This may not be the same issue as it was a few years ago, but there's always been a need for an American to step up and carry the banner for the States in this open-wheel series. Do you still feel that there needs to be an American star to make this thing go to the next level?
GRAHAM RAHAL: I do. I think there needs to be an American star. At the same time, putting Danica aside, I would say the most popular people are not Americans. I can see how people can say, "That's because there haven't been that many Americans over the past several years." At the same time you look at the names that are most widely recognized in this sport and really, none of them are American.
I would say while it is important, we're going to see what happens this year. We've got a great field of American drivers, a really good group of people who can certainly succeed. We'll see how the fans take that, how they react to the fact that there's an American in the National Guard car, me obviously in the Service Central, Hunter-Reay, Danica, Marco. There's a long list of Americans to cheer for now. We'll see how it goes.
Your thoughts on some of the rules changes that are going to be different this year, capping the field at 26, making 24 cars get in on speed, the others on provisionals. The green flag is going to come much later. What are your thoughts on that?
You know, the 26 cars is good. We're not NASCAR. We don't try to be NASCAR. We're not going to have 43 cars running around St. Petersburg. That's just not going to happen. I think 26 cars is great. I'm not one for provisionals. I think you should always earn the right to be in the race. That's fine.
Double-wide restarts, I'm glad they're starting at St. Pete and not the Indy 500 because that's not what we needed.
There's this rumor of this "Lucky Dog" thing. Mixed emotions about it, but I think it's a great idea. Really, it gives you a great opportunity that if something goes wrong you can get your lap back fairly easily, get right back in the race and have a good shot at it. I think that's pretty exciting.
Two-wide restarts, most of the places we run anyway, we end up being two-wide the minute we cross the start/finish line. I don't think that's going to make that big of a change. It's only how they handle lap traffic. You don't want a back marker up there taking out the leaders. That won't go over very well.
I think it's great. If we can have 26 cars at every event, I think that's showing a huge turn in momentum for our series. I think we're already seeing that. We're seeing a lot of sponsors get involved in the sport in a much bigger way. But I think they're doing the right things and I stand behind them. I always have. Whatever it takes to make the show a little more exciting, I'm perfectly fine with that.
Also on the $5 million challenge, if you were to come up with your list of five drivers you would like to see try it, who would they be?
GRAHAM RAHAL: Honestly, if I had to say five drivers, I couldn't list you five right now. I'd prefer to see NASCAR guys come over, because I think often the perception is if you're just the average fan, people would probably tell you that NASCAR guys are the greatest drivers in the world. I think it would be interesting to have them there and compare. It would be a lot easier for them to go to Vegas and compare to us than going to St. Pete, because the results wouldn't be very good.
I'd like to see five NASCAR guys give it a shot. If not, Formula 1 – it will never happen just because of the world that we live in now. But you could get some guys that are semi-retired come out, give it a shot, probably do a great job. It will be interesting to see exactly who steps up.
Of the NASCAR guys, you can guarantee that Montoya and anybody who's had any sort of open-wheel experience, Tony Stewart, probably Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson is a great driver, those guys are all going to make the Chase so we're not going to see them, but those types of guys, it would be great to have them there and I think they'd do a great job.