In many ways, time might be flying by faster because Rahal knows now that he must deliver. This is his “Will Power moment,” and he must prove worthy. As with Power before his blockbuster season in 2010 with Team Penske, everyone knows Rahal has championship potential. It's turning potential into reality that has Rahal moving faster than the perceived speed of time.
“It's not, ‘Hey, let's get Dario's and Dixon's hand-me-downs and go off and try to win races,'” Rahal says. “We've got our own equipment. We've got great stuff, there's no doubt. There will be no excuses, but it will take a ton of effort and an entire team to make it all come together. When I was with Newman/Haas, Sarah Fisher Racing and Dreyer & Reinbold [BELOW], I prided myself on being good at developing relationships with the people I work with. It's not something that happens overnight.”
Again, that goes back to pedigree. But it also goes back to understanding and utilizing what's been inherited. In other words, not just getting the gift, but knowing how to use it.
“Everybody assumes or takes for granted that sons of famous race drivers just have that ability and understanding of the entire picture. They're supposed to just know what's going on, but that isn't always the case,” Hull says. “They're immersed in racing from a young age, but sometimes they don't put it all together. Graham is one who gets it. He understands the big picture.”
Rahal smiles at the thought. When he was young, he would follow his dad into the basement to watch him work out, witnessing this strange ritual of lifting weights and sweating and running – a ritual that seemed to have nothing whatsoever to do with driving a car. As he got older, Graham followed his dad to the races. The off-track effort began to make sense. An understanding of the complicated pieces of motorsports fell into place before wide, eager eyes.
“I've always felt like in a big way I was a student of my dad as far as listening to him and watching him,” Rahal explains. “My dad is one of the most respected guys out there. He might not have had the talent of a Michael Andretti or guys like that, but he far outweighed their accomplishments. They may have won more races, but they didn't win Indy or championships like Dad did. He showed it's not just about God-given talent. It's about how much effort you put into it.
“I tried to always take that from my dad. I tried not to be too involved when I was a kid, but I always wanted to be right there and see it, and that has been a benefit to me. There haven't been a whole lot of things I haven't been told about or seen. And if I haven't, I can always go to him and ask about it.”
And now there are more possibilities to improve by osmosis. In Franchitti and Dixon, Rahal has access to the knowledge behind five championships and three Indy 500 victories. He's in the odd position of learning from them while attempting to outrace them.
“I'm very fortunate to have two guys to work with and learn from,” Rahal says. “Those two guys have split the last four championships and three Indys between them. The knowledge is incredible. These are guys who are very experienced. The goal is to compete with them, and that notion has always been very hard for me to grasp. When I was teammates with [Sebastien] Bourdais and Justin [Wilson], it was hard for me to visualize where I would be when I was their age. I just wanted to get out there and beat them but at the same time learn from them. This is an awesome opportunity for me because I've got those two guys to pull from.”
If only he could pull on the clock – counterclockwise, of course – to make the days and years last a little longer.
• For the full version of this feature article, plus much more, check out the February 2011 issue of RACER magazine. CLICK HERE to subscribe.