Rahal Gets First, Quiet Taste of Driving A Chevy At Indy

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, May 26 2023

Graham Rahal got to try his Chevrolet-powered new car on for size on Thursday at Indy. (Photos courtesy of INDYCAR)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

Graham Rahal’s debut with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing during Sunday’s 107th running of the Indianapolis 500 will be a classic case of get in, shut-up and drive.

Nothing personal here, but Rahal’s switch from Honda to Chevrolet power involves protecting sensitive proprietary information between INDYCAR’s rival corporate OEMs.

A contracted driver with Honda Performance Development during his NTT IndyCar Series career, Rahal has replaced the injured Stefan Wilson in the No. 24 DRR/Cusick Motorsports Chevrolet after failing to qualify the No. 15 Honda fielded by Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing for the traditional 33-car field.

Rahal was allowed to familiarize himself with his newly-fitted seat and the No. 24’s high-tech steering wheel during a special “install session” with his crew Thursday afternoon on pit road at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The same courtesy was extended to Katherine Legge, who crashed into fellow-Brit Wilson during Monday’s post-qualifying practice in RLLR’s No. 44 Honda fielded by the team co-owned by 1986 Indy 500 champion Bobby Rahal.

Asked if he was handed a list of questions by Team Chevy’s engineers to not ask, Graham said, “Basically, anything. Not allowed to ask anything. But that’s OK. I’m appreciative of the opportunity. That’s all I need.

“I’ve asked some questions, but in respect to the situation, it’s not appropriate for me to push any harder. I think they don’t want to use the normal terms with me, which is fine. I can’t thank Honda and Chevrolet enough for allowing this opportunity. It’s been a real shock to me. I fully respect and understand the situation. But I don’t really need to know a lot. I just need to know when they want me to go where and how fast they want me to go, and that’s what we’re trying to do.

The smile has returned to the face of Graham Rahal at Indy.

“That’s why that 15 minutes was important. Yeah, I don’t necessarily need to go do a 30-minute session on my own and run around out there, but I did want to feel how does the car turn into the corner. You’re trying to understand some of that and it really all felt very similar _ steering weight, caster-wise _ all that stuff. Very close.”

Wilson, a 33-year-old native of Sheffield, England, qualified DRR’s No. 24 in the 25th position Saturday with a four-lap/10-mile average of 231.648 mph. However, Wilson’s participation in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” ended at 2:11 p.m. on Monday, when his car was struck from behind by Legge’s and forced into the outside SAFER Barrier in Turn 1. Wilson suffered a fracture of the 12th thoracic vertebrae and was declared ineligible to compete in Sunday’s 200-lapper.

Wednesday night at IU Health Methodist Hospital, Wilson underwent surgery with a T10-T12 Posterior fusion and internal fixation of the fracture. DRR reported the surgery was successful, with Wilson in “good spirits” and ready to start recovery.

“I’m here to fill a big void for the weekend, and ultimately next week we return right back home (to RLLR) and go race at Detroit,” Rahal said during a Media Day interview Thursday afternoon. “My job is to do Stef and to do CareKeepers and all the partners on this car, to do them proud and try to put together a great run and to go forward in the race.”

Rahal and Legge’s teams were allowed unlimited install laps (out-and-in) during Thursday’s time frame. However, the teams were not allowed to stay on-track to cross the start/finish line and famed 2.5-mile oval’s Yard of Bricks.

“You know, everybody at Dreyer & Reinbold and their partnership with Cusick Motorsports, everything so far has been really good, actually,” said Rahal, 34. “It is very weird, and they will tell you that. I certainly know as little about my car and the engine as I’ve ever known about anything I’ve driven in my entire life. Obviously, the engine is different. The brakes feel different. The buttons for your thumbs through the gloves is different. There’s a lot that goes into that. But it’s a race car and ultimately you’re going to go out there and try to get it better and try to go perform on Sunday.”

Rahal said the Chevrolet steering wheel is “more straight-forward” than the wheel that is the nerve center of his Honda. “The buttons were not a problem,” Rahal said. “They did a good job putting a couple of buttons in a couple different places to help me. The wheel was never going to be identical to mine, but I said, ‘Hey, let’s put this button over here, just to try to stop me from making an error.’ Like for instance, their pit lane speed control button was right where my radio button is, roughly. I certainly don’t want to hit those inadvertently. We made a few small tweaks like that, but generally everything is very, very similar.”

Rahal’s familiarization with Chevy’s twin-turbocharged V-6 will be amped-up during Friday’s two-hour Miller Lite Carb Day session, final time the cars will be on-track and running before Sunday’s race.

