Now that the gears of silly season are finally beginning to turn in earnest, we were met yesterday with the long-anticipated announcement of Graham Rahal returning to Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing as their primary 2013 driver. It’s great to see RLLR back in the midst of things, and I think most of us would agree their resurgent participation in the Series is a big plus.
As for Rahal, many fans and pundits projected this was precisely where he’d land, and they were right. Graham’s tenure in Chip Ganassi’s stable had a few bright spots, but ultimately, both Rahal and the fans were frustrated by what seemed to be a team/driver partnership that never fully seemed to “click”. Right or wrong, the promise of Rahal with Ganassi’s outfit never seemed to materialize into what might be expected be a top-tier combination.
Now, at 23, Graham Rahal is a five-year IndyCar veteran, a winner who has also experienced the tough breaks and budget rides of the Series, and a driver who has worked to make his own way in IndyCar, regardless of what expectations his surname brings.
For Bobby Rahal, he’s grabbed one of the top free agents in the paddock, one he worked quite well with in their 2010 Indianapolis 500 effort, and one who has proven adept at finding funding in an absolutely brutal economy.
For both team and driver, this move simply makes sense, even if the last names involved were Jones and Patterson. But even with their father/son relationship, you won’t hear many cries of nepotism with this ride. It simply makes too much sense, with both sides having already proved they don’t need a family connection to have success in this series. Graham is a known quantity, a young but generally accomplished racer. Meanwhile, the RLLR team nearly won a couple of races last year with Takuma Sato, and there’s no reason to believe they can’t have at least that level of success with Rahal the Younger behind the wheel.
While Graham Rahal’s ride is secure for 2013, the situation at RLLR otherwise still shows plenty of fluidity. RLLR has been looking to run a second entry for some time, and it seems as if every driver from Takuma Sato to Ryan Briscoe has been mentioned as a possibility here. Rahal could be the first part of a nice 1-2 punch for RLLR.
We know from their history that both Graham Rahal and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing can compete and win. Now it’s time to see what the combined efforts of both parties brings about. There’s a good chance the results could be excellent.