Graham Rahal teleconference 2008-04-15, part 2

Continued from part 1 Q: How much of an adjustment is it, or is it much at all; you're just kind of getting the hang of the IRL car and now you go back to the Panoz for a race, is that going to take a while to adjust or are they so much the...

Continued from part 1

Q: How much of an adjustment is it, or is it much at all; you're just kind of getting the hang of the IRL car and now you go back to the Panoz for a race, is that going to take a while to adjust or are they so much the same that it's six of one, half a dozen of the other?

GRAHAM RAHAL: Well, I think they are pretty similar actually. Of course, every little car has got its own little features that are different from one another, but a good car is a good car, and I think we found that at St. Pete. When I was going quick, the car felt to me a lot like my good Champ Car would have in the past.

So, you know, I go out there and I'm just -- like I said, I'm trying to go and do my best, and I think that we've got a great base setup for these Champ Cars, and you know, I don't know -- I don't think it's going to take too long to adjust really.

THE MODERATOR: Just to note this will be the 34th running of the Toyota Grand Prix in Long Beach.

Q: You alluded earlier to the strengths of your car at Long Beach; what are they?

GRAHAM RAHAL: I think certainly over time -- when we were there last year, the car was pretty good from my memory banks. And I will say I am young and I have a tough time remembering what happened yesterday, so probably not saying too much.

I think the biggest thing is that over the last year of running the Champ Car, from the time that we were in Long Beach, you know, we had adjusted and changed the setup quite a bit from that point, and really developed the car into -- at end of the year, I think we were really a force in the series. Of course, Sebastien [Bourdais] was still winning a lot, and pretty much all the races, but we were much closer than at the start.

I think going back to Long Beach, the car ought to be even better than it was last year, and I ought to be a lot better than I was last year.

Obviously that was my first Champ Car race and we had some issues. We were running really well in the race there, we were running fourth and then we had fueling issues because of the fact the cars were so new.

So I think we ought to have a good shot this weekend.

Q: You've gone to a lot of tracks with your dad; did you ever come up to Vancouver?

GRAHAM RAHAL: Absolutely. I was there many times, actually. I think that's certainly a place that I miss going to and you know, it's one of those things that it would be great to have that event back, because you know, you look at the successful venues and certainly Vancouver was a great event. Any time you're in Canada, you get a huge following, and I think that's obviously exciting.

Yeah I think I was there a couple of times and the most recent was when Danica [Patrick] was driving for my dad and she was in the -- I don't know if was Barber Dodge then -- yeah. It was a few years ago, the last year of the race.

Q: Your dad's second-ever pro race was at a track that no longer exists here in the Atlantics; does every talk about those days, with Gilles Villeneuve?

GRAHAM RAHAL: Oh, yeah, he tries to tell me how great he was, because he raced against Gilles Villeneuve and all that type of stuff. Oh, yeah, I've heard all the stories.

It seems the thing about my dad is it seems that everywhere we go, whether it's Edmonton or these places that you can never believe that he's been before, he had some, you know, some race or some memories in the past of racing at a place near there, and you know, of course he talks about it quite often. His Atlantic days I know were some of his favorite.

Q: There's been a lot said about the merger, but now that you've had time to drive the IRL car, is there anything that you hope to see somehow transferred from Champ Car that could make its way into the IRL, such as standing starts or push-to-pass; is there anything that you would like to see from the IRL?

GRAHAM RAHAL: I must say that driving the IRL car was certainly a pleasant surprise. I really did enjoy driving it. You know, obviously they have taken a lot of time to develop that car and there are things that that car has that I think, you know, the Champ Car could have benefited from and vice versa.

Of course, as a driver, you know, you always want more power, and I think Honda certainly, if anybody has got the ability to do it, they do, and it would be great to have their old turbo-charged engines from the Champ Car days back.

At the same time, the speeds that we are seeing on the ovals in these cars already are extremely high, so to make it quicker would certainly be even more dangerous. I think over time, of course, it's going to evolve, and I think that, you know, the biggest thing that I hope happens is that they get a tub that's big enough for Justin and me, because I can certainly tell you, it's tight in there and that's the biggest thing.

