Rahal to drive for Newman/Haas or PKV UPDATE #8 It's being reported in the October 25th edition Australian weekly motorsport magazine Motorsport News that Graham Rahal may be going to Newman/Hass next year with backing from Coca-Cola, this according to rumors they heard in the paddock in Surfers Paradise.
09/18/06 On a Champ Car media conference today Graham Rahal alluded to the distinct possibility he will race for Newman/Haas in 2007 and that an announcement will happen in the near future.
Q. Graham, when we talked at the USGP, everything was centered on you getting over to Europe. Now the goal has changed a little bit. Is there something in particular or some point in particular that caused your focus to shift?
GRAHAM RAHAL: "Obviously we haven't made any announcements. I would almost guarantee that the Champ Car is my best option. Whether I win the $2 million or not, I don't think that has any effect on it. Certainly I want to win the $2 million just to say I've won at Atlantic championship. That's something I've always wanted to do.
"Well, I mean, it's tough to say. Certainly the USGP, the whole reason we were there was to try to open some eyes. At the same time I think there have been a lot of opportunities that have come my way in Champ Car. As soon as everybody reads about the Newman/Haas opportunity, I just feel if you get an opportunity like that, how can you turn it down? I mean, there's just a proven record. They win. That's the type of team you want to be with.
"For me it's tough to say. But the goal, like I said, is still Formula One. Right now, you know, I'm enjoying myself here. I want to see what I can do in Champ Car. The other issue is GP2. That seems to be the logical path, the clear way to Formula One. At the same time you have to make sure you're with a proper team, which is obviously apparent when you just watch the races. You can see which cars are the best. Right now those teams are full.
"I just don't want to go there and suffer and look like a complete failure because after having a successful season like this year, I just don't want to go back and really change my fortunes at all.
"Well, I think -- if I have a deal in Champ Car, I think it will be announced fairly soon. Whichever team that's with, that's who I'll be testing with. I mean, at this point we all know that you can test the old car until I think it's December 15th. Basically once your motors run out, you're done. I don't know. We'll see. I will be testing, continue to test, but probably with the team I'll race with next year. We'll see what happens there."
08/18/06 Second-generation driver Graham Rahal may still have eyes on Formula One, but he almost certainly will spend the next two seasons in the Champ Car World Series.
The 17-year-old senior-to-be at New Albany High in Ohio has an opportunity to test next month with Newman-Haas Racing, whose lead driver, Sebastien Bourdais, is in position to win his third consecutive championship. If the test goes as expected, Rahal, who has been driving this season in the Mazda Atlantic development series, could find himself with one of the premier teams in American open-wheel racing.
PKV Racing, another Champ Car team, also is interested in young Rahal, the son of former Indianapolis 500 winner Bobby Rahal, now a team owner in the Indy Racing League, Champ Car's rival series.
"If we didn't do anything with him, I'm pretty sure they would," Chicago businessman Carl Haas said of Graham Rahal. "I think the chances of him being in Champ Car next year are pretty high … "
Driving for Haas and actor Paul Newman is one of the sport's plum jobs. In its 24th season, Newman Haas has won 95 races and six championships, three in the last four years
"Our view is, if you get an offer to drive for Newman-Haas, it would be pretty silly not to accept it," Bobby Rahal said.
Said Graham: "A lot of people say to get to F1, you have to go to Europe, you can't get there from Champ Car, but I've talked to several people in the F1 community and they don't feel that's the case."
Racing in the F1 feeder series, GP2, is still an option for Graham, but after missing a test in France because of bad weather, it probably would be with a second-tier team.
Bobby, who headed Jaguar's F1 program in 2000, said two years in Champ Car "wouldn't be a negative in any respect, and may be a huge positive. He'll still only be 19, 20 years old. You have to recognize the history and impact that driving for Newman-Haas would have on his career."
Graham Rahal has won four of 10 Mazda Atlantic races this season, with four pole positions, and is 16 points behind series leader Simon Pagenaud with two races remaining.
The champion will win $2 million to apply toward a Champ Car ride in 2007.
"It's not a matter of if, as much as who," Bobby said of his son's future team. "Nothing is ever 100%, but there's an awfully good chance he'll be in Las Vegas [for the season opener] next year in a Champ Car. He just won't be allowed to go anywhere" because of his age. LA Times
08/14/06 This rumor is close to becoming 'fact.' Bobby Rahal had a choice Sunday. The Indy Racing League team owner had three cars competing in the main event at Kentucky Speedway. And his son, Graham Rahal, was racing in the support-series event in Denver.
Bobby chose to spend the day with family, and said he has no regrets. The 1986 Indianapolis 500 winner and 1986 and 1987 Champ Car champion watched Graham win the Atlantic race from the pole.
"He's the priority and has done a fantastic job all weekend," Bobby Rahal said. "I don't think there is any question he has a heck of a future ahead of him. I mean, he's a 17-year-old, doing what he's doing. There's some offers for Champ Cars, so we'll see what happens."
Despite his affiliation with the IRL, Bobby Rahal likes the idea of his son competing in the rival series. He advised Graham to compete in the Atlantic series because he believes it offers better training than the IRL's Infiniti Pro Series.
Graham Rahal has an upcoming Champ Car test with Newman/Haas Racing and said he'd like to be in Champ Car next season. Denver Post08/13/06 According to SPEEDTV.com, on Saturday, Kevin Kalkhoven, Paul Newman, Carl Haas and Bobby Rahal had a meeting in the Denver paddock to discuss Graham's future.
