Indy Racing League Media Conference
Topics: Indy Racing League, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
November 14, 2012
THE MODERATOR: Welcome to today's IndyCar conference call. Earlier today, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing announced a multi‑year agreement with driver Graham Rahal to driver the No. 15 Honda, with sponsorship from the TBC Retail Group. We're pleased to be joined by two of the three co‑owners of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.: Bobby Rahal and Mike Lanigan, their new driver, Graham Rahal and Orland Wolford, the CEO of TBC Retail Group Service Central. Gentlemen, thank you for taking the time to join us today.
Graham, we'll start with you. I know a lot of young men can't wait to grab the keys to the family car and your dad finally gave them to you today. Congratulations on that, and talk about what it's like to get the opportunity to drive for your dad's team?
GRAHAM RAHAL: Yeah, thank you. It's awfully exciting for me. It's a great opportunity to be a part of this team and with the sponsors that we have behind us. For me, it's a bit of a fresh outlook, really. As I look towards next year and beyond, this is a great group and a great organization here, and everybody is aimed to achieve the same goal which is to win races and championships. I think together we can do so.
I think this has been a long time coming. I think everybody probably knew that eventually this would be the case that we would all be together under one roof. But here we are and I'm extremely excited. It's a great day for myself and for the team and for our family and for our sponsors really. For TBC Retail, which I think everybody knows from the last couple of years. But I think you'll see primarily Midas and Big O on our car, and also Valvoline being back in the sport, it means a lot to have us all together. It answers all those questions of why I don't race for dad, that's for sure.
THE MODERATOR: Let's turn to your dad. Bobby, I know you're a big proponent of having Graham develop as a driver away from your team. Why bring him back now at this stage of your career?
BOBBY RAHAL: Well, I think he's one of the best drivers out there. If we take away the father‑son aspect, I think any team would want him driving their car. We got back into IndyCar Racing a year ago now, and with the intent of really rebuilding the IndyCar side of the team to one of the major teams in the series.
I think we had a reasonably good year this last year in preparation for '13. Having a top‑notch driver in there and key, obviously. Obviously, I'm super pleased with Graham, because I think that together we can achieve a lot of great things both on and off the track. So we're really thrilled to have him driving the car. Thrilled to have TBC Retail and Valvoline back with us. When we won the 500 it was a Valvoline sponsored driver. So there are a lot of coming home in this whole thing by a lot of the different entities involved.
So we're really pleased to have Graham, as I said. I'm confident we can create the environment that he needs to excel, and that's our commitment to him and I think we're going to have a lot of success as a result.
THE MODERATOR: Mike, obviously you've been a big part of Graham's development as a driver. Owned his Atlantic team, owned the team that gave him his start in IndyCar Racing. What about Graham gives you the confidence that your current team, Rahal Letterman Lanigan has a driver that can win races and championships?
MIKE LANIGAN: First of all, we had him in '06 in Atlantics, he won. We had him in '08 in the IRL. He won his first race in St. Petersburg, and I've known him since he was 17 years old. I've known Bobby a long time. And I know the quality team Rahal Letterman Lanigan puts out, and I think it will be very successful. We're very optimistic that great things will happen for Graham and for our team.
THE MODERATOR: Orland, I know you've also been a big part of Graham's career dating back to 2010 when he drove for Sarah Fisher's team. Teaming up with Graham and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing has to be a very big occasion for the TBC Retail group?
ORLAND WOLFORD: TBC Retail is extremely excited to continue our relationship with that TBC has had with Graham for the last three years. We're excited that he's joining a great team in the Rahal letter man grew, and we are anticipating great things. We are excited to be with them.
THE MODERATOR: Graham, I know you mentioned this at the press conference we had at the speedway earlier, but your team has a history of taking some drivers that people have kind of given up on and turning them into winners. I'm sure you just can't wait to add to that legacy for the team.
GRAHAM RAHAL: For me, I think that's one of the most exciting aspects of this program is that we touched on it briefly. But if you look back on the history of this team, you go back to guys throughout the '90s, of course, but even given guys their first big chance, guys like Max Papis, of course, Buddy Rice, Michel Jourdain in the early 2,000. Guys that, as dad would say, probably their careers were looking like they're coming to an end and next thing you know they're wing races on a consistent basis and always a contender each and every weekend.
