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Young guns challenge veterans
If the old guard hadn’t already been put on notice, they are sure to be looking over their shoulders now. A new guard – led by second- and third-generation drivers Graham Rahal and Marco Andretti – is poised to assume the leadership in the IndyCar Series.
Rahal, who at age 19 years, 93 days became the youngest winner of a major open-wheel race in history Sunday at the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and Andretti, who previously held the honor from his 2006 win at Infineon when he was 19 years, 167 days, are fourth and fifth in points, respectively, after the first two races of the 2008 season.
Sitting on top of the standings, but perhaps uncomfortably so, are veterans Helio Castroneves, Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan.
“I think it's great,” said Kanaan, the 2004 IndyCar Series champion. “We need the Rahals, we need the Andrettis, we need new names. Helio and I, we were far and away more stupid than they are when we were 19. I have to say it makes us look really old. Can you imagine when Graham was born, Helio and I were racing already. That's not cool, is it?”
The “kids” are succeeding despite the pressure of growing up in famous racing families.
“We're talking about Bobby Rahal's son,” Castroneves said. “Bobby Rahal is a legend. I remember watching him. Wow. Now all of a sudden his son followed in his steps. That's a big deal. It's a lot of pressure for him, for Marco, to repeat, for A.J. Foyt (IV), for those guys to repeat what their grandfathers and fathers did in the past.”
“There's always pressure, and having any last name, whether it's Marco, myself, A.J. (Foyt IV), anybody that's had a successful father or grandfather, or both in some cases, there's always pressure to do well, and there's pressure to get your first win and see if you really can do it,” said Rahal, who joined Dixon as one of only four drivers to win in their first career IndyCar Series start.
The pressure couldn’t have been greater than the closing laps of Sunday’s Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg when Rahal saw two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Castroneves in his mirrors.
“I have to say, if I was 19 years old, restarting, three laps to go, and you have Helio Castroneves and Tony Kanaan behind you, I was going to be kind of worried,” Kanaan said. “He played it so cool, so I guess he proved how good he is.”
Despite the praise, the old guard won’t go away quietly.
“I think they are very capable race car drivers,” Kanaan said. “They're going to give us a lot of hard times, so I wish them the best, and I'm looking forward to beating them in the future.”
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