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IZOD IndyCar Series: Indianapolis 500

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Indianapolis 500

IZOD IndyCar Series: Indianapolis 500

Graham Rahal
May 29, 2011


THE MODERATOR: Thank you for coming in, J.R.
Graham, you've ran the Indianapolis 500 before. Driver with great promise. Results haven't been what you were looking for. We watched a guy walk out of here that's down with a second-place finish. How are you feeling with a third-place run?
GRAHAM RAHAL: Obviously I feel great about it. At the same time if it were two laps longer, I'd probably be drinking milk right now.
I mean, I feel great about what my guys did today. Someone just told me we passed 67 cars today and didn't win. I mean, both guys finished ahead of me, I passed Hildebrand probably four times today and I passed Wheldon once.
We knew we had probably one of the best cars out there. At the end, we were running probably a little bit too much downforce to do some of those big numbers, which is why Dixon passed me after that last restart. I didn't quite have the pace out front. But in traffic, I was as good as anybody.
It feels great, to be honest. My Service Central guys did a fantastic job all day staying levelheaded. We went down a lap with 70 laps to go, got the wave-around. That took us from 5th back to 17th. We worked our way all the way back up.
I mean, it feels really good to be sitting where we are right now.

Q. What was your view of J.R. there?
GRAHAM RAHAL: I don't know. I'd have to look at it. I've made that mistake before. I don't know how close Wheldon was to the back of him. You know, that's a tough spot. He must have gotten really high.

Q. He was going around a guy, the 83 car.
GRAHAM RAHAL: Okay. Well, anyway, I did the same thing and made the same mistake twice. But I had run fairly high there earlier. A couple of guys had. The grip was okay up there.
I think Firestone did a fantastic job creating a tire for this race. Truthfully the marbles were never bad. You could always kind of pick a lane, whether it be outside, inside, not too wide, but you had some freedom to run. Otherwise, I wouldn't have passed, as I said, 67 guys. It wouldn't have been possible.
But they made a tire that was strong enough in which you could do that. It was dead consistent for me. I know a lot of guys were falling off, but our car was really good. In the long run, probably we were the best car out there today.
But as far as J.R., you know, obviously I feel bad for him that he was in that position. Certainly he was in that position because of what the team had done for him, to get him off strategy and put him in that place. Like I said, I passed him four times today and he was never quicker than us.
Overall I would say that you learn from the mistakes that you make and you move on.

Q. You were doing a lot of passing in traffic. Seemed like three or four guys throughout the race would be back, then fight their way up to the front. What happened there that you just couldn't get over the edge? I'm talking about all of you. Anything in particular?
GRAHAM RAHAL: What do you mean 'get over the edge'?

Q. Get up to the front and keep it.
GRAHAM RAHAL: In my circumstance, it was the downforce level we picked. We picked it because we knew where we were starting, we picked it because we knew we were going to have to be good in traffic. We were excellent in traffic.
We never made a single tire pressure change or wing change. We don't have adjustable wing pillars, so whatever we picked is what we were running. A lot of guys could probably trim out near the end.
That was probably it flat out for me. If you saw the last restart, I took the lead from Oriol, then Dixon passed me a couple laps later. I know a wing angle they're running, and it's far less than us. The straight-line speed is going to be higher.
At the end, I would say the same is true for Wheldon. When I came out of the pits on cold tires, he flat out had more pace than me. I just couldn't quite keep up.

Q. Did the Ganassi cars all have similar strategy? If not, were you just really surprised that you beat guys that have won multiple Indy 500s?
GRAHAM RAHAL: I don't know what their strategy was. Obviously I saw Dario come in on that last yellow. But am I surprised? Not really because I could have told you last week I thought we probably had the best racecar of any of our teammates.
We don't debrief together. But when you hear the mumblings from the other trailer, as far as what they're thinking or how they're feeling, I don't think anybody felt as confident in their racecar as I did. So I'm not surprised.
They were obviously faster than us I think today in outright pace. But our strategy was pretty simple. What I'm most impressed about is we never did anything off strategy. I thought to get to the front we were definitely going to have to do that. But we didn't.
Overall, I mean, like I said, my Service Central guys just did a fantastic job all day. I don't think we lost a spot in the pits all day. I don't think we hurt ourselves at all on or off the track. I don't think I made any mistakes. Overall it's just a good day.

