Ahead of Graham Rahal's debut with Sarah Fisher Racing at the next IZOD IndyCar Series race at St. Petersburg, Rahal and his new boss have revealed how the former Newman/Haas/Lanigan driver came to sign with Fisher's team.
Fisher admitted that her decision to step aside in favor of the unemployed Rahal for St. Petersburg and Barber Motorsports Park followed her own disappointing showing in the series' open test at Barber last month.
"I had two tests this winter, getting ready for the road courses and we're doing one‑offs this year," Fisher said. "We don't have a complete full schedule, and the first test didn't go that great. So I went back to the hotel and just thought about it. And I reached out to Rick Dreiling over at [primary sponsor] Dollar General and said, 'What do you think about this idea?' and he was very supportive of it. And so we started discussing who was available. And Graham was. So it all just worked itself out from there."
Rahal said Fisher's offer came as a complete surprise to him.
Obviously, it's extremely exciting for me, and the call came from Andy O'Gara, Sarah's husband. When I got it, it was a complete shock. It wasn't looking good for us to make St. Petersburg or Barber. One race, other than the 500, I don't want to miss every year is St. Pete. So when the opportunity came from Sarah and obviously Dollar General for me, I just had to jump right at it. I'm extremely excited and obviously very enthusiastic about everything that's gone on with SFR so far. And I think as we look to St. Pete and Barber, I think a lot of people are pretty optimistic. I feel like we should have a pretty good run at both places."
Fisher added that Rahal's inclusion in the team's program is part of its planned evolution.
"Graham says it best that we're quietly optimistic," she said. "But the whole point of what we're trying to accomplish here is really big picture thinking with the team and where it's going, and trying to have a shot at having good results. And I didn't see that as being a part of the big picture when I was testing at Barber. So obviously my team is a whole lot more important to me than my ego, and Graham's going to do a better job than I would have at the wheel for those two particular events."
Rahal emphasized that he is still working on running additional IndyCar events this season, and hopes his opportunities with Fisher's team will improve those prospects.
"As I said, I think this is a starting point, but I'd love to see where things go," Rahal said. "Hopefully, we can go out there and open some eyes and ears over the next couple of weeks, the next couple of races, and I think we've got a great opportunity to do so.
"I don't know, has there ever been a female race team owner that's won a race? Hopefully we can make something happen."