"Graham still hasn't tested yet but after he does I believe he'll receive an offer from Newman/Haas and, for some reason if they don't, then PKV will offer him one," said Kalkhoven. who co-owns Champ Car along with Gerald Forsythe along with co-owning the two-car PKV Racing operation.
"He should be in this series and I think he will be."
Ralph Hansen, the longtime sponsor finder for Newman/Haas is working on a major deal that is contingent on a young American. "It would be a great fit because Graham is perfect for their demographic, besides being a great young talent and young man.
"We're working hard to make it happen."08/11/06 It hasn't been determined to which side of the Atlantic Graham Rahal's aspirations will carry him in 2007.
"It's tough to say, but there is a very good possibility that I could be in Champ Car," says Graham, who will receive $2 million toward a Champ Car effort if he overtakes points leader Simon Pagenaud and wins the series. "You have to look at what the pluses and minuses are of staying here vs. going to Europe."
The choices come down to Champ Car and GP2, Formula One's feeder series. Graham says heading over to his father's IRL team — which has an obvious vacancy with Danica Patrick leaving for Andretti Green Racing — is not an option.
"My dad won't let me race on ovals," he says. The elder Rahal held that belief before Rahal Letterman Racing rookie driver Paul Dana was killed during the final warm-up in the season-opening IndyCar race in March.
"Our attitude is that if the interest is from the right (Champ Car) team, it would be hard to pass that up," Bobby says.
"If it's not with the right team, we have to stick to our plan, which is to go to Europe."
Newman-Haas Racing fits the definition of the right team. The team co-owned by actor Paul Newman and Chicago businessman Carl Haas has won six Champ Car titles, including consecutive titles by current points leader Sebastien Bourdais (2004 and 2005).
Graham has a test with the team scheduled for September. USA Today 07/26/06 The Indy Star has this to say today and it puts to rest any notion that Rahal might move his team to Champ Car. I suspect only his son will be in Champ Car, perhaps with Newman/Haas.
From the Indy Star: Bobby Rahal took Danica Patrick from obscurity to Indy cars, but he said his team will continue in the IRL without her. Rahal said he has a multiyear contract with Ethanol to field a car, and he hopes Argent Mortgage will return to sponsor a car as well.
"It's our sponsor, not hers," Rahal said of Argent.
Rahal expects no problems finishing the final four races of the season, including Sunday's at Michigan International Speedway, with a lame-duck driver.
"Not from our standpoint; we're professionals," he said. "And based on the last two races, she's being one as well. We're just going to have to prove to her that she's made a mistake. We're going to have to beat her."
07/23/06 As we mentioned below, Rahal might drive for Newman/Haas next year. It was reported by Robin Miller today that Rahal will test for Newman/Haas. He reports on SPEEDtv.com that Bobby Rahal is negotiating with Paul Newman and Carl Haas to test his talented 17-year-old son in their Champ Car with the possibility of joining this storied team in 2007.
"It's a fabulous opportunity for Graham because Newman/Haas is one of the best in the business," said the three-time CART champion and former CART CEO prior to Sunday's Atlantic race where Graham finished second.
"What could be better for a young driver?"
Haas, who met several times over the weekend with Rahal and Champ Car co-owner Kevin Kalkhoven, acknowledged the wheels were turning to make it happen.
"Right now we're just talking about it," he said. "But that kid is pretty damn good isn't he?"
Would Newman/Haas expand to a three car team, or could Rahal replace Bourdais or Junqueira? Bourdais has expressed interest in F1 but doesn't appear to have anything signed yet while Bruno Junqueira is believed to be on a one-year contract.
Rahal has asked Argent if they would sponsor Rahal in Champ Car according to Miller. That combined with the $2 million if he wins the Atlantic Championship would go a long way toward a fully funded effort.
07/23/06 Bobby Rahal was in Edmonton yesterday complete with his massive Rahal-Letterman Indy Racing League unit parked in the enemy Champ Car paddock.
Danica Patrick and the Rahal-Letterman team are in Milwaukee running the rival IRL event this weekend.
With all the rumors which have been around this year of a possible Champ Car-IRL merger or the suggestions that all it would take is a couple of top teams like Rahal-Letterman, Roger Penske or Chip Ganassi to come over to Champ Car, Bobby Rahal said it's possible. You might just see that big Rahal-Letterman unit in the paddock around in the future, and not just visiting to watch his son race Formula Atlantic.
"You never know,'' he said.
"It's a great series. Owners like to race in great series. Many things depend on sponsors. They're putting on great events. It's great racing. Whatever will happen will happen.''
As for the merger ...
"I hope so,'' he said. "But we've only been talking about that for the last decade.
"Penske, Ganassi or ourselves are probably 50-50 odds,'' he said of making a move to Champ Car if a merger doesn't happen.
He certainly likes what he witnessed here yesterday.
Rahal said he'd heard about the crowds here last year but said seeing 59,538 for qualifying yesterday is believing.
"I think it's great. It's a great venue. It's very impressive. It's wonderful.''
Rahal said he can see his son racing Champ Car in the future, even if Rahal-Letterman stays in the IRL.
"I want him to be on the best possible team,'' he said. "It's probably better if he drives for some other team. He'd have more credibility for himself that way.'' Edmonton Sun
[Editor's Note: One rumor making the rounds is that if Graham wins the $2 million prize for the Atlantic championship, he might drive for Newman/Haas Racing (if Rahal does not move his team), which is considered the best in the series along with Forsythe Championship Racing.]