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Rahal back on track with NHL
With the news that Graham Rahal has found sponsorship to put him in the Izod IndyCar Series full-time this season, the open-wheel series is running out of excuses not to succeed.

Rahal is young, American and good-looking. After piloting Sarah Fisher’s Dollar General mobile for two races early this season, Rahal will be reunited with his posse at Chicago-based Newman/Haas/Lanigan for the rest of 2010.

The 21-year-old Rahal has been without a ride since McDonald’s pulled the plug on its sponsorship of his car following last season. That deal was largely due to McD’s relationship with the late Paul Newman and his line of salad dressings.

Many within the IndyCar Series decried Rahal’s inability to get a ride as a devastating blow to the series at a critical time. Now that he seems to have a solid, full-time ride—at least for this year, it will be interesting to see if his presence makes a difference in any of the critical measuring sticks; television ratings, race attendance and merchandise sales.

A sponsorship announcement for Rahal is expected later this week or next week. The son of three-time CART champ Bobby Rahal will team with Hideki Mutoh at NHL.

Rahal will pilot Fisher’s car in St. Petersburg this weekend and at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama April 11, before starting with NHL in Long Beach April 18.

Rahal, a road course specialists, should be a serious competitor this year, assuming he has decent equipment to propel him around the track. If Rahal is a front-runner in the series, which has become more dense with road races, that is good for the series on multiple fronts.

First, it widens the competitive base, which currently is woefully narrow. Second, it puts one of the series’ chosen cover boys in a position to actually get some positive attention.

The good news is ratcheting up for the series. But so is the pressure to perform.

One more excuse is gone. 2013 is looming. And the board of directors is watching.IBJ.com

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