He has been out of high school for less than a year, and already Graham Rahal has started making a name for himself – in fact, he’s put himself into the racing history books. At just over 19 years of age, Graham Rahal has become the youngest driver to win an Indy-car race.
Graham Rahal has managed to beat former record holder Marco Andretti by just 74 days. Andretti was 19 years, 167 days old when he first broke the record for youngest Indy-car race winner as a rookie on the Infineon road course in Sonoma, California, in 2006. Now, just days ago, at 19 years and 93 days old, Rahal has replaced Andretti as the youngest winner in Indy car history. The new record was set at the St. Petersburg Grand Prix circuit in Florida, during the second race of the season. Yet this achievement definitely didn’t come easy.
The trouble started eight days earlier when his team couldn’t get his car repaired in time for him to race in the season opener. That meant that he had to sit the season opener out. When the race finally started, it was raining and Rahal started ninth. This relatively good position soon meant nothing when he got hit from behind by Will Power and spun out. When he eventually managed to recover he was almost at the back of the pack. In a start that would discourage most drivers, it would seem that Graham Rahal just hunkered down and worked harder at climbing his way to first place.
His first major boost came when he became one of the first drivers in the race to switch from grooved rain tires to slicks as soon as the track started to dry. This pit stop put him second in line for the restart. Ryan Hunter-Reay was in first place but needed to conserve fuel and so Graham Rahal was able to make a good start and get a good lead at the restart. With less that four minutes left to the race, another caution caused yet another restart. Graham Rahal was in the lead but he was constantly dogged by Helio Castroneves, the winner of the previous two St. Petersburg races, and he had to work hard to make sure that Castroneves didn’t overtake him. His hard work paid off and Rahal was able to pull away from Castroneves in the last four laps of the 1.9 mile street course. The race lasted just two hours and in that short time Rahal made history.
Rahal’s father Bobby, himself a three-time season champion, greeted Rahal in the victory lane. They hugged and his father said simply: “Nice job.” When asked about his success in a later interview, Rahal said that the win felt “great” and praised his team for doing an “awesome job”. Way-to-go Graham Rahal!