I've barely had a chance to breathe since last checking in. We've had three races of both programs, while my family is in a nice home in Michigan and I'm at O'Hare Airport! But there's no rest for the weary.
I think on the whole, it was nice to be back in Columbus this past weekend. There was the chance to see old friends. On Wednesday, we had the car show and a charity dinner for the Buckeye Ranch. It was attended by a number of ALMS and IndyCar guys, of which I'm always appreciative. We raised a lot of money for the Buckeye Ranch which was good.
Additionally, we had a car show at Easton Shopping Center, the premier shopping center in Columbus. Everything from a Le Mans-winning Porsche 962, to a bunch of BMW historic cars, the LMR that won Sebring in 1999, McLaren F1, Porsches, Jaguars, MGs, Corvettes – great, old ones – and that was a lot of fun. It drew a huge car crowd with fans of all ages.
I really hadn't seen the BMW guys in ALMS too much since Lime Rock. But that program is a credit to all those involved. With Jim Prescott, who's been involved with me since 1979, and who runs that program along with Jay O'Connell, I don't want to say it's automatic, but they run so well. We have great people in that team. It's not a squeaky wheel that needs to be greased! They may think I ignore them but I don't! It's just the way they're doing their thing.
Honestly, that's a struggle for us right now. Porsche came out with a new car this year, and Corvette was given a number of enhancements, including opening up the fuel filler, so they could fill the fuel tanks faster. And only the ESM Ferraris were given a bigger restrictor so it's really kind of gone against us on the rules-making side. Our guys have to drive every race lap like it's qualifying, and that's tough to do on a consistent basis. We're fighting an uphill battle right now, which is disappointing but you always try to make the best of it.
Still, I love that series, I love sports car racing in total and I'm sure our day will come. I really do like the combined weekends between IndyCar and ALMS. They are good for each other in my opinion. Long Beach, Mid-Ohio and Baltimore and of course we used to have the Champ Car/ALMS weekend at Elkhart Lake. It brings a lot of people in and creates a lot of interest.
Lately, we've benefited from the unfortunate circumstances of others. This week one of the Corvettes had a major problem, and the Lizard Porsche appears the fastest car out there, but they failed tech inspection at Mosport. That's all great, but having said that, you can't base the success of your program on the demise of others. You have to be competitive. The unfortunate reality is we're about the third best car out there right now.
From a tire perspective, we tried to get a bigger Dunlop (Michelin and Falken have introduced taller front tires this year for GT, -Ed.), which is run on the Z4 for example in Europe. But it was not approved. We know Dunlop is a great partner, they do a great job and they're motivated. We know that tire would help us, but you have to make the best of what you have.
With Takuma in IndyCar, believe me, no one was happier than I was that he not only ran second but finished second at Edmonton! I've said all year that it's very clear Takuma is a very good driver, and with disciplined driving, he can be there.
The key to IndyCar is qualifying. At Edmonton we qualified well, and ran up front the whole race. At Mid-Ohio, we didn't, and we spent the whole race trying to catch up. Even the guy with the best three-stop strategy – Hinchcliffe – the best he could do was fifth. He'd started 15th or 16th and we were 18th.
The point is, without yellows, and I don't care what strategy you're on, it's always hard to get to the front. You'd have to be bullet fast in order to overcome that gap. In Mid-Ohio we were fast, but not that fast. We were ahead of Graham and Pantano, and I think Graham was the only guy that qualified behind us that beat us, but guys like Barrichello and Newgarden ran in front of us for most of the race but ended up behind us at the finish so I guess it wasn't too bad. However…
If you're on these different strategies, you have to be extremely quick to make up the difference. We were a second a lap faster than the leaders for a lot of the race. The problem is, we stopped early, and we were 30-40 seconds down. You can take a 40-second deficit and make it a 30-second deficit, but we couldn't make it a 10-second deficit. Then you get stuck in traffic – we got stuck behind Ed Carpenter for a while – and it kills you. You almost need to be going two seconds a lap faster than the leaders, who are saving fuel. It was the right strategy but we didn't quite have the pace to make it really work.
With that said, we finished again. We're still 13th in the championship, and I don't see why we can't make up more positions. At least we're finishing and we're running well in the races, and it's a matter of time before we break through.
It is so hard right now given how deep the field is. I love these races that have no yellows – that's racing to me. I hate yellows. I prospered many times in my career thanks to yellows, but I still hate them! They interrupt the flow of the race. Sometimes they're thrown and you wonder, “What was that thrown for?” I think it's phenomenal and fantastic that these drivers have been able to drive these last two races without yellows.
But it's really tough on these guys. When you see Tony Kanaan not be able to stand up to do a television interview after a race, that should tell you something. Nobody's more fit than Tony.
In the end, without yellows, you have to qualify up front. Qualifications are everything. You need to be in the top six or eight to have a reasonable chance of winning the race, unless there's some freak occurrence that happens.
It was a long time ago we did the back-to-back with no yellows. Overall, I think that yellows tend to get thrown way too early. They interrupt the flow. But I'm proud of all the guys, because they've got through Turn 1 and 5 at Edmonton, Turn 3 and 7 at Mid-Ohio, and in every 90 or 180-degree corner, they made it. That's pretty good.
Lastly, with Graham now coming on the market, my whole view on this is that Graham needs to go to the best place for Graham. I think he's got some criticism for his “wanting to be treated like a number one” line, but I think he's due.
At Newman/Haas in 2009, that was a very good year for him. I don't think he ever qualified outside the top six on road courses, he was third in Richmond on an oval, third at Motegi on an oval, fourth at Indy qualifying, and then the team imploded when the sponsorship went away. From there he bounced around.
He's shown the ability. If he were to come here, and drove for RLL, I don't think that reflects badly on him or me. Anyone who would come to our team, if it was him or whether it was a Ryan Hunter-Reay, Will Power, you name it, our obligation is to create the best team possible.
For sure, we're interested, and we're chasing him. But I'm sure we're not the only ones. It would be great to have him. He has a lot of potential, and he's still a very young guy in racing terms. It would be great if we put something together.
As a father, I want to make sure he's in the best possible situation, wherever that might be. It would be fun, but only if it was the right situation, and if he was ready to be on board. But I think he's earned the right to be treated the same as a Franchitti, a Dixon, or any of those guys, because he's shown he's capable of competing against them. He's just been inconsistent. You can talk about strategy calls or whatever all you want, but when you're the focus, you achieve great things. For him, it's about being the focus.
And for us, it's about finishing strong these last few IndyCar races and moving up with our BMW. I look forward to checking in with you soon.
Bobby Rahal and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing competes with Takuma Sato in the No. 15 Dallara-Honda in the IZOD IndyCar Series and with two BMW M3s in the American Le Mans Series. To learn more about the team, go to www.rahal.com. Rahal is also on Twitter at @BobRahal.