MONTEREY, Calif., Oct. 17 - It was second, third and fourth all in one day for Graham Rahal of New Albany, Ohio Saturday at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca here. In the morning he qualified second on a wet track; in the afternoon he finished third on...
MONTEREY, Calif., Oct. 17 - It was second, third and fourth all in one day for Graham Rahal of New Albany, Ohio Saturday at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca here.
In the morning he qualified second on a wet track; in the afternoon he finished third on a dry track; and in the evening he picked up fourth place in the national point standings of the Star Mazda series presented by Goodyear in his rookie season.
Driving the Andersen Walko Racing No. 12 sponsored by The Bobby Rahal Automotive Group, Bosch, Renier Construction and Norwalk Furniture, Rahal qualified second only to James Hinchcliffe for the season finale Saturday morning on a wet track. Rahal's fastest lap in the session was a 1:38.014 (82.201 mph) to Hinchcliffe's 1:37.444 (82.681 mph).
Although the track was dry and conditions were perfect by race time Saturday afternoon, the race was plagued with five lengthy yellows to retrieve cars stranded in gravel traps. Only eight of the 21 laps were run under green-flag conditions, and the longest green-flag run was a mere four laps. Hinchcliffe was able to lead the entire distance.
Rahal held second place until the next-to-last lap. At that point another competitor, making a desperate last-ditch effort to get by, missed his braking point and hit Rahal in turn two. Rahal rebounded quickly and still finished on the podium, but one of his AWR teammates, Jonathan Klein, slipped by him during the melee to nab second.
"The car felt pretty quick and pretty consistent," Rahal said after the race. "The problems just hit us at the wrong times. James [Hinchcliffe] put a blatant block on me, and another driver tried to take me out on the last restart. I'm not really sure what he was trying, but unfortunately it moved me back a position. Fortunately I was able to continue and still finish up on the podium.
"If that hadn't happened, we could have gotten the lead and then no one could have gotten close to us, just like it was for James," he added.
Finishing fourth in the national championship was satisfying for the 16 -year-old, but he said the seat time and confidence he obtained this year was even more valuable.
"I got a lot of seat time this year," he said. "The highlight was either [the victory at] Portland or the [victory at the] Runoffs. I learned the abilities of a race car this year; how you can push it and where the limits are. It was all a matter of getting more comfortable.
"This morning was only the third time I've ever run a Star Mazda car in the rain, and the whole year has been a learning experience," he noted. " Earlier in the year I was five seconds off in the rain; now I'm just a couple of tenths of a second."
The race at Laguna Seca, which was part of the Monterey Sports Car Championships, is scheduled to be broadcast at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 19. Prior to that the Mosport race will air at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 23 and the Road Atlanta race will be shown at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 6. All the shows are on SPEED and all times are Eastern.