Continued from part 1 Q: Graham, this is your first time here as a driver on the oval. How has that changed your perspective of the place as opposed to being on the road course or as an interested third party in the stands? GRAHAM RAHAL: ...
Continued from part 1
Q: Graham, this is your first time here as a driver on the oval. How has that changed your perspective of the place as opposed to being on the road course or as an interested third party in the stands?
GRAHAM RAHAL: Well, I think you gain a lot more respect for obviously the track, the people involved, and certainly the other drivers. I think in the past you watch these guys out there, they're flat out through all four corners. You think, 'That can't be that bad.' Once you go out and do it yourself, I mean, it's almost impossible. It's hard. I think you certainly gain a lot more respect for what you've seen in the past.
I've always come here and had no obligation, really had nothing to do. I've come in to see dad and his team, be a fan, just disappear whenever I wanted. Now it's a different thing. I'm here for the month. Certainly there's a lot more pressure to that. Obviously to have to go out there every single day, I've never done it. I can't even think that I've ever tested a car for more than a couple days straight.
So to be out on track for more than a week straight, I think it definitely would be nice to kind of get a day off to just kind of take a step back and think about everything that has happened. That's something that I know these guys that have been here for the last couple of years, you never really understand how it is until you're here.
Q: It's obvious where Graham got his talent. Where did you get yours? Did your dad race?
BOBBY RAHAL: My mother makes the claim I got it from her. My dad raced. I grew up around it, though it was very, very different for me than it was for Graham, or that it is for Graham. My father raced. He was a weekend warrior, you know, sports car guy. His racing, it might have been his passion, but probably number three or four in terms of priorities.
We never had new cars. I look back and think how he raced. That kind of makes me shudder to think what it really was like, you know, looking back now.
But I grew up around it. When I started racing, there was no expectation that I would race as a hobby let alone as a professional. The idea of being a professional racecar driver, that wasn't even a concept; it just sort of happened.
For Graham, there's a lot more expectation. As I've always said, having the name, it's a double-edged sword: it's good and it's bad.
But for me, I don't know. I don't know how my father, who was a first-generation American, how he even got the bug for racing. I have no clue. But I guess I'm pretty glad he did.
Q: Bobby, you mentioned earlier that the potential is in place for open-wheel to regain its rightful place. What has to be done to translate potential into reality?
BOBBY RAHAL: Well, certainly a huge amount of marketing. I mean, I think if you look at NASCAR, you know, you have to ask yourself the question, where would NASCAR have been had it not been for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, who couldn't spend enough money. Because of all the limitations they had where they could market their products, racing became the outlet. So the amount of effort and money and what have you was phenomenal. For sure that has to take a big piece of the responsibility for NASCAR. It's not the total, but certainly they spent a lot of money promoting stock car racing, amongst other forms of motorsport, until the tobacco settlement, then they had to get out of motorcycle racing, drag racing, what have you.
But that kind of effort is going to be needed here, whether it's done by the league itself or by the sponsors. It needs to be promoted, and promoted heavily, so that the individuals, the drivers, whether it's Graham, Marco, Danica - I said many times, you just can't rely on those three. There's a lot of very viable, great racing car drivers that have every right to be promoted as much as Graham, Marco or Danica. But they have to be promoted. The series, the sponsors, have to promote the drivers for it to get back to the place that it once was and perhaps hopefully go beyond.
I mean, the racing, if the racing was the key, well I don't know much better racing out there. But it's not. That's not the key. It's the personalities and the individuals and the stories. NASCAR and sponsors have done a great job of promoting those kinds of things over the years. This series just has to do the same.
Q: Bobby, you mentioned a certain distraction with Graham being on track. It's not uncommon to see a sports coach, for instance, retire or get out of the business so that he can watch his son come through the ranks. Are you any less committed to being a team owner?
BOBBY RAHAL: No. No. In fact, if anything, we just signed an agreement with BMW to manage their ALMS team starting at the end of this year. It's actually ongoing as we speak.
So, no, we're not any less committed. Maybe in some respects more. That's probably why we wanted to run a second car here. The easiest thing would have been to come here with one car. The chances for Ryan would have been less had we done so. So, no, we're out pounding the pavement looking for sponsorship.
For me, as I said earlier, it's a thrill to be able to watch Graham now, which I wasn't able to do as much as I would have liked in the past because of the obligations here and elsewhere. But he's in the right place, for sure. And by the same token, racing has been most of my life. So the idea of getting out probably isn't really much of a concept for me.