But like I said, it was a very nice car to drive, and when it's handling well, it reminds me a lot of, like I say, where the car was just really good and it just felt so smooth. And of course with a car like that, you know, it's no secret it's got less horsepower, so it's more of a momentum car. You don't drive it into the corner nearly as tough or as fast. So I think it reminds me a lot of an Atlantic car which I really enjoyed.

Q: You're quite comfortable already in the IRL on the road and street courses, how do you feel about ovals do you feel like you need more testing and will you have an opportunity to do more testing before the next race?

GRAHAM RAHAL: Well, you know, surprisingly, even on the oval, I felt very comfortable. I went out and right away, testing at Homestead my fifth lap was 205.9 or something. I was talking to Will Power after and he was telling me how he's out there pushing hard and he had already done like 60 laps and comes behind me and can't get by me and he had seen me just come out of the pit.

You know, I felt fine on the oval, and our cars were good. My incident was unfortunate because it was a situation where no one else had run where I was and since everybody was out there trying to see how quick their cars could go, you know, we are running around the bottom and when I passed Servia and crashed, I had to go up high.

So I feel fine on the oval. It's different, obviously, because on an oval, they set the car up where the steering wheel is tilted right and your head is crooked to the left. So coming out of the pits, quite a different feeling, but I've got no problem with the car. It's a nice car to drive and it's different, but you know, it's just fine.

Q: Can you talk about the rivalry between the Champ Car and the IRL drivers, and if you think that's good for the sport?

GRAHAM RAHAL: The media is not going to let go of and we need to face that and say, well, the Champ Car drivers ought to kick all the IRL drivers' ass and you look at it six of the Top-10 drivers were Champ Car drivers.

In order to help this sport continue to grow, it needs to stop, because we are all here, we are all working together. We want to make the sport successful, because at the end of the day, for us people that started in open-wheel racing, love open-wheel racing and want to continue to see open- wheel racing succeed and get back to where it used to be, it can no longer be Champ Car versus IRL. It has to just be IndyCar Series. The drivers inside -- look, if you want to go Champ Car versus IRL, all of the top Indy car drivers are from Champ Car, so you're really not -- you know, it's not Champ Car versus IRL because all of us really started in Champ Car, so it's a different -- you know, I just think it's got to end.

But like I said it's not going to any time soon. And I think maybe once the Champ Car team starts to be very competitive on the ovals, people will drop it a little, and on the road courses, it's one series now and that's how we need to go forward.

Q: You sort of answered this, I'd like your take. You're in a unique situation and you're a young driver and most of your life you've been part of the split but obviously your family name is synonymous with American open-wheel racing, what is it like to take the green flag for the race of the split before you guys are one series back again?

GRAHAM RAHAL: But again, I think the biggest thing is that we are one series now. Of course, this was the best way to resolve a hurdle that we had to merging it and that was by running Japan and Long Beach at the same date. Of course that isn't the ideal but that's how it goes.

You know, I feel fortunate to be in the position I'm at, and I've said this many times, because you know -- and I know my career just started, but it feels so good to know that the future is so bright. Because when you're sitting there last year, and you're in Champ Car and you realize, you know what, this isn't healthy.

The state of open-wheel racing is not healthy right now, and now all of a sudden I'm sitting here a year later thinking, actually, it's getting brighter and brighter every second of the day because especially after the win last weekend, there's so much interest in it, and I just feel lucky that it's come at such an early stage in my career because I could be like all the rest of these guys that have been driving for the last 15 years, and always, they have been in the split.

And now they are sitting there thinking, oh, well, the end of my career is coming up soon, and unfortunately this has just come back together, whereas for me, it's completely the opposite.

THE MODERATOR: First tell us your handicap, I heard it was a 43, and secondly, tell us if you watched the Masters, and if it inspired you in how you're going to hit them today.

GRAHAM RAHAL: Well, I can definitely admit that I don't keep track of handicap, because if I do, then I just get pissed off because -- yeah, I keep score, but right when I start to like really focus too hard is when I start to mess up.

And today, the biggest thing I hope to do is just hit them straight. I played a couple of times last week, and, you know, the biggest thing is I'm hitting my irons and everything well, but my God, my driver is just horrible. So that's what I'm focusing on right now.

THE MODERATOR: Well good luck today. Thanks everyone for joining us.

-credit: irl/nhlr

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Graham Rahal , Gilles Villeneuve , Will Power