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Rahal To Keep Driving For Rahal

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, June 8 2018

Driver Graham Rahal signed a contract extension it was announced on Friday. (File photos courtesy of INDYCAR)

FORT WORTH, Texas – Graham Rahal has found a home in the Verizon IndyCar Series, and he’s not about to change zip codes.

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing announced a five-year contract extension with Rahal during a news conference Friday afternoon at Texas Motor Speedway, site of Saturday night’s DXC Technology 600.

“Hell, I didn’t even read the contract last week,” said Rahal, who has driven for the team fronted by father Bobby fulltime since 2013. Graham has earned six wins, 27 podiums and 48 top-fives during his open-wheel career. Over the past three seasons, he has finished fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively, in the point standings. In two of those seasons, Graham was the highest-ranked Honda-powered driver.

“It’s been a lot of fun for me to be here,” said Graham, a 29-year-old native of New Albany, Ohio. “We’ve come a long way over the last handful of years. As a driver, you’re always…when you get in a contract year you always are testing the waters, that’s natural. But RLL has done a tremendous job and proven ourselves to be one of the premier teams in the series.

“A lot of this is thanks to our sponsors. Most of them are long-term contracts, so I was kind of the outlier in the deal. I’d like to think the next five years, and maybe after that, are the prime of my career. I’m excited to continue on here and build. The next five years should be awesome.”

Based in Brownsburg, Ind., (zip code 46112) RLL is co-owned by the elder Rahal _ the 1986 Indianapolis 500 champion _ former CBS “Late Show” host David Letterman and Mi-Jack co-owner Mike Lanigan.

“I have had Graham drive for me since he was 17-years-old in the Atlantic Series,” Lanigan said in a team release. “He has won in every series we have participated in together and I am very pleased to work together for the next five years. He is, and has grown to be, the most complete professional both on and off the racetrack and I am very proud to have him on-board for many more years to come.”

Bobby Rahal noted there are plusses and minuses to having a son drive as a team employee. “The plusses are you’ve got a guy who can stand on the gas and he’s proven that again and again,” said the elder Rahal, 65, citing Graham’s victory in the 2016 night race on TMS’ 1.5-mile oval. “I give Graham all the credit in the world.

“For our sponsors, it’s a plus having he and I together. It’s a lot of responsibility for me as a team-owner when your son, your blood, is in that car and you want him to achieve his goals. To me, it’s worth the pressure of that. I look forward to the next five years.

“You can say I’m biased, but I admire and respect Graham’s work ethic on and off the track for our team and sponsors.”

Graham, driver of the No. 15 Fleet Cost & Care Honda this weekend, is seventh in the 2018 point standings heading into Saturday night’s 248-lap/372-mile event (9 p.m., EDT, NBC Sports Network). He has scored three top-five and seven top-10 finishes in the season’s first eight events.

The 2018 season is the 12th in domestic open wheel racing’s premier series for Graham, who became the youngest winner in major auto racing history when he drove to victory in the 2008 Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg (Fla.) at the age of 19. Since 2015, he has won five Verizon IndyCar Series races.

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Rookie Robert Wickens and veteran Tony Kanaan emerged in a tie atop the speed chart following Friday’s opening practice for the DXC Technology 600.

Wickens and Kanaan each recorded a hot lap of 00:23.5621-seconds/220.014 mph around Texas Motor Speedway’s 1.5-mile oval during the 90-minute session. Wickens, a native of Toronto, Canada, logged 58 laps in his first stint around TMS as driver of the No. 6 Lucas Oil Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda.

Kanaan, the 2004 series champion and 2013 Indy 500 winner, ran 59 laps in the No. 14 Chevrolet fielded by native Texan and open-wheel legend A.J. Foyt Jr.

Sebastien Bourdais, a four-time Indy car champion, was third-fast at 219.619 mph in the No. 18 Honda fielded by Dale Coyne Racing. Bourdais did not compete at TMS last June while recovering from injuries suffered in a crash during qualifying for the 101st Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Alexander Rossi, the 2016 Indy 500 champion from Andretti Autosport, was fourth overall at 219.355 mph in the No. 27  Honda. Rossi was followed by Gabby Chaves at 219.064 mph in the No. 88 Harding Group Chevrolet.

Scott Dixon, a four-time Verizon IndyCar Series champion, was the last driver over 219 mph at 219.005 mph in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. Dixon won the first half of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix last Saturday on The Raceway at Belle Isle Park.

The session began with an INDYCAR-mandated 30-minute session to scuff-in tires. Teams were instructed to scuff-in four sets of Firestone Firehawk rubber before being cleared to run all-out for the final hour. Firestone Racing has brought more than 1,300 race tires to Fort Worth for the 22 entered teams. Each entry will receive 13 sets of Firehawk tires.

US Concrete Qualifying Day for the open-wheel series is set for 4 p.m. (EDT). Saturday’s edition of “America’s Original Nighttime IndyCar Series Race” is set for 248 laps/372 miles.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, June 8 2018
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