Got Parts! No Sponsor! No Problem - Graham Rahal WINS :: The EDJE
Got Parts! No Sponsor! No Problem - Graham Rahal WINS
This is a great story (again, with apologies to Kenny Chesney)!
It goes from No Parts (and no race for the first race), No Sponsor (Hole In The Wall Camp is, team owner, Paul Newman's charity), to No Problem for the first win by a CCWS T-Team!
Good on Graham Rahal (and father Bobby) of Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing.
The reason this IS a great story has to do with many reasons.
Graham Rahal came close to winning his first race at the age of 18, last year in the ChampCar World Series when he came in second place on the podium for the Grand Prix of Houston, April 22, 2007.
Rahal came back from a spinout early in the Saint Petersburg race, Sunday afternoon, to become the youngest winner in major open-wheel history. At 19 years, 93 days, Rahal broke the age record set two years ago in Sonoma, Calif., by another driver from a racing family, Marco Andretti, who was 19 years, 167 days old.
With this win, the ChampCar World Series Transition Teams crack the ice on its first win in only two races proving that the “T-Teams” ARE competitive with recognized, established leading teams in the IRL in this first season of unification. Many experts speculated that at minimum, it would take six to ten races for the CCWS T-Teams to catch on to the racing set-ups of the IRL Dallara chassis - Honda engine package. This win was not only won on a closed temporary street course (a CCWS strong point), it was won through strategy.
The driver who came in second had won the race the previous two years running … and was poised, through a strategic last pit stop where Helio Castroneves, of Team Penske, took on fuel only (no tires) and leaped forward seven spots to come in right behind Graham Rahal for the re-start. The trick in strategy at this very point, and very easy to overlook, is that Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing (four time CCWS Championship winning team) kept Graham Rahal out hoping that the car would have enough fuel to finish the race. The strategy gamble paid dividends in this unified 2008 IRL season by posting a first ever CCWS T-Team race win in the second of eighteen scheduled races.
Graham Rahal had help with fuel saving yellow flag laps where the racers were slowed and held behind the pace car for several laps while track crews cleaned up after cars that had collected the wall, or each, other around the track during the last stint before the checkered flag that would end the race.
In the final re-start with just a few laps left, it was feared that Castroneves, with all of his winning experience (two-time Indy 500 Champion), would be able to get the drop on the much younger, non-winning Rahal, but Graham’s age hides the fact that he comes from a grand racing DNA tradition being the son of past Three-Time CART Champion, Indy 500 Winner (both as a driver and team owner) and IRL team owner (Rahal-Letterman Racing), Bobby Rahal. Graham Rahal answered the challenge at the re-start by bringing the field up to racing speed before the first turn of the main straightaway to receive the checkered flag and resume racing. All Helio Castroneves could do is maintain position as Graham placed a little distance between them until the end of the rain-dampened race.
Some of the best news for the Indianapolis Racing League in this year of unification is how well the CCWS T-Teams did in a race venue that was completely new to most all of the teams and drivers. Five of the top ten places were occupied by T-Team drivers. P1 - Graham Rahal (Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing), P4 - EJ (Ernesto) Viso (Former Minardi Team USA – HVM Racing), P5 - Enrique Bernoldi (Conquest Racing - with consulting from Forsythe), P7 - Oriol Servia (KV Racing Technology), P8 - Will Power (KV Racing Technology). That is competitive no mater how one slices it!
The Indianapolis Racing League wants to say "Transition tag gone!" (as per an article posted at indycar.com by Dave Lewandowski) but until the IRL management shows an interest in the race weekend at Long Beach (which happens over the same weekend as the engine supplier race (Honda) held in Motegi, Japan), the ChampCar teams will always be viewed as T-Teams!
Com' On! the Long Beach Grand Prix race can not get any play as being listed as a race in the schedule at indycar.com website - No opportunity to link to event information - No ticket sales - NOTHING (as of the writing of this post). To be fair, the ChampCar site isn't much help either, although, this site at least has a link to additional information.
Heck, the race in Long Beach can not even be mentioned by the house writer in his article about Saint Petersburg ... you know, that the next race one will be able to see this race winner, Graham Rahal, compete in is LONG BEACH ... not Motegi, Japan! (please note: the possibility exists that Graham could race in Japan, catch a private jet and start the Long Beach race from the back of the field - pure speculation)
Again, Good on Graham Rahal and the ChampCar World Series Transition Teams for a great showing in the streets of Saint Petersburg, Florida before these guys give one last hurrah to the PANOZ DP01 through the streets in Long Beach.
The DP01 chassis will be featured in the final ChampCar race, and the only ChampCar race that will award IRL points toward the 2008 IRL season championship in the streets at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, April 17-20, 2008 - Long Beach, California.
See you all on Shoreline Drive!
… notes from The EDJE