"I expected it. Everybody should have," said Rahal, who was in Vestavia Hills on Monday to speak to elementary school students and promote the April 10 IndyCar race at Barber Motorsports Park. "There's so much adrenaline going on in the first race of the year and everybody's pushing so hard it gets out of control," said the 22-year-old driver in his first season with Target Chip Ganassi Racing.
The wreck at the start — and subsequent wrecks during IndyCar's new double-file restarts after caution flags — crippled the chances of a number of top drivers, including Andretti, Scott Dixon, Helio Castroneves, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Ryan Briscoe. But Rahal doesn't expect a repeat of the St. Pete wreckfest at Barber.
"It won't be like St. Pete because it can't be," he said. "We won't have the same issues."
At St. Pete, the field was funneled to a sharp right Turn 1 that Rahal said is "so inviting" as a passing opportunity. At Barber, Turn 1 breaks to the left and downhill and then abruptly breaks right in a big, sweeping circle.
The polesitter will likely line up on the left for the start so as to have the edge in Turn 1, but being on the outside won't necessarily be a disaster, Rahal said.
"It's not an advantage in Turn 1," he said of being on the outside row. "It's a big advantage for the second turn."
The most dangerous place to be, he said, will be in the middle of the field, where a driver can get caught up in a wreck that unfolds up front.
But with championship points on the line, he said, drivers at Barber will have to do better on double-file restarts.
"We need to clean up our acts and drive a little smarter," said Rahal, who finished 17th at St.Pete after getting tagged by Ana Beatriz and falling four laps down. But for all the carbon-fiber carnage from double-file restarts it seemed to be a hit with fans. The overnight TV rating for the race was a 1.4, which is small compared to NASCAR or the NCAA Tournament, but huge compared to most IndyCar races. In fact, it was the highest rating for an Indy race other than the Indianapolis 500 since July 2007. "Our series is on the rise," Rahal said." Things are going to get better and better." al.com