ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Third-generation driver Graham Rahal has high hopes for himself as the Verizon IndyCar Series heads to the vaunted 4.048-mile, 14-turn permanent road course known as Road America
Rahal is having a solid season, with back-to-back wins in Detroit. Prior to the June 10 race at Texas Motor Speedway, the 28-year-old Columbus, Ohio, native took time to discuss a track that is steeped in race history for the Rahal family before returning to Road America for the Verizon IndyCar KOHLER Grand Prix June 22-25.
In 17 starts, Bobby Rahal secured two CART and Champ Car World Series poles, three runner-up and three third-place efforts between 1982 and 1998.
Grandfather Michael Rahal took to the track for the first time in 1957 and raced many times in 500-mile events in sports cars at Road America in the 1960s He died at age 93 on May 10 of this year.
“I used to love going to Road America as a kid. I went up there a lot,” said Graham Rahal, who is named after two-time Formula One champ Graham Hill. “It’s always great to go up there and relive some of those memories.
“I spent a lot of time with my family camping out and things like that. The Rahal’s have been going there – my grandfather raced there a long time ago. It’s been a huge part of our lives forever.”
In 2016, Penske driver Will Power won in the series’ return to the road course, while Rahal finished third behind runner-up Tony Kanaan. Rahal led two laps of the 50-lap event for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.
Rahal said he’s also looking forward to connecting with sponsor Gehl Company, a construction, agriculture and industrial compact equipment manufacturer based in nearby West Bend.
“Road America has good to me in the past, certainly I’m hopeful it will be good to us again,” Rahal said. “This year we’re excited to have the Gehl car back out there, in the bright yellow (livery). We’ve had them as supporters of mine since 2006.”
Rahal said he’s eager to get back to Elkhart Lake.
“The long straights obviously produce high speeds – great, fast corners – very high-commitment corners that I think everybody really enjoy,” Rahal said. “It’s just a phenomenal track. It’s really built so well for IndyCar racing.
“We go to tracks that aren’t necessarily ideal for what we’re doing, but Road America is just perfect. A lot of guys have always loved it because of that.”
The 2016 event was the first at Road America since 2007, where Rahal’s teammate at that time, Sebastien Bourdais, took the checkered flag. Bourdais and Rahal both drove for Newman Haas Lanigan Racing.
“It’s massive and great for our sport to be back there, and we’re very proud to race there,” Rahal said. “It’s great to have the consistency and to have the opportunity to go there again. We all want to see Road America on the schedule, so there’s no time off. It’s one of the iconic open-wheel tracks in the world.”