After a rough start to the Verizon IndyCar Series season, Graham Rahal has turned things around recently, riding a streak of four straight top-10 finishes, highlighted by a pair of wins on the streets of Detroit.
While helping to promote the upcoming Honda Indy Toronto in July, the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing driver took some time to speak with Popular Speed’s Ashley McCubbin about his thoughts on the year so far.
POPULAR SPEED: How would you characterize your season so far?
GRAHAM RAHAL: I think it’s been good and bad. We’ve definitely performed very well at times, obviously picking up a couple wins and a handful of top-10’s. We’d like to finish this thing off strong, and a win in Toronto would be pretty special for us. We feel after Detroit it should be a really good race that we should excel at. It’s been good and bad – pleased with it, but still hoping for more.
PS: It seems since Indy in May, you guys have hit a solid stride. What’s been the reason behind the turnaround?
GH: Well, I think myself and the guys on the team have been motivated to succeed. I think we’re all working very hard to be where we’re at, and I think that the guys want to win races. We went to Detroit, we were eager to perform well, and strong. We knew after Indy that we felt like we lost a big one being the 500; we felt like it was a race that we were very competitive in, but just had a lot of problems with flat tires there at the end of the race.
We felt like – not that anything ever owes you, but felt we should be far more competitive than we were and ended up being. We just took that motivation and pushed on and brought that in Detroit. From there, it’s just all about strong results, trying to keep up the top-10’s, race smart, big good, and we’ve been fortunate to make that happen.
PS: Where do you feel your team needs to improve?
GH: Well, there’s a lot of areas that we can get stronger. But I would say the oval package and the road course package right now. Our street courses, like Toronto, I feel we’re really good at, but I think the road courses like Road America, as well as potentially the ovals, are a place of weakness. So we’re going to keep working on it.
We’re going to keep pushing hard to improve in those areas. Really, it’s all about every single week being at our best and scoring the maximum amount of points.
PS: Prior to Toronto, there’s the race at Iowa Speedway. How are you feeling going into that event?
GH: Well, I do feel good. We tested there yesterday. We didn’t get to run the full day unfortunately, due to a problem, but I feel good. I just want to perform at my best and the team perform at theirs, and I think that we can have a strong result. Iowa is a place of strength for us before, so hopefully we can find a way to keep that going.
PS: After that, Honda Indy Toronto, obviously. What are your thoughts on heading north of the border?
GH: Big race for us. A great race weekend for us. Important when you look at the schedule and the remaining races after that. It also leads us into Mid-Ohio, which is my home event. Yeah, definitely really important that we have a strong run there.
PS: With having picked up the win on Detroit, does that correlate to a confidence boost entering Toronto?
GH: 100%, because we know since we were very strong in Detroit, that we know that should carry over as the set-ups should be very similar. So yeah, it should help us a ton.
PS: Now, you haven’t had the best history in Toronto. What is it going to take to put that behind you?
GH: We’ve been okay; we just haven’t quite had the luck. So yeah, we’re going to have to fight through that. But again, as I look at Detroit, because we were so good there, that set-up should carry over. There shouldn’t really be any surprises so I feel we should be in a very good spot and give us a lot of confidence.
PS: Between your IndyCar schedule and Courtney Force’s NHRA schedule, it has to keep you both busy. How do you guys keep it balanced?
GH: You know, it’s very difficult. It requires a lot of hours on airplanes, a lot of travel time. It is difficult, for sure. But you just have to believe in yourselves and your relationship, and being together. So far, it’s been great, but these next couple of days off, we’re going to cherish that time, and enjoy it before it gets too busy. Fortunately, she will be able to go with me up to Toronto so I’m looking forward to having her there.
PS: When you guys are home, does racing come up as a topic of conversation?
GH: You try not. You try to keep racing separate to just enjoy that personal life aspect of it. It comes up. We’re both competitive people and we want the best.
Rahal will look to keep the momentum rolling next weekend at Iowa Speedway on July 9, after posting a track-best finish of fourth in 2015.
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