A TALE OF FORMER TEAMMATES
Rahal's plight since departing the Ganassi Racing team at the end of 2012 was encapsulated as he watched former teammate Charlie Kimball drive to victory at Mid-Ohio.
Rahal was one of the first to congratulate Kimball, and should be threatening for wins of his own before long, but it's hard to ignore how their respective fortunes have diverged over a 12-month span.
Rahal had, by his own estimation, an underwhelming stay with Ganassi's G2 team. Things never jelled between the driver and team, and despite finishing 10th in the standings last year – nine places ahead of Kimball – Rahal sought greener pastures with his father's Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing outfit in 2013. While the G2 program is now hitting its stride, the RLLR team is essentially starting over with Rahal's No. 15 Honda, and that rebuilding process will continue into 2014.
Kimball, who now equals Rahal with a single IndyCar Series win to his credit, sits eighth in points and has seven top-10 finishes so far this year. Rahal had seven top 10s for the entire (albeit shorter) 2012 season.
Hindsight's a luxurious tool to wield, and using Kimball's 2013 performances as an indicator, it's entirely possible Rahal would also be inside the top-10 if he'd stayed at G2. From the outside, it appears everything Rahal wanted and felt wasn't there for him at G2 has arrived.
Now he'll need to move RLLR into a similar position over the final five races and turn his program into a serious contender during the off-season – which his former general manager believes will happen.
“If you look at Graham and at Charlie, their backgrounds are somewhat similar,” said Mike Hull. “They come from racing families, from training in open-wheel cars, and came to IndyCar at similar levels of development. I think it's just the growth process. I put it down to realizing potential.
“Charlie's building consistency with the support of the G1 and G2 teams to stair-step himself up to the front. My expectation for Graham is the exact same thing. He's a race-winner. I'd like to think that if he was still racing for us, he'd have won a race by now. Charlie's reward is that he's stuck with it. But I have no doubt that Graham and his father will have their team where they want it to be very soon.”
FINE FORM FOR ED
There was an anxious moment when Ryan Hunter-Reay was closing in on his second and final pit stop. He was lapping in the 67.9 to 68.0 range on Blacks as that lap 60 stop drew closer, and found Ed Carpenter directly ahead of him on the track.
Carpenter, on Reds, was already a lap down as RHR was trying to fly on a light fuel load. It was a perfect opportunity for a misunderstanding to take place – one of the series' most experienced road racers happening upon one of the least experienced at turning left and right – yet Carpenter maintained the gap to the Andretti Autosport driver with a series of laps between 67.7 and 68.0.
Carpenter had better tires at his disposal, but was also carrying a half-tank of fuel, making his performance rather noteworthy. He'd go on to finish 20th, up from 23rd, yet looked like any other driver in the field.
“You want to get results, obviously, but if you look at the race, the consistency and the pace, it's probably the best road course race I've driven,” he told RACER. “The result doesn't show it, which is disappointing, but it's a step forward for us.”
Spend a moment with representatives from Chevy or Honda, and you'll hear the phrase “Race to 10” used when referring to the battle for IndyCar's engine manufacturer championship.
Based on the points structure for the manufacturers, the first one to earn 10 wins will take the title, and through the Iowa round – where Chevy-powered James Hinchcliffe was victorious and moved the win tally to 7-3 in favor of the Bowtie – it looked like the GM brand was a lock for its second consecutive championship.
Honda's recent streak has evened the count to 7-7, adding another theme to follow between Sonoma and Fontana.
Who wants to see more of James Davison and Luca Filippi?
Davison ran as high as fourth during his IndyCar Series debut and, despite his own prediction that he'd fade late in the race due to physical exhaustion, the Aussie held strong and finished 15th, one spot ahead of Filippi. The Italian also impressed, leaving his new team owners feeling rather happy about the risk they took by parking Alex Tagliani in favor of the GP2 veteran.
Filippi's pedigree suggested he'd jump into the Barracuda car and get up to speed right away, and on that front, the 27-year-old delivered. Davison was more of a question mark, and with the better part of four years away from open-wheel competition to overcome, I'd have to rank his performance as the most surprising between the two debutantes.
Filippi lived up to expectations while Davison came into Mid-Ohio as a bit of a mystery. When it was over, he'd matched or exceeded Filippi's output. Those kinds of surprises rarely occur in IndyCar; let's hope someone gives Davison a second shot to show if it was a one-time performance or if the kid's for real.