Quotes from GRAHAM RAHAL and BOBBY RAHAL announcement
Graham Rahal, driver of the No. 15 entry for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing:
“It’s extremely exciting for me to join Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing fulltime. It’s something that I thought really wouldn’t happen this early in my career but, at this point, it absolutely makes the most sense for us. For me, this is probably the most excited I have been to join any team because I see the potential behind what my dad and the rest of the team have been able to accomplish over the last year with Takuma. And knowing the development and other things that the team will now have the time to do to prepare for the season makes me more than thrilled to be here. I can’t wait for the whole process to begin – the testing and obviously going racing! It’s really an exciting time for me.”
On first recollection of being asked if he would drive for his father’s team:
“I have been asked when I was going to drive for my dad’s team my whole life! On average I would say that probably one of every two or three interviews I have done in my career, I have been asked that question. For me, it was more about timing and making sure everything was right in order for it to happen. When we first sat down and discussed this as a possibility it just made the most sense for us to work together to get RLL back to where the team was in their glory days, an there is no doubt that we can get there.
“This has been years in the making. Dad brought it up by saying ‘You just need to come drive for me.’ A lot of people don’t know but in 2011 when Service Central signed with Ganassi it was between Rahal Letterman Lanigan and Ganassi so this process started then but really took effect when my option was up August 1. That’s when we sat down and said “Hey, this really does make the most sense.” For us to be together, not only does it erase all questions in my mind about knowing where I stand in terms of the pecking order and level of commitment from a team, but also the marketing and media side of it between dad and I working together with Dave (Letterman) and Mike (Lanigan) and our sponsors has huge potential. We decided this was the best thing for all of us and this was what we needed to do. I think that’s why everybody is so excited about it. It’s been a long time coming.”
On his thoughts about RLL’s potential:
“I think that it should be pretty obvious for anyone in the sport to see how well the team performed last year. Obviously Takuma is extremely talented and quick and you have to have the team and car around you to do that. The team wasn’t thrown together at the last minute but it was certainly late in the off season with really limited testing and came out of the box and were, quite frankly, one of the best teams last season. The results obviously didn’t show that but it speaks for itself and speaks volumes for the people in the team. (Race engineer) Gerry Hughes came over from Formula One, had never done an oval race let alone an Indy 500 and his car probably should have won the Indy 500. That gives you a lot of confidence and hope that it can only get better.”
On their being more or less pressure to perform for a team co-owned by your father:
“I don’t think that it’s any different because, to be honest, I put the same amount of pressure on myself no matter where I am or what I’m doing. I put a lot of pressure on myself at Ganassi and at Newman/Haas and everywhere else I’ve been and now, maybe for the first time in my career I can really just focus on the driving side of things. I’m very involved with the sponsor and that sort of stuff but here is an opportunity for me where I don’t have to worry about the effort that is going into my program. I don’t have to worry about the commitment level of each and every person on the team. My dad, Dave, Mike, and everyone on the team are not going to put me in a position where I can’t succeed -- particularly my dad. He is going to do everything he can to give me a 100 percent effort and that gives me a lot of confidence. I’m looking forward to that and focusing on getting better as a driver. There are things I’ve got to work on like my qualifying but I’m very optimistic about the potential of the program. I wouldn’t say the pressure is any different.”
On how the family dynamic might impact a working relationship:
“My relationship is far different than any other family in racing. In a way, he (Bobby Rahal) is almost like my best friend. We spend so much time together. Our passion is the same. My mom often says that it’s scary how much my father and I are similar. There is really not a concern about that to me. Yeah, we blow off some steam at each other every once in a while but I don’t see that as being an issue with the program at all. Everybody here is full speed ahead and that shouldn’t be a distraction for anyone. Dad and I work well together and, quite frankly, I always relied on him heavily no matter what team I have been on. I would always call him about an issue I was facing so now at least he’s there all the time and I don’t have to go too far.”
Bobby Rahal, RLL co-owner and father of Graham Rahal:
“I think this is a great moment for our family, for the team and for the sport. I think that having a family working together also as a team creates a lot of positive dynamics for everyone. Of course, for me, the pressure is really on us to deliver the goods so that Graham can realize all the potential he has. I think we can create an environment that will allow him to fulfill that potential. The last time Graham was the leader of the team was when he was with Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing in 2009. For only a 20 year old kid, he won a couple of poles, had a number of very good races, was very competitive and finished seventh in the championship. If we give him that level of focus I think he can do even better than that so I am quite excited about the potential although, as I said, the sense of commitment that we now have to make sure we deliver the goods has probably never been higher. I think it is great for the team and I really look forward to seeing Graham’s helmet in our car.
“I have been asked if Graham was going to drive for our team since almost Day 1. As I said all along, I felt it was better for him to get his experience with different teams and I think it’s paid off for him; I think he’s a much better driver because of it. It has matured him because he was not dealing with family, he was dealing with professionals and people who had expectations. Certainly one of the big concerns for me is the whole family dynamic which can be great in one way and in another could be destructive so both of us have to make sure we treat each other with respect as professionals do. I think now is the right time; he’s proven he belongs and has the respect of his peers and that was the most important thing for me. I think now is the time to realize all the tremendous potential he has.
“Graham has a pretty good idea of what he wants in his car. It’s always a plus to have a driver who knows that because that gives you something very clear to work toward. He is obviously a good racer and we will work on the qualifying a bit but you can see that he tends to go forward, not backward in the races and ultimately that’s what you really want. As a team, having both him and I here is like a two-for-one special for ourselves, our sponsors, and the potential sponsors we are talking to. That adds value to our sales proposition and is a huge win-win for us as a team.
“We had the potential to win this season; we showed a lot of promise. When you look at where we started, which wasn’t until January while other people had been testing or had their cars, we came a long way in a short amount of time. We had an inexperienced Indy car engineer (Gerry Hughes) whom I think did an excellent job this year and a brand new team that had to come together very quickly. Almost only counts in hand grenades and horseshoes but we almost won Indy. We ran competitively there, in St. Pete, Long Beach, Edmonton and others. We were generally very competitive all year long no matter where we were so I was very pleased with the performance. In general, outside of the top-three teams we led the second highest amount of laps and I think that is saying something because a lot of the teams we competed against had a lot more experience together than we did. I look at it as a very good start to our re-entry into Indy car racing on a fulltime basis. We can take all of the knowledge from this year and, now that time is on our side and no longer an adversary, we can make sure we are in an even more competitive position at the first race in 2013. Now we have the time to do some of the things we’ve wanted to do all year.”