Race Weekend Central

Graham Rahal Earns Front-Row Start at Mid-Ohio

The Rahal Letterman Lanigan race shop may be in Indianapolis, but the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course is deeply entrenched in the team’s DNA.

Team principal Bobby Rahal first raced here as part of the NTT IndyCar Series in 1982 and won twice in 16 starts on the 13-turn, 2.258-mile road course.

With Rahal based in Central Ohio for much of his career and beyond, son Graham grew up in New Albany, just an hour south of the track, and counts a 2015 victory at Mid-Ohio among his six IndyCar wins.

Whatever it is about this racetrack, it was very good to RLL Saturday during qualifying for Sunday’s Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio, especially for Rahal, who will start on the outside of the front row alongside polesitter Colton Herta.

Rahal, who will be making his 17th Mid-Ohio start, advanced to the Firestone Fast Six for the first time since Portland in 2021 and will make his first front-row start since qualifying second at Alabama in 2019. Rahal’s fast lap of one minute, 6.3538 seconds looked like it was going to hang on for the pole until Herta’s last flying lap eclipsed him by just .0432 seconds.

See also
Colton Herta Wins 2nd Straight IndyCar Pole at Mid-Ohio

“It feels good,” Rahal said. “I thought we were going to get (Herta) there. I knew it was a solid lap. It’s great to be in the front row. Obviously great job to Honda. We’re here for the Honda Indy 200, and for them to sweep the Fast Six in their backyard, and for us, for Fifth Third bank, a Cincinnati-based company for our team, for everything else, for me, this is a big day.”

Rahal was just 20th fastest in practice on Friday (June 30) but told his crew in the engineering meeting that he thought they had a better car than what showed on the timesheet. He improved to seventh overall in the second practice session and easily moved through the first two rounds of qualifying.

In the Fast Six, Rahal sat atop the scoring pylon until the very end before he was nipped by Herta. He felt the difference this weekend was that the setup of the car was where he wanted it to be.

“It’s finally to the place I can charge the entries (to the corners), I can do the things that I like to do with my style, and it’s just nice to finally see the result come,” Rahal said. “I think we’re finally starting to make changes with the car, as I just said, that they’re responding the right way, the way you’d expect them to, and it’s nice. It’s nice to feel that.

“It’s much nicer to — as I said, to be able to drive the car the way I want to. I want to attack the corner. I want to brake late, brake hard, roll speed with good, good rear confidence, and I’ve struggled with that mightily. This is the first weekend I’ve felt like, it’s finally there.”

While most would be surprised by RLL’s form this weekend, Rahal isn’t. While the team has struggled at several tracks this year – particularly at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where all three cars were in the Last Row Shootout and Rahal was bumped from the field – he felt like the team’s efforts on the Indy road course in May and at Road America two weeks ago pointed to these types of results.

Teammate Christian Lundgaard, who will start fifth Sunday, won the pole at Indy at started seventh at Road America, while Rahal picked up a top 10 at Indy. The third RLL car, driven by Jack Harvey, qualified a season-best fourth at Indy, and he will go off Sunday in the 11th starting position.

“I think the turnaround has been coming,” Rahal said. “(With) the road course package, you look at Indy GP, you look Road America, and you look here, and we’ve been competitive. Again, it’s good to see that, good to feel the energy, feel the momentum.”

The green flag for Sunday’s 80-lap, 180-mile Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Presented by the 2023 Accord Hybrid will fly at 1:53 p.m. ET, with coverage beginning at 1:30 pm ET on USA and Peacock.

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