Graham Rahal, second year driver for Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing, on a "hot lap" during second day qualifying for the 2007 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks - The EDJE 2007
IRL Churn Turns To IRL Attrition - Graham Rahal Out
With the transition of as many as nine new drivers, most from the former and merged ChampCar World Series, an unanticipated result claims its first victim for the season opener.
One of the premiere teams to merge with the IRL, if not THE premiere team, four time series champion Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing has to pull one car out of the starting line-up. Graham Rahal, son of CART Series Champion and IRL team owner Rahal/Letterman - Bobby Rahal, has withdrawn from Saturday's Gainsco Auto Insurance Indy 300. The NHL Racing team felt that damage sustained in a Tuesday evening testing crash at Homestead-Miami Speedway was too severe to be repaired in time for the race.
The plan is to have the car ready to debut in Round 2 in St. Petersburg, Florida next weekend.
This excerpted from Racing One -
Rahal to Miss Opener
By J.J. O'Malley - RacingOne Contributor Posted Thursday, March 27, 2008
HOMESTEAD, Fla. - The short transition time for the former Champ Car World Series to prepare for the unified IndyCar Series opener has already taken its toll.
"We just don't have any parts," Rahal said. "Unfortunately, it's taken us out of it. We're just going to focus on next weekend, and that will be fine. That's what we should have done in a situation like this, and that's what we're going to do."
"The car bottomed and went around, and that was that," Rahal said. "That's how it goes. We were doing a good job. We were running quick and we had just passed Oriol (Servia) when it happened. Unfortunately, that's the way this kind of deal works."
Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing will field the No. 02 McDonald's Honda Dallara for Justin Wilson, among eight cars fielded by former Champ Car teams for the event.
Rahal's withdrawal drops the entry list to 25 for the 8 p.m. Saturday race. Practice and qualifying is set for Friday.
The Indianapolis Racing League needs to have more infrastructure support if the IRL plans to field between 25 to 30 cars for the 18 race 2008 season. It is a good thing that the Long Beach Grand Prix, which will have IRL points awarded, is running CCWS gear. With the attrition of ChampCar World Series teams actually being able to merge with the IRL … there should be plenty of PANOZ DP01 chassis' and parts to go around.
Further, Graham Rahal should be able to get back on the points track if he competes in Japan and Long Beach on the same weekend. At the very least, this would become a great open-wheel racing human interest coup!
UPDATE: Chatter from fan message boards have confirmed the following -
There has been an email confirmation issued from someone close to IRL Management that spare parts will not be readily available for new teams.
Maybe some concern that the CCWS guys might get up to speed a little quicker than the established guard would like them to be?
The best way to slow it down (reports showed Rahal was beginning to match some top veteran driver times before his spin ... even quicker than Servia) is to keep 'em off the track. If parts are tight, Rahal might just have company in the spectator stands before the first race even gets underway.
… notes from The EDJE