By: Ashley McCubbin
Going into the closing laps at Texas Motor Speedway, Graham Rahal looked poised to have enough speed to challenge the front runners for the victory. Although he challenged for the lead, he would cross the finish line in third.
“I just got a little loose – that’s all,” he told NEWS FROM THE PITS. “On the last restart, I don’t know what happened but I went into one, I just had no grip, I mean, zero. I think I might have picked up some marbles under the yellow that I didn’t acknowledge on the right rear. It was super slippery. Obviously Pato (O’Ward) got around me there. He did an excellent job.
“But, yeah, I mean, I think at the end of stint, even the stint before, I just got too loose in the end. That really kind of was my buzz kill. If the front of the car is working well, if we were able to get a little more consistent, we were definitely one of the cars to beat. Midway we were definitely the car to beat. We weren’t able to be in the right spot at the end or have the right balance. That’s life. That’s the way it goes.”
Despite not getting the victory he hoped, the Texas weekend as a whole marks a positive turnaround for Graham Rahal following a 15th-place finish on the streets of St. Petersburg. A pair of top-five’s on the intermediate, along with a seventh at Barber Motorsports Park place him fifth in points heading into the month of May.
“St. Pete is going to sting us, for sure,” he commented. “You finish in the top five there, I think there’s no doubt we’re, what, second in points leaving here. St. Pete is going to sting us for a little while here. But that’s life. That’s racing.
“But our boys have done a pretty good job. The 15 car has been pretty solid everywhere we’ve gone so far. Keep our heads down. We’re working hard at this thing. We’ll be good. I think even here, we tested here, we weren’t the fastest. We felt like we were okay, we made the right changes to come back and it worked out for us. We are learning things and making the right moves.”
The momentum comes at the right time, as Rahal could prove to be the man to beat this month after pacing the test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in April. While his teammate Takuma Sato won the Indianapolis 500 in 2020, Rahal was able to score a third, and that came following a runner-up in the Indianapolis Grand Prix.
“We feel really strong,” he commented. “Our 500 car, she was fast at the test. Obviously we’ve changed the paint scheme since the test. We have the Buddy Rice ’04 throwback, United Rental for the 500 this year.
“She was slippery. I hope that that stays. I know Honda has worked very hard. Our team has worked exceptionally hard to be — well, we finished first and third last year, not like we were bad. This time around hopefully the 15 car can be first. I know our guys have focused a lot on that. Hopefully it will happen.”