So that's where I want to be and where I need to go as a driver. And that's what I think this team is going to allow me to do. Of course, for me, the people that I'll be working with here, many of whom I've known for many, many years there's a lot of advice and lot of learning to be done. But I'm surrounded by the best group of guys that I see out there.
So I know that being that they've known me so many years they're not going to give me any bad advice and we're all working towards the same goal. So I'm looking forward to that part of it. And we're going to start off here pretty soon, going testing in Barber on the 27th, so that will be the kickoff our 2013 season.
Q. You mentioned in your opening statement that you know how to create an environment that Graham needs to excel. Can you talk about some of the elements of that environment that you're putting together?
BOBBY RAHAL: I think having been a driver and having been on various teams, it's really all about the environment that you immerse yourself in that allows you to do your best. That environment to me, obviously, there are high expectations on all parties, but there is also a high level of support.
Things don't go swimmingly all the time. There are times when things aren't so good, and it's how you react. It's how a team reacts together. The more tight‑knit the team, the better able you are to overcome the ups and downs. And does the team believe in the driver? If the driver feels he has the confidence in the team, he really can go out and move mountains. I've seen it. I've done it myself in my own career.
When I was with Truesports and Steve Horne and that whole crew, we took on very short order guys like Penske and Patrick Racing and Chaparral and everybody else. We were a small, closely knit team, and we were able to do great things. Same thing as we tried to do with not just Buddy, but Danica, certainly and Ryan Hunter‑Reay and Michel Jourdain.
I think if you asked every one of them who was one of the best teams they ever drove with, they'd tell you it was hours, and I take great pride in that. So it's all about creating an environment of support, of effort, of integrity. You minimize the politics. You don't allow the politics to get involved internally, and it's amazing what can be done.
Q. Graham, what is the relationship aspect of all of this and being the focal point of all the teams effort and the team's energy?
GRAHAM RAHAL: Well, I think as far as being the focal point, well, I think everybody needs that to achieve a certain amount of success as a driver. It's always difficult to, if you know that you're not the focus or the primary focus of a team, that's difficult for anybody to keep‑‑ it's not an effort thing, necessarily, but to keep clicking on all cylinders and expect that things are just going to go your way. It takes effort from everybody and focus from everybody to achieve the ultimate goal which is winning races.
That's why you see the Penske guys, the Target guys can do it so consistently, because every single individual on that team is focused on that program. So here we're going to have that.
This is not only from the higher ups. It comes down to the mechanics as well. You have got to have guys that look at this sport, this team, and what we do as more than a job. You have to have guys that are passionate about going out there each and every day and giving it their all and wanting to win races. I think that everybody within this organization has that, and the focus for all of us is to win.
If we focus on this program and work hard together, we'll do that. I'm thrilled to be working with the people that I am.
Q. Bobby, how far along are you guys to having a teammate to go into next year?
BOBBY RAHAL: We're working hard on that, versus, you might imagine it's been a tremendous amount of effort and work getting to this point. Thankfully we've had fantastic support from TBC Retail towards putting this together, but we've also been working hard to bring in really top‑notch personnel into the team, which I'm happy to say we've been able to do which will only strengthen it.
But my first goal is to make sure we're doing one car right, and I think we are. So now we can focus further on getting a second car.
But I'm not really interested in having a second car just for the sake of having a second car. It really needs to be a car that can help this team achieve a high level of success and competition. If you look at Penske, you look at Ganassi, you look at the way we were in 2004 or '05, '06 with Buddy and Vitor and Danica, you have two very competitive drivers pushing each other. And by doing so, you push the team. That's been the Penske formula, the Ganassi formula, and that is the formula that we're trying to achieve here.
So we'd love to have Takuma back. There are other guys out there that are available, guys like Ryan Briscoe or Justin Wilson who I have a great deal of respect for both of those guys. We're working hard. We're not there yet, but I'm hoping by year's end we'll have something put to bed.
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