After his sweep of last year’s Detroit Duals, it’s understandable Graham Rahal was eager to return. But after ninth- and 10th-place finishes in the Indianapolis Grand Prix and 500, he’s particularly eager to turn the page.
“Actually this weekend for me is energizing because I know May is done, and literally, come Tuesday after the [Indy 500 awards] banquet, I’m a new man. I love May, I love what the 500 is, what it stands for, but it wears me out. And this year I had no time to do anything in life. It’s hard to live that way and not get frustrated or run down or whatever. This weekend is kind of a breath of fresh air for me. So I’m excited to be here.
“You know, for me, the future, the schedule doesn’t look any better. Obviously we go to Texas, then I’ve got media days, and then I get to go to drag races [with wife Courtney Force] , so it’s not like I exactly get any time off any time soon, but I do feel a lot better, and if we could win that weekend, it would be that much better.”
While this year’s aero package figures to make the cars more of a handful on the downforce-dependent Detroit circuit, Rahal said he didn’t notice as much of a difference Friday as he had expected.
“I kind of expected [the difference] to be bigger. Like Turn 1 and 2 was still pretty darn fast in this car, and really the pace didn’t feel much different,” Rahal said. “There are areas for sure it’s got less grip — Turn 9 and 10 and around the fountain area and stuff, it’s less grip. But it still seems pretty good.
“The lap times I think are going to be close in the end, but I do think you’ve just got to work a little bit harder for it, there’s no doubt. The margin for error has shrunk down even that much further. It’ll be tough out there. But it seems to be pretty strong.”
Rahal is sixth in points coming into the weekend, and hopes another boost points-wise from Detroit’s double helping of races can help his season prospects even more than they did last year.
“The reliability of the car has been good. The pit stops have been good. I feel like I’ve done a good job in the races, not making mistakes and just trying to maximize what we have. But I have to make our life easier. We’ve got to qualify, obviously, a lot better, and I know that this has been a topic for years, so I don’t really want to talk about it too much, but if we could qualify up front, I think everybody else out here would be hating life, because on Sundays, rarely is there a car that’s better than us. But when you have to come from mid- or back of the pack all the time, you make your life really, really hard.
“Last year we just put the pieces of the puzzle together. This year, I just hope we can do the same. We should be pretty quick — I know that our consistency in the race should be pretty good. I just want to see it all come together start to finish because we’ve been the most consistent finisher throughout this entire year. I just want to be able to keep that going and to really put ourselves in a much stronger position in the championship when we leave here on Sunday night than even where we are today.”