Road Atlanta II: Graham Rahal race notes

Rahal Finishes Second Friday In Star Mazda Race at Road Atlanta BRASELTON, Ga., Sept. 30 - Rookie Graham Rahal of New Albany, Ohio had to play both offense and defense in Friday's Star Mazda race at Road Atlanta, but the 16-year-old sensation...

Rahal Finishes Second Friday In Star Mazda Race at Road Atlanta

BRASELTON, Ga., Sept. 30 - Rookie Graham Rahal of New Albany, Ohio had to play both offense and defense in Friday's Star Mazda race at Road Atlanta, but the 16-year-old sensation got the job done and finished second to his teammate, Robbie Pecorari, who is contending for the championship.

After qualifying second, Rahal ran in second place for all 30 laps of the race in his yellow Andersen Walko Racing No. 12, which is sponsored by The Bobby Rahal Automotive Group, Bosch, Renier Construction and Norwalk Furniture.

For the last third of the race on the demanding 2.54-mile, 12-turn road course he had to hold off the current point leader, Raphael Matos.

"I just thought, 'I don't care how many races Matos has won; we're not going to let him by,' " Rahal said afterwards.

Earlier this year Rahal became the youngest driver in the history of the series to win a pro Star Mazda race. Following today's race he learned that the Sports Car Club of America had just announced that his Formula Atlantic victory at the SCCA Runoffs last Friday at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course made him the youngest SCCA national championship Runoffs winner in SCCA history.

His championship came at the age of 16 years, nine months and 20 days, so he was approximately two months younger when he won his title than the driver who previously held that distinction, Jonathan Rufener, who was 17 years and 11 days old when he won the Formula Vee championship in 1997.

Rahal also won his championship exactly three decades after his father, Bobby, won his Runoffs title in the Formula Atlantic precursor, then called Formula B.

Rahal had the fastest Formula Atlantic car at the Runoffs last Friday and he had the second-fastest Star Mazda car at Road Atlanta this Friday.

Rahal ran the second-fastest lap of the race, doing lap eight in 1:21.490 to Pecorari's 1:21.396 on his sixth lap.

"Robbie and I certainly had the fastest cars this weekend," he said afterwards. "We talked about the start before the race, and we knew that if we could get ahead at the start we'd be OK. Unfortunately he got ahead more than I'd have liked him to.

"I started to lose my tires in the middle of the race, and Matos got close. I had to be even more careful. The last 15 laps or so we held him off, so that was pretty good for me. He was quicker in six than me for sure. I made sure every lap that I was perfectly straight through seven to get the power down."

This race was much more fun for Rahal than another Star Mazda race that was held here in April.

"At the other race we had here in the spring, I had a cracked tub and we didn't know it," he explained. "Today we had a car that was consistent.

"We had a harder tire compound here this weekend too, and it worked well," he added about his Goodyear rubber.

The 45-minute race supported tomorrow's Petit Le Mans American Le Mans Series race.

After tomorrow's race, only the Star Mazda season finale remains. It will be held at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif. Oct. 13-15. Rahal remains fourth in the point standings in his rookie season.

"I don't think we can get any higher than fourth in the standings, but this has been a learning year for me and it's been good," he said.

Star Mazda races are broadcast on a tape-delayed basis on SPEED. The race from Road America is scheduled to be broadcast at 2 p.m. this Sunday. The race from Mosport is scheduled to be shown at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 23. Today's race from Road Atlanta is scheduled to air at 1 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 6, and the season finale from Laguna Seca is scheduled to air at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 19. All times are Eastern.

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 starmazda.com and restartcommunications.com.

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About this article
Series Pro Mazda
Drivers Graham Rahal , Robbie Pecorari