Graham Rahal recovered from an incident in final practice and qualified a stout fifth for Sunday’s REV Group Grand Prix at Road America.
The 30-year-old Ohio native was on a flying lap in the last five minutes of the morning session when the left rear of his the No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda stepped out and clipped the grass on the exit of Turn 7.
Rahal skated across the track and backed into the signage, scraping the inside wall. There was visible damage to the left rear endplate, as well as the upper A arm when he returned to the pits.
He and RLL teammate Takuma Sato ended the session 16th and 18th, a far cry from where they were when they unloaded on Friday, both comfortably among the top 10 on pace.
Diligent effort from the crew got Rahal back out for qualifying, where he went sixth fastest in Group One of the first round; and then proceeded to repeat the result in the second round to make the Firestone Fast Six.
Ultimately, the second-generation driver put down a lap at 1m43.8076s (139.204 mph) to record his second top five start of the season.
Sato matched his teammate’s efforts, and wound up right behind in sixth.
“For both Takuma and I to make the Fast Six was a great recovery from where we were this morning,” said Rahal, who has two podiums in four starts at the 4.014-mile, 14-turn permanent road course.
“We both struggled quite a lot [this morning]. To recover the way we did, both of us making it into the Fast Six — that was impressive. The guys did a great job. The engineers have worked hard all year long.
“We also recognize that we struggled a little bit Indy GP, struggled here to get going. Just kept our heads down and here we are,” Rahal continued.
“Tomorrow will be a pretty interesting day, but to qualify up front here always makes life that much easier. We’re happy with it.”
There is additional motivation for Rahal this weekend as the six-time Indy car race winner is running a throwback livery that his father, Bobby, ran 25 years ago.
“Yeah, it’s cool,” said Rahal. “I mean, it’s a lot of fun for all of us to be a part of this, not only running the [Miller Genuine Draft throwback] livery, but also with Honda. They had a great performance here today. Four guys out of the top six is pretty impressive. And it’s also huge for Gehl, for Manitou, who has been a partner of mine from before Colton [Herta] was born. Since ’06 I haven’t done a race without them involved in my career. It’s special for them being based 45 minutes from here.
“This weekend brings back a lot of … we actually lost my cousin last year on this weekend, so good and bad memories. Just kind of everybody coming together here.
“But we’re excited for tomorrow. We’re hoping we can have a really strong day.”