The Buffalo Motorsports Examiner spoke with second-generation IndyCar star Graham Rahal of Rahal-Letterman-Lanigan Racing last week – find out where he came from, what he’s doing and what his future holds over the next few days.
IZOD IndyCar Series driver Graham Rahal came up through the open-wheel ranks like many other drivers today, but he had a little exposure to the sport than your average pre-teen.
“I started when I was 10 years old and I started in go-karting, and go-karting is kind of where, traditionally, everyone nowadays is going to start,” said Rahal. “It’s the easiest, cheapest, it’s a sport where a lot of people have access to tracks regionally, so it’s pretty common. My goal has always been to race in IndyCar. I stayed on the Formula car path for all my life, and that’s what I’ve always committed myself to doing. From go-karts I came up through what we call the “feeder series” and made my way up."
The additional exposure to the IndyCar life came via his father – 1986 Indy 500 champ, three-time CART champ and present-day team owner Bobby Rahal.
“Obviously, with my dad Bobby, I was exposed to it,” remembers Rahal, 24. “My sister has videos of myself when I was literally three-years-old saying I wanted to be a professional race car driver, or a golfer – those are my two biggest passions, so obviously I was pretty well set on it from an early age.”
The elder Rahal was no stage parent – his son said there was never any pressure for him, his brother or his four sisters to follow in his footsteps.
“If anything, it was probably the opposite,” said Rahal of his upbringing. “I think that’s one of the biggest concerns for any son or daughter, growing up and being forced by a parent to do something. I was very fortunate with my family that that was never the case. But it was always my desire to do this, and I’m very fortunate that up to this point it’s worked out.”
Through his early years of racing until now, Rahal has had another father-figure in team owner Mike Lanigan, who has been with Rahal on-and-off for a number of years.
“It started when I was in Formula Atlantic, which was very early in my career,” recalls Rahal. “Mike happened to be part-owner in that team at that time and I think I’ve only spent a couple of years of my career away from Mike, and most people actually don’t know that. Mike’s been a very influential man in my career since the early stages.”
“I’m a very business-minded individual, and I think Mike is exactly that,” Rahal continued. “From a business sense, I’m not sure that there are many people in this sport that are better than him at what he does…It’s really kind of as if he’s a second father, in some ways – I’ve been with him so long.”
Coming up – learn about another strong influence in Rahal’s life, how much racing he’d like to do, and where he sees himself headed in the future.
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