As IndyCar and NHRA collide, is there anything the famous Rahal can learn from the famous Force that could translate to the open-wheel side? Anne Proffit thinks there is.
If there’s anything Graham Rahal has learned as an adjunct member of the fearless Force family over the past near-year, it’s marketing. Rahal, son of three-time CART champion and 1986 Indianapolis 500 winner Bobby Rahal, has been working with his father’s Rahal Letterman Lanigan Verizon IndyCar Series team over the past couple of years. He struck up a friendship with Courtney Force of the NHRA dynasty; they’ve been an item since last fall.
That must have the folks at National Guard sitting up and wondering what the heck they did when choosing this team to carry their colors? Results aren’t any better than what they’d had with now-defunct Panther Racing, which closed after being unable to retain the sponsorship - and generally ticking off everyone in the INDYCAR community.
Graham Rahal and beau Courtney Force have been attending one another’s races whenever possible. And it has been plausible for Rahal to be at several NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series events this year, with INDYCAR’s truncated schedule occurring primarily between late March and late August/early September.
What Rahal is learning is how NHRA and the Force family do business. His appearances at NHRA drag races are good publicity for INDYCAR, which continues to consider marketing something the teams and sponsors should do for them. In NHRA drag racing, John Force (and his family) understand the value of marketing, and often-times that means simple interaction with the paying fans. NHRA is great for this kind of thing - every ticket allows a fan access to the pit areas where teams work on their cars and drivers are the front-men/women that are there to explain what’s going on beyond the ropes that separate fans from workers.
It’s a very different community and Rahal appears to be soaking it all in. He’s experienced the Force marketing machine at work and is, no doubt, talking to his father and other Rahal Letterman Lanigan team members about implementing some of the fan-friendly approaches in the drag racing community.
It isn’t rocket science, even if the cars that the Force family, the Schumacher clan and others drive down the drag strip sure look, feel, sound and smell like something out of this world. Marketing can come down to the most basic things altogether - a simple smile, a handshake and an opportunity to meet and greet. They do these simple things so very well in drag racing; can Graham Rahal’s newly learnt ideas work for marketing INDYCAR?