Q: Graham, it seems like from driving a racecar, your schoolwork, hitting a golf ball, seems like you're a natural to anything you put your mind to. Makes me wonder, is there anything you're not good at?
GRAHAM RAHAL: Everybody is raving about this golf thing. I don't know where it started (laughter).
You know, there's a lot of things. Golf is more now than ever -- it's a way for me to relax. When I get a couple days home that I have the past couple months, I can guarantee almost every day, whether it's 30 degrees out or not, I was outside playing golf because it's something that you can go out there, you can turn your phone off, you don't have to answer or respond to anything.
BOBBY RAHAL: Except (team public relations director) Kathi (Lauterbach).
GRAHAM RAHAL: Except Kathi. That's obviously something that I love. It's a way for me to relax. Golf has always been a huge part of my life. As a kid, with dad, it still is, it's something we enjoy doing together and we do quite a lot.
But trust me, there are a lot of things. Even in school, I think if I had tried maybe a little harder, willing to work a little harder, study a little harder, I could have been better. Never really wanted to. There are a lot of things that I don't do well.
It makes me wonder the same about some of my friends. Seems like everything they do, they're really good at. I don't know. Some people are just a little more gifted than others, I think.
Q: Graham, your dad said you have a lot of expectations mainly because of your last name. With the season you've had, getting the win, does this take more pressure off each week you're able to get out there?
GRAHAM RAHAL: Yeah, I think so. After St. Pete, it takes quite a lot of pressure off. Because a lot of people say, 'You're with a great team, but maybe you got out there because of your name.' And until you win, I think the question is always there. It will always remain.
But once I finally won, especially doing it in the fashion we did it, a lot of people say we may have lucked into it, at the end we pulled away from Helio (Castroneves), Tony (Kanaan), all the guys that are looked up to as the top drivers here, and obviously they still are. But it was nice to beat them. And those are guys that I've looked up to for so long in the past.
The question will always remain, though. Until I'm more successful than dad, I don't think I'll ever stop hearing about it. The problem is dad was obviously very successful, so it's going to be pretty tough to do that.
Certainly it's something that I expect is going to be part of my career. You just have to move on. That's why I've always felt that driving for a team like Newman/Haas/Lanigan, not necessarily my dad's team, I think it's a good thing because it kind of takes me away from him a little bit and I kind of step out from under his shadow.
Q: Bobby, you're obviously a very proud father. Driver to driver, how impressed are you with Graham's driving? Graham, are you a better driver than your dad?
BOBBY RAHAL: Well, geeze, do I have to answer that question in front of him (laughter)?
When you think that he wasn't even in a race car five years ago, and here is driving the Indy 500, he's won an IndyCar race already, won a lot of Formula Atlantic races in a very tough field. I mean I would say this whether he was my son or not, I would say, 'That kid can drive.'
I'm equally as impressed with the way he goes about his life. I am very proud of him because of the way he drives, the way he interacts with people, his persona. I think I'm very proud of that.
So as long as he stays the way he is, that's gonna continue. I see no reason why it wouldn't. I think he's going to win a lot of races. I don't think there's any question of that. When you look, he's 19. I think my record, I think he's going to blow away those records pretty easily, which I have no problem with, by the way.
GRAHAM RAHAL: Am I a better driver? I think I'd like to say yes. He's scared to race me these days, and I think it's probably because of his age. He knows he doesn't stand a chance. He doesn't like playing golf with me any more because he knows he can't beat me.
I don't know. The biggest thing is you're looking at two completely different time periods. Although it's still open-wheel racing, I believe it's far different from when he was there, especially after the split. We all knew that period of time, it was far different. Obviously the cars are different. The concept is the same. In the IndyCar Series, especially on the ovals, the cars run a lot closer than they did in the past. It's more of a pack-racing type series. I don't know, he can explain the difference a little better.
I always tried to carry on the same beliefs that he had, that you're never good enough to not drive everything that you can, whether it be sports cars, IndyCars. If I could do LeMans, I've done Sebring a couple times, done the 24 Hours of Daytona a few times. Not only are those things really fun for me, but to be a very accomplished driver, you have to do all of those things.
I think that's something I've carried over from his time. But now a days, you don't see it as much because of how busy everybody is constantly, especially with this schedule. I mean, we're on, what, eight straight weekends or something like that. There's no time to do anything else.
THE MODERATOR: Guys, we appreciate your time. Thank you very much.