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DATE News (chronologically)
04/21/07
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Senior Prom is overrated
That’s what Graham Rahal, a senior at Columbus, Ohio’s New Albany High School, says anyway.

Rahal, son of Champ Car great and former Indy 500 winner Bobby Rahal, set third-fastest time at Friday’s provisional pole qualifying session for the Grand Prix of Houston at Reliant Park Friday. It was his best qualifying effort yet, in this third race of his first year of top-rung American open-wheel racing.

Rahal’s 58.998-second at 102.695-mph lap puts him behind series points leader Will Power, who took second in the first qualifying session Friday with a time of 58.908 at 102.852 mph; and two spots behind his teammate, three-time Champ Car champion Sebastien Bourdais, who posted a 58.376 at 103.789 mph.

The 18-year-old is delighted with his results. But he keeps having to answer the question: What about the prom?

“Everybody’s asking me about prom,” he said after the first session leading to Sunday’s Grand Prix ended. “It is prom weekend, but I’d rather be here doing this,” he grinned. “You don’t need to see (me dance).”

If his time holds up Sunday — or better yet, if he improves it — he’ll be dancing anyway. With his performance, he’ll be the youngest driver in Champ Car history to have put a car in the top of a Champ Car grid. Better yet, it will establish the beginning of an era.

Rahal is very fast. But he’s also very smart. He has a maturity that most drivers don’t — especially ones with so little time in the car. Some of this he gets from his father, who reportedly doesn’t meddle in his son’s business. If Graham Rahal asks for advice, Bobby Rahal answers. Other than that, the elder stays off to the sidelines. Apparently, he’s seen too many meddling parents screw up his paid drivers‚ heads. So Graham Rahal is on his own.

So far, Rahal, who drives the No. 2 Medi/Zone Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing entry, isn’t looking as good as dad.

He’s looking better.

Said Merrill Cain, the Atlantic Series spokesman who watched him as he grew up in that series last year from a rookie into a five-race winner, “You could tell right away that Graham was a driver mature beyond his years, and he had a talent to go with it. I think he’s one of the best drivers ever to come into this series ever. He’ll be one of the best. The level of competition he had in the series last year really just accelerated his maturation process as a driver. It’s no surprise we’ve seen his do as well as he’s done with Champ Car, especially with the team he’s with.”

His teammate, three-time champion Sebastien Bourdais, who drives the No. 1 McDonald's Cosworth/ DP01, agreed, saying, “I’m very impressed with Graham.

“He’s stepping up. It’s obviously very hard to see exactly what a driver’s got in tests. But for sure, when we are in a two-day test, he’s as fast as I am. He picks things up quickly. He’s going to pick it up step by step. He’s a very mature driver. If he makes a mistake, he steps down a little and makes an adjustment and does his best to make sure it doesn’t happen again.” Galveston County Daily News

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