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Rahal talks about Houston

More time behind the wheel is also something Medi | Zone driver Graham Rahal is looking forward to.  After having his Champ Car debut end on the first racing lap in the season-opener in Las Vegas, Rahal was able to qualify fifth in Long Beach and take the checkered flag for the first time in eighth place.  He is looking forward to building on that experience this weekend.

“After getting a full race behind us in Long Beach the Medi | Zone team is looking forward to Houston,” said Rahal, 18, who spent some time in a flight simulator at NASA’s Johnson Space Center on Thursday morning.  “I now have some Champ Car racing experience to build on and we can only keep improving in Houston.  Last year in Houston I didn’t finish the (Atlantic) race but we were very competitive.  I was running second and got a little greedy and decided I was going to go for the win.  I got inside Raphael Matos and I know he saw me because I was far enough beside him but he turned in and we made contact and that was the race for me.  It was five laps from the end of the race but it was a good race for us last year because it was the first race where I could prove I was competitive.  We went on to Monterrey, Mexico the next weekend and won the race.  If I hadn’t had such a good weekend in Houston, the Monterrey win may never have happened because we wouldn’t have realized how capable we were of winning.”

Rahal finished second in the 2006 Champ Car Atlantic championship after a title hunt that concluded in the season finale.  After his eye-opening weekend in Houston last year he went on to win Round 3 of the Atlantic championship in Monterrey, which was the first of a series high five that season.   Rahal is looking forward to the possibility of a strong result on a smoother track this year at Round 3 in Houston.

“I think the layout in Houston is awesome,” said Rahal who started third in the Atlantic race here last year.  “Given that the circuit will be a little smoother can only make the racing better.  I really, really enjoyed how the city was behind the race.  We had a very good turnout last year and I hope it can be even better this year.  I think Houston is one of the better tracks in terms of opportunities to pass.  I think it will be quite exciting and given that the circuit will be smoother will make it easier on the bodies and it will be a lot of fun.” 

Champ Car’s previous namesake, CART, competed in Houston from 1998 to 2001 on a track around the George R. Brown Convention Center and the best result for Newman/Haas Racing was a third place by Michael Andretti in 1999.  Team co-owner Carl Haas was the CEO of the entity that promoted the event with team sponsor Texaco.  The series returned to the city last year when Michael Lanigan, now a partner in Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing, became the promoter.  A strong result would provide even more reason to celebrate.

“It’s important for Mike (Lanigan) to have good results in Houston because it’s become a hometown event for him since he is the promoter,” added Rahal.  “At the same time I don’t think it puts any more pressure on us to perform better because we expect to do well every weekend.  We put the same amount of pressure on ourselves to do well at every single race weekend we go to but obviously in Houston we would love to get some good results for Mike.”

The Grand Prix of Houston will get underway with the first round of qualifying at 2:10 p.m. local time on Friday. The final grid will be set with Saturday qualifying at 1:30 p.m. local time with the race set to take the green flag at 2:00 p.m. local time on Sunday afternoon. Fans can watch all the action live on ESPN at 3:00 p.m. Eastern time and can follow the action from every on-track session via the Race Director feature on the official website of the Champ Car World Series, www.champcar.ws.

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