“I feel like we have a good chance,” said Rahal, who will be competing in his 16th Indy 500. “I feel like we have a very strong chance at it. But give me (Carb Day’s practice) to get a good feel. Yes, I just did in-and-out laps but I don’t know at all what the car feels like yet so I just need to get some laps. But I wouldn’t have done this if I didn’t think there was a good chance to go for it. You know, I don’t need participation trophies, right? I’d like to go win this thing.”

Rahal reportedly is driving a two-year-old Dallara chassis that has served as a backup at Dreyer & Reinbold Racing. The team owned by Indianapolis-based Chevrolet dealer Dennis Reinbold typically only competes in the Indy 500. Don Cusick is Reinbold’s business partner.

Rahal noted DRR’s backup chassis isn’t exactly a clean/one-owner. “I was joking earlier that I’ve had like 10 drivers come up and tell me they drove this chassis, so she’s been used up a little bit,” Graham said. “But the truth is, same at RLL, we’ve got Chassis No. 23 running around out here. That thing has been running around…I think I won Mid-Ohio in 2015 in that car and that thing has been run around for a million years. Once you get a good one, it’s good.  

It’s a little bit different, I think, from what I’m understanding just on its strength and stuff like that. But there’s no issues at all with it. I think the guys have done an amazing job to prep that thing in a short period of time. As I said, (Friday) we’ll go out there and see how it is.”

Rahal pointed out the current generation of Dallara chassis fitted with INDYCAR’s Aeroscreen is very weather and wind sensitive. “The cars are very ride-height sensitive,” Rahal said. “The cars of 10 years ago were so much easier to drive. These cars are not easy at all. I know it looks that way. It’s not. These cars have become animals to understand because of the mass and so many other things. But to understand what it takes to be good and how to care for the tire and all these things, so they are very sensitive to everything.

“As I kind of said, in some ways it’s nice that my job is to go out there and perform. I don’t have a whole lot else to do than that. Just focus on when I get in, is it comfortable for me, is it not, where is the car, how does it feel? And go race.  

“You know, it’s a crazy story, and let’s see where it goes.” 

Pre-event coverage on Race Day, May 28, will begin at 11 a.m. (EDT) on NBC, Peacock, Telemundo Deportes on Universo and the INDYCAR Radio Network. Green flag for the traditional flying start is set to wave at 12:45 p.m.

Additionally, SiriusXM listeners will have access to a live call of the race Sunday beginning at 11 a.m. on SiriusXM INDYCAR Nation (SiriusXM Channel 160) and NBC Sports Audio (SiriusXM Channel 85). Both channels are available to subscribers nationwide in their cars and on the SXM App.

Firestone Fast Six qualifying results Sunday for the 107th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge NTT IndyCar Series event on the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with rank, car number in parentheses, driver, engine, time and speed in parentheses:

1.(10) Alex Palou, Honda, 02:33.7037 (234.217 mph)
2. (21) Rinus VeeKay, Chevrolet, 02:33.7077 (234.211)
3. (6) Felix Rosenqvist, Chevrolet, 02:33.7713 (234.114)
4. (14) Santino Ferrucci, Chevrolet, 02:34.0695 (233.661)
5. (5) Pato O’Ward, Chevrolet, 02:34.4015 (233.158)
6. (9) Scott Dixon, Honda, 02:34.4066 (233.151)
7. (7) Alexander Rossi, Chevrolet, 02:34.4332 (233.110)
8. (11) Takuma Sato, Honda, 02:34.4416 (233.098)
9. (66) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 02:34.4558 (233.076)
10. (8) Marcus Ericsson, Honda, 02:34.5801 (232.889)
11. (55) Benjamin Pedersen, Chevrolet, 02:34.7246 (232.671)
12. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 02:34.7488 (232.635)
13. (33) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 02:34.7128 (232.689)
14. (3) Scott McLaughlin, Chevrolet, 02:34.7206 (232.677)
15. (27) Kyle Kirkwood, Honda, 02:34.7311 (232.662)
16. (20) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 02:34.8833 (232.433)
17. (2) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 02:34.9039 (232.402)
18. (23) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Chevrolet, 02:35.0837 (232.133)
19. (28) Romain Grosjean, Honda, 02:35.1744 (231.997)
20. (06) Helio Castroneves, Honda, 02:35.2032 (231.954)
21. (26) Colton Herta, Honda, 02:35.2055 (231.951)
22. (60) Simon Pagenaud, Honda, 02:35.2539 (231.878)
23. (18) David Malukas, Honda, 02:35.3270 (231.769)
24. (98) Marco Andretti, Honda, 02:35.3857 (231.682)
25. (24) Stefan Wilson, Chevrolet, 02:35.4083 (231.648)
26. (29) Devlin DeFrancesco, Honda, 02:35.6061 (231.353)
27. (78) Agustin Canapino, Chevrolet, 02:35.6287 (231.320)
28. (77) Callum Ilott, Chevrolet, 02:35.7212 (231.182)
29. (50) R.C. Enerson, Chevrolet, 02:35.7574 (231.129)
30. (44) Katherine Legge, Honda, 02:35.7971 (231.070)
31. (45) Christian Lundgaard, Honda, 02:36.7607 (229.649)
32. (51) Sting Ray Robb, Honda, 02:36.8293 (229.549)
33. (30) Jack Harvey, Honda, 02:37.0916 (229.166)