Q. Graham, for just people looking at this, they might consider what Dan was able to do with his first start with this team a surprise. Can you explain why it is or is not necessarily a surprise for the way that turned out and also if you've had a chance to talk to your dad?
GRAHAM RAHAL: I don't see what Dan's done as a surprise at all. Dan is a fantastic driver, he's always proven it, particularly here. He's won here before. That team, from what I see, that was a three-car team this month. Tagliani, Wheldon and Bell. I'm not surprised. My hat goes off to Dan. He's a great guy. Did a fantastic job today. Did exactly what he needed to do.
As far as talking to dad, I saw him briefly, said a couple of words, then kind of just came over here. I'm sure I'll see him more this afternoon.

Q. You've been coming here a lot of years. You've observed it as a son, as well. Do you have any opinion why the results, let's say Las Vegas favorites, did not perform and the unexpected teams did so well?
GRAHAM RAHAL: 'Cause it's Indy flat out. I mean, that's what I put it off to. This place, when you think you got it figured out, it bites you. I mean, it's Indy. It's so tough.
But I thought today was so special, the whole thing. The atmosphere was fantastic. The crowd looked great. The whole buildup to it was incredible. It was a very special day, so...
But as far as those guys that you thought were going to dominate and didn't, it's this place.

Q. (Question regarding Penske.)
GRAHAM RAHAL: I was surprised about that actually. I'm not going to lie to you there. I raced with a Briscoe a couple times, passed Helio a couple times, passed Will. They didn't have it. You could see Briscoe just did not feel comfortable all day.
Yeah, I'm pretty surprised that they weren't faster.

Q. There was a lot of talk with the weeks leading up to the race about the double-file restarts, scrutiny about it. How did it feel out there?
GRAHAM RAHAL: It felt good. Honestly, the changes they made, letting us just race, I thought the restarts were great. There was a lot of passing opportunities, plenty of excitement. I haven't watched a race tape, but I thought that the excitement was incredible inside of the car.
The last restart I passed seven positions, and there were three lapped cars in there, so 10 cars in one corner. Really I think that it gave you the opportunity to do that. People get bogged down, it moved the cars around just enough you had to be almost on the grass on four to make it work. It was good fun.
I'm not sure that's going to work on the road courses, but I think on all the other ovals from here on out, that's the way it should be. Let us go racing. Put it in our hands. Don't give us 20 rules to work by. That's just going to make it harder and more confusing.

Q. What was it like to lead briefly the Indy 500?
GRAHAM RAHAL: It felt good. But obviously my focus was go as fast as I possibly can. I had Dixon breathing down my neck. I could see that. It felt nice. But I hope that's not the last laps I lead here.

Q. In recent years one of the complaints has been not enough American drivers. Now we have two that finished 2 and 3, almost 1 and 3. Do you think this is going to attract more Americans?
GRAHAM RAHAL: I don't think that the results attract more Americans. I think what it comes down to is IndyCar racing, I think it's on the rise. We saw it today. Ticket sales were up huge. You could visibly see the difference from this year to last year in the crowd size.
I think that's what attracts people, because that's what attracts sponsors. That's what will attract drivers, is the opportunities that the sponsors present them. Clearly in my case of Service Central, I'm here because of them. J.R. is at Panther because of National Guard. That's what is going to attract people, is the opportunities they see.
I think as far as a show, today was far more passing than I thought would ever be possible around here. I thought it was a helluva lot of fun, that's for sure.

Q. You mentioned earlier you don't have the adjustable front wings. Is that by choice?
GRAHAM RAHAL: No, rear wing pillars. That's not necessarily by choice. There's two ways to look at it. It's an advantage. At the end there under yellow, you could crank a little wing out of it, you're going to go faster. At the same time, there's a story about the Ganassi boys a long time ago. They were telling me they took out rear wing accidentally and added front wing on Jimmy Vasser, which is obviously going to turn the thing like a top. You can shoot yourself in the foot, too, with it.
Really, it just came down to we're a new team as of five months ago. We haven't gotten around to that. There's a lot of other things we need to do before making an adjustable rear wing.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you for coming in.
GRAHAM RAHAL: We're riding high, second and third. Feels fantastic. To be the highest-finishing Ganassi car, I'm not disappointed with either.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Graham.

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