Bobby Rahal’s goal of adding a third full-time entry has remained strong in recent years, and with continual movement on the sponsorship acquisition front, the 1986 Indy 500 winner says the odds of making it happen are extremely favorable.
“What I can tell you is that I think we’re probably the closest we’ve ever been to having the funding for a third car,” he told RACER. “That’s different than where we’ve been in the past. Not everything is done, but certainly, all the indications are that it’s pretty strong. That’s how I feel.”
Giving the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team a third shot at winning each round serves as the basis of Rahal’s motivation. A secondary reason for the Honda-powered team to seek expansion involves preparing for the future. Rahal’s son Graham (30) is in the prime of his career; 2017 Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato (42) has a few more years left on the clock, but as a whole, getting younger is clearly on RLL’s mind.
“Obviously, Colton Herta’s the hot ticket, but who knows where that situation is,” Rahal said of the 19-year-old rumored to be on the move from Harding Steinbrenner Racing. “I’m not sure quite what all is planned there, but we’ve talked to a few others like Felipe Nasr, who tested for Schmidt; we think he’s got a lot of potential.
“What I think has been clear is that Indy Lights, while you’d like to see twice as many cars in those races, is the Indy Lights program is generating guys who can get into an IndyCar and do well. You look at what Colton did, going from that to an IndyCar, you look what Pato O’Ward did. He was quite quick right out of the box. You’d be dumb if you weren’t looking at the younger generation.
“Ryan Hunter-Reay, he’s 38, Scott Dixon’s, what, 39? There’s a number of guys that are getting towards the retirement age, although they’re still super-competitive, so who knows. They could probably drive like I did, until I was 45. Who knows on that front, but I think there’s going to be a lot of opportunities for young guys. The guard is changing and will continue to change even more so in the next three years or so, and you want to be ahead of it instead of behind it, which we’re trying to do by taking on a third car.”