One of IndyCar’s worst-kept secrets on the driver market merry-go-round has finally been announced, with confirmation that Graham Rahal will move to his father’s team as part of a three-year deal.
The 2013 season will be the 23-year-old’s seventh in the IndyCar Series. Rahal already has two records to his name, those being as series’ youngest race-winner and pole-sitter, having earned the respective mantles at the 2008 and 2009 Grands Prix of St Petersburg, both earned at the wheel of a Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing entry.
Rahal Jr has had one drive for his father, contesting the 2010 Indianapolis 500 – he qualified seventh and finished twelfth.
More recent years have seen Rahal drive for Chip Ganassi’s junior two-car outfit, but rumours have persisted that – despite the hefty sponsorship he brought with him – he received little in the way of support from one of the series’ most successful operations.
When one compares his performances against Chip Ganassi’s frontline drivers, Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon, Rahal’s results barely stack up. Despite finishing in the top-ten in the Drivers’ Championship standings in both years, he’s racked up just four podium finishes.
That situation is likely to be very different now that he will drive for the family team, co-owned by his father, open-wheel racing legend Bobby Rahal, the CBS late night television personality, and longtime race supporter and Mi-Jack co-owner Michael Lanigan.
The RLL team made a full-time return to the IndyCar Series in 2012 – its first proper campaign since 2008 – and it quickly emerged as a contender for race wins in several events with Takuma Sato at the wheel.
This is particularly on account of the substantial sponsorship injection it will receive from Rahal’s backers, which include the TBC Retail Group (which owns automotive brands such as Midas, Big O Tires, and SpeeDee Oil and Tuneup), and the Valvoline group.
“I think this is a great moment for our family, for the team and for the sport and I thank TBC Retail Group and Valvoline for making it possible,” Bobby Rahal said in the team’s media release.
“Of course, for me, the pressure is really on us to deliver the goods so that Graham can realize all the potential he has. I think we can create an environment that will allow him to fulfill that potential.
“I think it is great for the team and I really look forward to seeing Graham’s helmet in our car. As a team, having both him and I here is like a two-for-one special for ourselves, our sponsors, and the potential sponsors we are talking to.”
“It’s extremely exciting for me to join Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing fulltime,” added Graham.
“For me, this is probably the most excited I have been to join any team because I see the potential behind what my dad and the rest of the team have been able to accomplish over the last year with Takuma. I can’t wait for the whole process to begin – the testing and obviously going racing! It’s really an exciting time for me.”
While most assume that Sato will remain in the team’s other car, the team confirmed that it will announce the identity of Rahal’s team-mate in due course.
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