Rahal Wins Star Mazda Race At Portland International Raceway To Become Youngest Winner in Pro Mazda History PORTLAND, Ore., July 31 - When Graham Rahal finished second to one of his teammates at a recent Star Mazda race at Pikes Peak...
Rahal Wins Star Mazda Race At Portland International Raceway To Become Youngest Winner in Pro Mazda History
PORTLAND, Ore., July 31 - When Graham Rahal finished second to one of his teammates at a recent Star Mazda race at Pikes Peak International Raceway in Fountain, Colo., he had mixed feelings while accepting his awards on the podium.
He was happy for his strong second-place finish, of course. He was also happy that if he couldn't win, one of his teammates had.
But he was also disappointed that his first Star Mazda victory had eluded him by mere inches.
When he was running near the front in a similar Star Mazda race at Portland International Raceway on Saturday, he was determined the final results would be different this time.
Although his car wasn't the fastest one in the race, the 16-year-old son of racing legend Bobby Rahal made the winning move by passing James Hinchcliff in turn one on a restart. The teen from New Albany, Ohio then held off the other 35 drivers in the field on yet another restart with two laps to go to earn his first Star Mazda series victory by 0.317 of a second.
With his victory Rahal became the youngest driver to ever win a pro Star Mazda race, according to series officials.
His car, the Andersen Walko Racing No. 12 sponsored by The Bobby Rahal Automotive Group, Bosch, Renier Construction and Norwalk Furniture, wasn't perfect on Saturday, but it was good enough to win.
"We were making the best of what we had," Rahal said later. "The best thing about the car was that it wasn't changing too much on me."
The event was caution-filled. When Rahal was told over the radio that there was going to be about 12 and a half minutes left in the 45-minute race on an upcoming restart, he knew what he had to do.
"I knew that was going to be my only chance," he said. "It was hard to follow him [Hinchcliffe] too close because of the aero. On the restart I got a good run on him. The officials had told us in the drivers' meeting that we could accelerate once we could see the starter's stand, so when we came onto the frontstraight I just punched it," he explained. "James and I went pretty deep into the Festival Chicane and I actually had to shift down to first gear, but I was able to get a good run out of the corner. I was right up on the wall and just stuck it out and squeezed ahead of him.
"The team has been working really hard, and after coming so close at Pikes Peak, I wasn't going to finish second this time around," he vowed.
"I did about 10 donuts at the end," he added with a smile.
Unfortunately his father wasn't at this particular race to see the victory because his Indy car team was racing in Michigan. "Everytime I've had a first win he hasn't been there, which has got to be frustrating for him," his son said. "Hopefully we'll get more now and he'll be here to see them. Now we've got to keep the momentum up."
Unofficially after Sunday's race Rahal moves up to fourth in the point standings with four races remaining in his rookie season.
Rahal noted that he won his first karting race in Portland too. "When I got here this weekend and was riding around the track, I just had a good feeling," he said. "With the success in karting and the success Max Papis had driving for my dad here in the past, Portland has been a special place."
Earlier in the day Rahal qualified fourth for the race, which was a support event for the Portland Grand Prix American Le Mans Series race. His fastest lap during the race was the third-fastest of anyone in the event.
Rahal's victory will be shown on SPEED at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 18.
"There were a lot of close calls and a lot of crashes," Rahal noted. "All I can say is watch the race on TV."
Prior to that the same network will cover his race from Montreal at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 7 and 4 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 8.
The first half of the doubleheader from Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif. is slated to be shown on SPEED at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 14 and again at 4 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 15. The second half of the Infineon doubleheader is now slated to air at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 27. Highlights of the Pikes Peak race will be included in the Infineon broadcasts.
All times are Eastern.
The next Star Mazda race is an event at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis. on Aug. 18-20, which will be followed by Mosport International Raceway in Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada Sept. 1-3; Road Atlanta Sept. 28-30 (part of the Petit Le Mans) and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif. Oct. 13-15.
The SPEED TV schedule for the remaining races is 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 2 for Road America; 1 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 23 for Mosport; 1 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 6 for Road Atlanta and 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 19 for Laguna Seca.
Rahal's Web site is located 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 scca.com, starmazda.com and restartcommunications.com.