I say yes, I'll end up jinxing it. But we're working closely with a sponsor to replace Toyota, and feel good about the progress that we've made.

Q: Graham, growing up around road racing, as did your dad, is your preference to stay in road racing in the future?

GRAHAM RAHAL: Yes. I've never really been interested in the ovals. Obviously, I drove once this year at Pikes Peak. I will say that I had a great time, led most of the race. It was an exciting experience.

When it comes down to it, road racing is more fun in the end. It's safer, number one, but it's just better overall. It's more fun as a driver to be able to turn both ways instead of just one. In the big picture, I think the better drivers are road racers really. In ovals, like we saw at Pikes Peak this year, a lot of guys that were never fast on a road course all of a sudden were fast because it is easier to just get a car around the oval, especially in like a lower series like we're in now, because it's just flat out all the way around. A road course is definitely what I prefer, what I plan to stay on for the rest of my life.

Q: In some of the prior Champ Car regimes, we've let some pretty decent talent go. What is it going to keep you in road racing?

GRAHAM RAHAL: My love for racing really. I don't ask too much. I don't think there's going to be any issue staying in it really.

STEVE JOHNSON: Graham, if you need something, just give me a call. We'll keep you in here (laughter).

Q: Graham, how do you get the level of confidence and maturity that you have at your age, especially in racing, and still combine that with your education? You'll be going into your senior year next year. How difficult will that be?

GRAHAM RAHAL: It is tough. My deal with my dad and I is that if I don't get the grades, then I can't race. Luckily this year, I've had an over 4.0 average, which is all A's. I'm keeping up to my end of the deal, and obviously dad is keeping up to his. I've been racing for six years, since I was 10. I've kind of gotten used to having the extra work load all the time, which isn't necessarily a good thing. But with the help of my principal at school and everything, we get all the work done and certainly we still have time to race. It is harder than just being a student all the time. In the end, I think it makes you stronger as a person because really you know what you've got to get done. It's definitely made me become more mature in the past couple years because it keeps you in check at all times. You know that you can't just slide by with the lower grades and everything else. I've got to keep up with my deal with my dad.

STEVE JOHNSON: Graham, also, so you know, we did contact your school. They are going to have the senior prom at Long Beach. We won't let you miss that.

ERIC MAUK: Graham is attending New Albany High School, home of the Golden Eagles, in New Albany, Ohio. A, it's a heck of a school. B, they don't give anything away out there. Your grade point average is quite a testament to your ability both on and off the racetrack.

Q: Eric, do you intend to campaign two cars next year? If so, when do you expect to announce the second driver?

ERIC BACHELART: Yes, we do expect to run a second car. We're working on the second driver. We have done a test last week in California, evaluating one driver over there. We are in contact with quite a few. We want to have a second driver that is going to be hopefully the same talent as Graham so we can have a good stimulation between both drivers, keep on building a very strong team. It would be good if, again, we can have two drivers of similar talent. I think it's going to be a good help.

Q: Do you have a time frame that you expect to announce a second one?

ERIC BACHELART: No, but we have a test program now. Talking about the school, we've been working this afternoon, just trying to find some test dates with Graham's off-school days. We're going to do some more testing in mid January. Hopefully by that time we might test other drivers as well. We still have a bit of time ahead of us, but would like to finalize that fairly quickly, and I think we will.

Q: Steve Johnson, do you project a size of the Atlantic field for next year, the number of entries?

STEVE JOHNSON: Upper 30s.

Q: Upper 30s?

STEVE JOHNSON: Yes. That's anything 35 and above. There's been like 40 plus chassis sold. It depends. You could have anywhere from 30 to that many. That's a good number to shoot for.

Q: Graham, from what you're hearing, I hear you say that you want to fight for the title next year, about driver announcements, who do you think will be your rivals next year?

GRAHAM RAHAL: Anybody is really. I mean, anybody can do it. If James Hinchcliffe and Raphael Matos, if they come in, obviously I raced against them this year, they're definitely the most talented. Actually, my teammate this year was Robbie Pecorari. He's probably one of the best drivers I've seen in a long time. Obviously, I don't know any of the Atlantic field really. Those are the guys I do know. I know they'll be tough to beat.

Q: Graham, you're a multi-tasking generation. Will you be doing any other racing besides the Atlantics and the occasional foray into sports cars?

GRAHAM RAHAL: We hope so. We hope to journey to Europe, if possible. Really Atlantic is our main focus. That's what our 2006 year is aimed towards. Obviously, sports cars, just to be able to drive something else. Obviously, to run Daytona is going to be a lot of fun. It's a good opportunity for me. We'll see what happens. We're always open to everything. If we can test more cars, we will. Right now, Atlantic is our main focus.

