“I believe it’s going to put on one of the best oval races, period.”
Rahal at the Winter Classic with fellow Bridgestone guest Aly Raisman, one of the most highly-decorated U.S. Olympic gymnasts in history. (Russell photo)
January 4 – INDYCAR star Graham Rahal is becoming a regular visitor to the St. Louis region. He was in town Monday for the NHL’s Bridgestone Winter Classic and will be returning next week for a corporate appearance. He then will practice in his Honda-powered INDYCAR at Gateway Motorsports Park on May 2 in preparation for the inaugural INDYCAR 500 on August 26.
“It’s cool for me to be here,” Rahal said Monday. “A couple of my buddies play for the Blues. Alex Pietrangelo came to the Indianapolis 500 with us last year. Being a big hockey fan in general, it’s fun to come out to support them.”
The son of Bobby Rahal, a three-time Verizon IndyCar Series champion and winner of the 1986 Indianapolis 500 — and husband of NHRA Top Fuel Dragster driver Courtney Force — is looking forward to competing in GMP’s inaugural INDYCAR 500.
“I’m anxious to come here at the end of August to go racing. I was excited, for various reasons, to see Gateway added to the 2017 INDYCAR schedule. Of course, to add a race to the schedule, but track owner Curtis Francois is a great guy — a top-notch guy. I’ve known Curtis for a handful of years, coming to Gateway with my wife Courtney, watching her drag race. To see the time, dedication and money spent on the oval track to improve it — to get the facility back up and running again — I was excited by that. I think Curtis’ approach is really good. I hope we get a great crowd — that’s going to be the biggest key to the life and stability of the event.
“It’s going to be awesome racing. The track was a lot of fun at the tire test last October. I think it’s going to put on the best short-oval race that we’ll have all season long. It’s very difficult to set up a car when the turns are different like at Gateway. You have to get your handling, your balance close enough and really you focus on Turns 1 and 2 for that. But at the same time, aerodynamically, you can run a lot of downforce. You’re gonna be flat out because the straightaways are so long. It’s unusual to have that length of a straightaway on a mile-and-a-quarter track. Because of that, you want to trim aero, take off the drag, because you want to go fast down the straights. Come race day, you’re going to have a mix of guys who want to run a lot of downforce and just try to stay pinned but then you’re going to have guys who are going to commit to just lifting (the throttle) and reduce all the downforce. You’re going to have an interesting mix of all these different things. I believe it’s going to put on one of the best oval races, period.”
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