Bobby Rahal impressed with son’s performance heading to Indy 500

Bobby Rahal, winner of the 1986 Indianapolis 500, is father of Graham Rahal, who has just came off back-to-back second-place finishes in the IndyCar Series.

INDIANAPOLIS – It was Mother’s Day Weekend but Bobby Rahal looked like one happy father after watching his son Graham Rahal score his second-straight second-place finish in Saturday’s Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis.

Bobby Rahal is a three-time CART champion and winner of the 1986 Indianapolis 500. He is also one of the three team owners at Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing along with television star David Letterman and Chicago industrialist Michael Lanigan.

Rahal’s son is off to the best start in his Verizon IndyCar Series career as the 26-year-old seeks his second career victory. His two back-to-back runner-up finishes are the first time he has ever accomplished that in IndyCar as he seeks to get into victory lane in the May 24 Indianapolis 500.

“I don’t think we expected to be that competitive in the dry against the Chevrolets – we are struggling a little bit against them on this track,” Bobby Rahal said. “He got a fantastic start – 17th to sixth – and avoided the craziness and drove the wheels off the car. I’m happy for Honda because it’s been a pretty bleak week but our pits tops were fabulous. His out-laps on cold tires was outstanding. He drove away from Juan Pablo Montoya at the end and almost caught Will Power.

“Hey, I’ll take second place any day of the week.”

Graham Rahal was distraught after last Friday’s qualifications when the Honda cars were so much slower than the Chevrolets. According to Bobby Rahal, the trap speed down the long straightaway heading into Turn 1 saw the Honda cars 9 miles per hour slower than the Chevrolets in qualifying.

In race trim, however, Rahal found speed out of his Honda and was able to put on a show, even if Power drove to a decisive victory.

“We had a good balance in the car and was able to gap the Chevys just enough they couldn’t catch him down the straight,” Bobby Rahal said. “I was at the top of the Pagoda and could really see in the first couple of corners he was really good coming through there and could pull out a gap. He didn’t make any mistakes. You could tell he was driving hard and made no mistakes.”

Is Graham now driving the best of his career?

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“Absolutely,” his father said. “It proves that his second-place finish at Alabama was not a fluke. This is a kid that has tremendous talent. We’ve seen it before in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008 with Newman-Haas. He has tremendous talent and he and the engineers are really clicking and I think that will get stronger and stronger as the year goes on.”

Bobby Rahal feels the momentum as Graham is now in the top five in Verizon IndyCar Series points heading into the May 24 Indianapolis 500.

“I think we have more points this year already than we had all of last year,” Bobby said. “What this does for your confidence is tremendous. A confident driver is the most powerful weapon you have in your bag. We are going to bask in the glow of this one before getting ready to go on the oval for Indy 500 practice.”

Practice for the 99th Indianapolis 500 began Monday and continues through “Fast Friday” with qualifications set for Saturday and the run for the Pole on Sunday, May 17.

During last Sunday’s Opening Day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Honda superspeedway Aero Kit seemed to be more competitive than the street and road course kit.

“We have to qualify in the front and if we are still discovering the aero package,” Bobby Rahal said. “The more time we spend with this the better off we will be.”

During past seasons, Bobby Rahal has called the race strategy for Graham from pit lane but this year he has stepped aside and turned that role over to team manager Rico Nault. Having a different voice other than his father on the radio seems to have helped Graham’s approach.

“It’s not just Rico, it’s also Eddie Jones, Mike Talbott and Martin Pare,” Bobby Rahal said. “These are four strong guys that Graham has tremendous confidence in and they think Graham is a stud. When you have everybody liking each other working hard you can get the results.

“We will keep on, keeping on.”

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Be sure to catch Bruce Martin’s Honda IndyCar Report on RACEDAY on FOX Sports Radio every Sunday from 6-8 a.m. ET.