Rahal Finishes a Close Second in His First Oval-Track Race Ever NEW ALBANY, Ohio, July 7 - Graham Rahal led 13 laps and finished second in his first oval-track race ever last Sunday in a Star Mazda event at Pikes Peak International Raceway in ...
Rahal Finishes a Close Second in His First Oval-Track Race Ever
NEW ALBANY, Ohio, July 7 - Graham Rahal led 13 laps and finished second in his first oval-track race ever last Sunday in a Star Mazda event at Pikes Peak International Raceway in Fountain, Colo., near Colorado Springs.
One of Rahal's Andersen Walko Racing teammates, Robbie Pecorari, won the event but Rahal was just 0.038 of a second behind him at the checkered flag after 75 laps of torrid competition around the 1-mile oval. It was the closest margin of victory so far this season in the series and it was a fitting conclusion to an event that saw three-abreast racing many times despite strong gusts of wind that caught the drivers intermittently and indiscriminately.
A yellow flag on lap 68 proved instrumental to Rahal's race in two ways. The cause of it was his biggest "close call" in the event, as Rahal barely missed hitting Scott Jenkins when Jenkins spun out of control in turn four to bring out that yellow.
It took four more laps to get Jenkins' car off the track, setting up a three-lap dash to the checkered. During those four laps all the cars' Goodyear tires had a chance to cool down a bit, and according to Pecorari his car seemed to respond better on cold tires than Rahal's did. Pecorari was able to make the winning pass on lap 74 following the restart on lap 73, although Rahal never gave up and was beside him when he took the checkered flag.
Rahal set the fastest lap of the race with a lap in 26.048 seconds for an average speed of 138.206 mph. His yellow No. 12 is sponsored by The Bobby Rahal Automotive Group, Bosch, Renier Construction and Norwalk Furniture.
The 16-year-old star started eighth in the race but he was already sixth by the end of lap one, fifth by lap three and fourth by lap four.
He ran in fourth or fifth until lap 24, when he passed Adrian Carrio for third. He got by Pecorari for second on lap 52. He took the lead from polesitter James Hinchcliffe on lap 61, and held the top spot until Pecorari passed him at the very end.
"If I had to lose to somebody, I'm glad it was to one of my teammates," Rahal said. "When I woke up this morning I knew that Robbie's car was the one I had to beat.
"When I was leading I thought 'It's about time that I can feel like [point leader] Raphael Matos and just take off,'" he said. "Finishing second is less upsetting because it's our team that won. We have consistently been in the top 10 at every race, and we want to continue to do that."
Rahal thanked his spotter, Mike Zimicki. "At different points we were three wide, and sometimes I would think I was clear and I wasn't, so spotters were huge today," he said. "The last three laps we ran side-by side too.
"The wind was big factor," he continued. "Besides what it did to the cars, going through the dust it kicked up was hard too. I couldn't see going through three and four sometimes because of all the dust."
Then there was that close call. "I came through right as it happened," Rahal said. "My spotter said 'Go low!' and I was super-high. I just barely missed him."
Matos still holds a sizeable lead in the point standings for the Star Mazda Championship Series presented by Goodyear, but Rahal and Pecorari have been exchanging second place. With the victory Pecorari currently holds it by three points, 175 to 172.
As busy as he was during the race, Rahal was also busy doing personal appearances before the event. He signed autographs at the track's "Fan Fest" in downtown Colorado Springs last Thursday and also visited patients in the children's ward of that city's Memorial Hospital Saturday night on behalf of his team's official charity, the Think First Foundation.
Rahal is also scheduled to be a guest on the "Speed Freaks" radio show on the SIRIUS satellite radio network this coming Saturday, July 9, at approximately 5:20 p.m. Eastern time.
The next Star Mazda event is a doubleheader coming right up July 15-17 at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif. Rahal and his Andersen Walko Racing teammates tested there immediately after the race at PPIR.
A race at Portland International Raceway in Portland, Ore. July 28-30 rounds out a busy month.
Rahal's Web site will debut soon at grahamrahal.com, while his sponsor's Web site is at bobbyrahal.com. His Star Mazda team's Web site is at andersenwalko.com. Other interesting information can be found at starmazda.com and restartcommunications.com.