Q: Graham, did you come to Long Beach as a child to watch your dad at all or were you too young to remember that?

GRAHAM RAHAL: No, I remember everything. Standing on top of the hotel, watching. I was there a lot. The years I remember most is when he and Brian were on the front row together. I was there quite a bit as a kid. I always loved going there because I had friends out there. I really couldn't put a memory to a year. I remember going out there.

Q: What is it going to be like competing on the same tracks that your dad did?

GRAHAM RAHAL: Well, it's exciting. Obviously they're the best tracks around. I've driven at some of them, namely Road America, which is probably one of my favorites. I'm excited just to get out. Street courses have always been some of my favorites, like Formula BMW, when we raced at Denver, places like that. I'm excited for next year because a big chunk of the season next year is on the temporary circuits. To get out and drive at Long Beach, it's going to be exciting for me. It's going to be a lot of fun.

Q: You mentioned Europe. What are you talking about going to Europe?

GRAHAM RAHAL: My manager Rick Gorme and I have been talking. There's some options available to go over and do some World Series Renault races. At the moment nothing's happening. It's just an option. Like I said, Atlantic's No. 1. We're just getting to the amount of money we need to be able to do the Atlantic season. If we can find sponsors that are interested to do a couple races in Europe, then we'll look at it. As of right now, there's nothing there. Just kind of peeking around.

Q: The Grand-Am thing you're doing at Daytona, who are you with there?

GRAHAM RAHAL: I'm driving. Named drivers you've heard of Robin Liddell, Wolf Henzler. Unfortunately I'm not in their car. They're along with the team. It's in a Porsche, one of the new 997s. It's exciting. We're down there this week driving it. It was good fun. It's different from an open-wheel car, especially formula car. It always keeps you busy because the thing's on edge at all times. Doesn't handle real well, but it's exciting.

Q: The two guys you named, I'm not knocking them, but when you roll onto the track at Daytona, you're going to be Bobby Rahal's kid. People are going to be watching. How have you learned to deal with that aspect of the great expectations?

GRAHAM RAHAL: Really, there is expectations. But the people inside the racing world know that everybody's got to learn. As much expectations as people outside can put on me, just from knowing my dad and everything else, there is a lot of weight on my shoulders, but we just put that aside. We've done that so far. It's been all right for me actually. Marco Andretti has gotten a lot of press. Speaking with him, he and I are pretty good friends, we both go at it the same way really. You got to put it behind you. We want to make names for ourselves. We don't always want to be known as Bobby Rahal's son. Really we just put that behind us. Like I said, the people who actually know understand that we have all got to make steps forward. That's why we're in Atlantic next year, is to just move on.

Q: Your dad said he'd be known as your dad after you won the SCCA runoffs. That has to make you feel good, that he does kind of see something there?

GRAHAM RAHAL: Well, he and I are pretty close. He's helped a lot. I think he understands how hard we all have to work. Obviously, he's helped a lot with the opportunities I've gotten so far, especially to go to Atlantic and to be able to do this drive at Daytona, which are all things he's done. That's really why we did the runoffs. Number one, we wanted to get time in an Atlantic car. Number two, he had already won it and he wanted me to win it. Luckily we pulled it off. He's very supportive. I guess when we go to the track, it's always father-son time. We have a good time together.

Q: Graham, all the releases from Grand-Am have talked about you there testing. Are you definitely going to race? What has your experience been like in the sports car with the kind of drivers they've got in that class?

GRAHAM RAHAL: I am definitely racing. We were down there this week. They had guys like Jan Magnussen, all the best that are there. It's pretty cool to actually sit there. Paul Tracy, all those guys were down there. To be able to drive on the same track at the same time as them, it's a lot of fun. Obviously, in the Porsche, we were pretty quick this week. We look forward to carrying that on to Daytona. Like I told someone else earlier this week, I don't really think too much about what drivers are out there driving against me. I just want to do the best that I can do really. Whether I'm racing against Sebastien Bourdais or whoever it is, that doesn't bother me. I just got to do what I can. It goes back to putting in your 110% all the time. That's what satisfies you at the end of the day.

ERIC MAUK: That will bring an end to our Champ Car/Atlantic media teleconference. Congratulations to Eric Bachelart and Graham Rahal.

-cc atlantic-

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About this article
Series Atlantic
Drivers Jan Magnussen , Bobby Rahal , Paul Tracy , Graham Rahal , Robin Liddell , Sébastien Bourdais , Marco Andretti , Robbie Pecorari , Wolf Henzler , Steve Johnson