Winners (9) _ Helio Castroneves, Takuma Sato, Scott Dixon, Marcus Ericsson, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Tony Kanaan, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, Alexander Rossi.

Rookies (4) _ Agustín Canapino, R.C. Enerson, Benjamin Pedersen, Sting Ray Robb.

U.S. drivers (13) _ Marco Andretti, Ed Carpenter, Conor Daly, R.C. Enerson, Santino Ferrucci, Colton Herta, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Kyle Kirkwood, David Malukas, Josef Newgarden, Graham Rahal, Sting Ray Robb, Alexander Rossi.

International drivers (20 from 14 countries) _ Agustín Canapino, Helio Castroneves, Devlin DeFrancesco, Scott Dixon, Marcus Ericsson, Romain Grosjean, Jack Harvey, Callum Ilott, Tony Kanaan, Katherine Legge, Christian Lundgaard, Scott McLaughlin, Pato O’Ward, Simon Pagenaud, Alex Palou, Benjamin Pedersen, Will Power, Felix Rosenqvist, Takuma Sato, Rinus VeeKay.

Engines (33) _ Honda 16, Chevrolet 17 (all cars use Dallara chassis and Firestone Firehawk tires).

Point Standings (top-15): 1, Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing, 174; 2, Pato O’Ward, Arrow McLaren, 168; 3, Marcus Ericsson, Chip Ganassi Racing, 155; 4, Romain Grosjean, Andretti Autosport, 134; 5, Scott McLaughlin, Team Penske, 133; 6, Josef Newgarden, Team Penske, 131; 7, Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing, 127; 8, Will Power, Team Penske, 122; 9, Christian Lundgaard, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, 111; 10, Alexander Rossi, Arrow McLaren and Kyle Kirkwood, Andretti Autosport, 108; 12, Colton Herta, Andretti Autosport with Curb/Agajanian, 107; 13, Felix Rosenqvist, Arrow McLaren, 97; 14, Callum Ilott, Juncos Hollinger Racing, 92; 15, Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, 86.

Official NTT IndyCar Series entry list for the 107th running of the Indianapolis 500 Presented by Gainbridge at the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday, May 28, with car number in parenthesis, driver, hometown, car name with engine supplier and team entrant:

