Rahal Has Bad Luck at Infineon But Puts on Good Show and Is Still Fifth in Star Mazda Points NEW ALBANY, Ohio, July 21 - Graham Rahal's finishing positions belied how well he qualified and ran in twin 25-lap Star Mazda races last weekend ...
Rahal Has Bad Luck at Infineon But Puts on Good Show and Is Still Fifth in Star Mazda Points
NEW ALBANY, Ohio, July 21 - Graham Rahal's finishing positions belied how well he qualified and ran in twin 25-lap Star Mazda races last weekend at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif.
The teen from New Albany, Ohio qualified fourth for Saturday's race and sixth for Sunday's race in an extremely competitive, 41-car field with his yellow No. 12 sponsored by The Bobby Rahal Automotive Group, Bosch, Renier Construction and Norwalk Furniture.
Unfortunately bad luck in both events caused him to finish 31st on Saturday and 17th on Sunday, but he is still fifth in the Star Mazda point standings with five of 12 races left in 2005.
Rahal got off to a great start in Saturday's race, running third for the first eight laps. His car was uncharacteristically loose, however, and he was forced to drop to fourth for the next eight laps. He did his best to battle both the car and the challenging 2.53-mile road course but he spun in turn seven on lap 20 while he was running fifth. He restarted and finished the race but he couldn't mount a challenge due to both his car's handling characteristics and the lack of remaining laps, so he finished 31st in his first appearance at Infineon.
"My car was generally loose, right from the start," Rahal said after Saturday's race. "We expected that, but we didn't expect it to get as loose as it got."
After adjustments were made to the car, hopes were high for a better finish on Sunday. Rahal got off to another great start, jumping from sixth to fourth, but then all sorts of trouble erupted. One of his teammates, Jonathan Klein, and another driver, Phil Saville, crashed on lap one between turns one and two. Seconds later Rahal and Brian Thienes came together in turn four, bending Rahal's car's left-side suspension and dropping him from sixth place to 22nd.
"I went under Brian Thienes in turn four but he didn't see me until the very last second, and I spun," Rahal said.
Then, despite the bent suspension, Rahal put on one of the best shows of the weekend when he passed 10 cars in 14 laps.
The race restarted on lap six with Rahal in 22nd, but he got by two cars on the restart and both Patrick O'Neill and CR Crews on lap seven to move up to 18th. He got 17th on the next lap when he passed Doug Peterson, but then he found it much harder to get by Mike Anderson. He battled with Anderson for the next four laps, finally getting the upper hand on lap 13 to move up to 16th.
Ross Smith was the next driver in Rahal's path, but he took care of him in three laps and did the same with Richard Fullerton two laps later. He got by Micky Gilbert on lap 19 and Sean Guthrie on the following circuit to move into 12th place with only five laps remaining in the race.
All this time it was hard to keep control of the car due to the bent suspension, and Rahal spun in turn one on lap 21, dropping him back to 18th. Guthrie ran into problems on lap 23 which moved Rahal up to 17th, and he was in that position when he took the checkered two laps later.
"My car was bottoming out due to the bent suspension, and I just spun," Rahal said afterwards.
Both races, which were presented by Goodyear, supported the American Le Mans Series' Infineon Technologies Grand Prix of Sonoma presented by Ravenswood Winery.
Another race is coming right up, as an event at Portland International Raceway in Portland, Ore. July 28-30 rounds out a busy month. Rahal will be trying especially hard at Portland, as he's only six points out of fourth place in the point standings.
Highlights of Rahal's thrilling second-place finish at Pikes Peak International Speedway in Fountain, Colo. will be broadcast during SPEED's coverage of the Infineon races at 2 p.m. EDT Aug. 7 and 1 p.m. EDT Aug. 14.
After Portland, Ore. July 28-30 the circuit travels to Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis. Aug. 18-20; 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.
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.