Graham Rahal Aims to Follow Dad's Successful Tire Tracks INDIANAPOLIS, Monday, June 7, 2004 -- Bobby Rahal was a happy man when he won the 1986 Indianapolis 500. He was even giddier as a team owner when his driver, Buddy Rice, won the 2004 Indy...
Graham Rahal Aims to Follow Dad's Successful Tire Tracks
INDIANAPOLIS, Monday, June 7, 2004 -- Bobby Rahal was a happy man when he won the 1986 Indianapolis 500. He was even giddier as a team owner when his driver, Buddy Rice, won the 2004 Indy 500 on May 30.
Rahal could be simply ecstatic on United States Grand Prix weekend, June 18-20, at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
All it will take is for Graham Rahal, his 15-year-old son, to win one of the two Formula BMW USA races that are part of the support schedule for the Formula One race at the track.
Graham Rahal, a high school sophomore, was one of six youthful drivers selected to receive $40,000 racing scholarships to participate in the new open-wheel series. The drivers were chosen following a three-day tryout in Valencia, Spain, among 24 drivers earlier this year.
"I don't think necessarily it's a lot of pressure," Graham Rahal said in an after-school telephone interview about racing at Indy, where his father has become an icon.
"Being a Rahal anyway it becomes a lot of pressure. You have a lot of pressure put on you. Everybody expects you to be doing wonderfully every time you go out.
"I just have the same problems everybody else has. I have to learn. Whether there's a lot of pressure put on me or not, I try not to let it get to me as much as possible. At least I've got to tell myself inside that I have a learning curve whether I want to or not."
Bobby Rahal put his son in a kart for the first time when Graham was 11. In 2002, his third year in the sport, Graham finished seventh nationally and climbed to fourth in 2003. Bobby Rahal was impressed when his son, racing against much older drivers, earned a third-place finish in the Stars of Karting national championship race last year at Beaumont, Calif.
"I came from a racing family too, but my dad was a hobby racer," Bobby Rahal said. "He was good, but he wasn't professional. We went to the races as a family.
"Graham's situation is different. He is a lot younger than I when he started in the sport, and he has my record in racing to follow. But so far he has been up to the task in karts. Now we'll see how he does in the cars."
The younger Rahal turned 15 on Jan. 4. A few days later, he was in Spain vying for a scholarship in his first venture into car racing.
Testing then took place for the select six April 12-13 at Sebring, Fla., April 22 at Putnam Park, Ind., and May 12-13 at Mid-Ohio, a short distance from Rahal's New Albany, Ohio, home.
Then while his father was in Indianapolis for the 500, Graham made his race debut May 29 at the Lime Rock, Conn., road course. He finished 10th and gained a point in the standings. He placed 11th in the longer race May 31. Andreas Wirth won both races.
The Formula BMW USA cars hit a top speed of 110 mph at Lime Rock, Rahal said.
"We were faster than the speed of the touring cars and everything at Lime Rock," Rahal said.
Sunday, May 30 was a day off at Lime Rock. It also was Race Day at Indianapolis. Graham was glued to the television as he watched Rice win for his father.
"It was something," Graham said. "Buddy got on the pole, and that was a long shot thing. Then he goes and wins the race. It was a great month, winning the pit stop competition and everything."
Graham Rahal said he has attended the 500 since before he can remember. He admits racing is in his blood but emphasizes that gets him nowhere.
"I still have to learn just like everybody else does," he said. "That's why my results last weekend weren't as good as I'd like them to be. I still have a huge learning curve to go through.
"I'm racing against guys who are a lot older than me, have a lot more seat time in a car. And we're competing with them, and we're not far behind."
Graham, who is 6-1, 160 pounds, hasn't participated in any school sports. He also keeps his racing pretty much to himself. He does enjoy sharing his experiences with his friends who somewhat understand the sport.
In school, Rahal is taking courses other than math, biology -- "all that good old stuff" -- that will prepare him for a future in business if racing doesn't pan out. He calls it his backup plan. Bobby Rahal did the same and has become very successful in the business world.
Graham Rahal is very familiar with Marco Andretti, Michael's son and another rising teen-age star.
"Obviously, being Rahal-Andretti, two of the group of the biggest American racing names," he said, "we have a very large amount of pressure on both of us. We're both trying to compete for the top American name, American driver."
Formula One is very attractive to Graham Rahal. He says he doesn't think his height would be a hindrance.
"I've always told myself I will drive a Formula One car whether it's attached to anything," he said. "It's something I'll always try to do."
He's also aware that Formula One needs a young American driver. Would he like to be that driver?
"Oh, yeah!" he said.
And wouldn't that be something to see the son of an Indianapolis 500 champion win the United States Grand Prix on the road course at Indianapolis? Bobby Rahal would be delirious.
Tickets: Tickets for the United States Grand Prix can be purchased online at www.indianapolismotorspeedway.com, or by calling the IMS ticket office at (317) 492-6700 or (800) 822-INDY outside the Indianapolis area. Parking and camping information also can be obtained through the ticket office.