  1. (2) Josef Newgarden, Nashville, Tenn., Shell Powering Progress Team Penske Chevrolet/Team Penske
  2. (3) Scott McLaughlin, Christchurch, New Zealand, Pennzoil Team Penske Chevrolet/Team Penske
  3. (5) Pato O’Ward, Monterrey, Mexico, Arrow McLaren Chevrolet/Arrow McLaren
  4. (06) Helio Castroneves-(W), Sao Paulo, Brazil, AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda/Meyer Shank Racing
  5. (6) Felix Rosenqvist, Varnamo, Sweden, Arrow McLaren Chevrolet/Arrow McLaren
  6. (7) Alexander Rossi-(W), Nevada City, Calif., Arrow McLaren Chevrolet/Arrow McLaren
  7. (8) Marcus Ericsson-(W), Kumla, Sweden, Huski Ice Spritz Chip Ganassi Racing Honda/Chip Ganassi Racing
  8. (9) Scott Dixon-(W), Auckland, New Zealand, PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda/Chip Ganassi Racing
  9. (10) Alex Palou, Barcelona, Spain, The American Legion Chip Ganassi Racing Honda/Chip Ganassi Racing
  10. (11) Takuma Sato-(W), Tokyo, Japan, Deloitte Honda/Chip Ganassi Racing
  11. (12) Will Power-(W), Toowoomba, Australia, Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet/Team Penske
  12. (14) Santino Ferrucci, Woodbury, Conn., Homes For Our Troops Chevrolet/A.J. Foyt Enterprises
  13. (15) Graham Rahal, New Albany, Ohio, United Rentals Honda/Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
  14. (18) David Malukas, Chicago, Ill., HMD Trucking Honda/Dale Coyne Racing with HMD
  15. (20) Conor Daly, Noblesville, Ind., Bitnile.com Chevrolet/Ed Carpenter Racing
  16. (21) Rinus VeeKay, Hoofddorp, The Netherlands, Bitnile.com Chevrolet/Ed Carpenter Racing
  17. (23) Ryan Hunter-Reay-(W), Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Chevrolet/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing
  18. (24) Stefan Wilson, Sheffield, England, DRR Cusick CareKeepers Chevrolet/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing
  19. (26) Colton Herta, Valencia, Calif., Gainbridge Honda/Andretti Autosport with Curb-Agajanian
  20. (14) Kyle Kirkwood, Jupiter, Fla., AutoNation Honda/Andretti Autosport
  21. (28) Romain Grosjean, Geneva, Switzerland, DHL Honda/Andretti Autosport
  22. (29) Devlin DeFrancesco, Toronto, Canada, Sodexo Honda/Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport
  23. (30) Jack Harvey, Bassingham, England, Kustom Entertainment Honda/Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
  24. (33) Ed Carpenter, Indianapolis, Ind., Bitnile.com Chevrolet/Ed Carpenter Racing
  25. (44) Katherine Legge, Guildford, England, Hendrickson Honda/Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
  26. (30) Christian Lundgaard, Hedensted, Denmark, Hy-Vee Honda/Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
  27. (50) R.C. Enerson-(R), New Port Richey, Fla., Abel Motorsports Chevrolet, Abel Motorsports
  28. (51) Sting Ray Robb-(R), Payette, Idaho, biohaven Honda/Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing
  29. (55) Benjamin Pedersen-(R), Copenhagen, Denmark, A.J. Foyt Racing/Sexton Properties Chevrolet/A.J. Foyt Enterprises
  30. (60) Simon Pagenaud-(W), Montmorillon, France, AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda/Meyer Shank Racing
  31. (66) Tony Kanaan-(W), Salvador, Brazil, Arrow McLaren Chevrolet/Arrow McLaren
  32. (77) Callum Ilott, Cambridge, England, Juncos Hollinger Racing Chevrolet/Juncos Hollinger Racing
  33. (78) Agustin Canapino-(R), Arrecifes, Argentina, Juncos Hollinger Chevrolet/Juncos Hollinger Racing
  34. (98) Marco Andretti, Nazareth, Pa., KULR/Curb Honda/Andretti Herta with Marco & Curb-Agajanian

Note _ All cars use the fourth generation NTT IndyCar Series chassis (Dallara IR-12) with universal IR-18 aerodynamic bodywork, Chevrolet or Honda twin-turbocharged V-6 engines and Firestone Firehawk tires.

(W) _Denotes Indianapolis 500 winner

(R) _ Denotes Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year candidate


Sunday, March 5 _ Streets of St. Petersburg, Fla.: Marcus Ericsson, Chip Ganassi Racing

Sunday, April 2 _ Texas Motor Speedway, Fort Worth: Josef Newgarden, Team Penske

Sunday, April 16 _ Streets of Long Beach: Kyle Kirkwood, Andretti Autosport

Sunday, April 30 _ Barber Motorsports Park, Birmingham, Ala.: Scott McLaughlin, Team Penske

Saturday, May 13 _ Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road-Course: Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing

Sunday, May 28 _ Indianapolis Motor Speedway Oval, NBC/Peacock

Sunday, June 4 _ Streets of Detroit, NBC/Peacock

Sunday, June 18 _ Road America, Elkhart Lake, Wis., USA Network/Peacock

Sunday, July 2 _ Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Lexington, Ohio. USA Network/Peacock

Sunday, July 16 _ Streets of Toronto, Peacock

Saturday, July 22 _ Iowa Speedway, Newton, NBC/Peacock

Sunday, July 23 _ Iowa Speedway, Newton, NBC/Peacock

Sunday, Aug. 6 _ Streets of Nashville, NBC/Peacock

Saturday, Aug. 12 _ Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road-Course, USA Network/Peacock

Sunday, Aug. 27 _World Wide Technology Raceway, Madison, Ill., NBC/Peacock

Sunday, Sept. 3 _ Portland (Ore.) International Raceway, NBC/Peacock

Sunday, Sept. 10 _ WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, Monterey, Calif., NBC/Peacock

(Editor’s Note: John Sturbin is a Texas-based journalist specializing in motorsports. During a near 30-year career with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, he won the Bloys Britt Award for top motorsports story of the year (1991) as judged by The Associated Press; received the National Hot Rod Association’s Media Award (1995) and several in-house Star-Telegram honors. He also was inaugural recipient of the Texas Motor Speedway Excellence in Journalism Award (2009). His list of freelance clients includes Texas Motor Speedway, the Dallas Morning News, New York Newsday, Rome (N.Y.) Daily Sentinel, Corpus Christi (Texas) Caller Times, NASCAR Wire Service, Ford Racing and Used Car Dealer magazine).


| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, May 26 2023
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