Drivers expect unification to end feuding
Now that the Indy Racing League and Champ Car World Series have merged into a unified IRL, Graham Rahal and Bruno Junqueira believe it's time to do away with what was for years a heated rivalry between the open-wheel racing entities.
Rahal and Junqueira will be competing for Newman/Haas/Lanigan and Dale Coyne Racing, respectively, in this weekend's Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. It is Champ Car's last dance as it will then cease to exist and blend completely into the IRL.
Rahal, who would have been in his second Champ Car season, has already competed in one unified IRL race, winning April 6 at St. Petersburg, Fla. Junqueira raced in both the March 29 season opener at Homestead, Fla., as well as St. Petersburg.
"In order for this sport to continue to grow, it needs to stop," Rahal, 19, said of the long-running feud. "We are all here and we all want to make the sport successful. It can no longer be Champ Car versus IRL. It can only be IndyCar series."
Besides, Rahal pointed out, many of the veteran IRL drivers - such as Helio Castroneves, Tony Kanaan and Scott Dixon - started with Champ Car.
Rahal said he believes that once those Champ Car drivers who are just this year beginning to compete in the IRL start to hold their own on oval tracks, the rivalry will start to evaporate more rapidly. Champ Car had only street courses. IRL has both street courses and ovals.
Junqueira said Rahal's victory on the streets of St. Petersburg was good because in the past few years most of the IRL races have been won by Andretti Green Racing, Team Penske and Chip Ganassi Racing.
"Champ Car teams are good and the Champ Car drivers are really, really good and they're gong to make that series more interesting with more drivers winning races and doing well," Junqueira said. "For the fans it's going to be much better. So I think that was the positive point in Graham and an ex-Champ Car team winning the race as well.
"It showed that we're as good as them. They are not better than us and we are not better than them. We are all on the same level." Long Beach Press Telegram