Graham Rahal recently signed a multi-year extension with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, ensuring he’ll stay as a driver in IndyCar for at least a couple more seasons.
The veteran of 17 years waited until well after this past season was complete to finalize his new contract extension.
Rahal spent a lot of that time evaluating his situation, his desire to keep racing, and even his position within his family’s team before committing to more seasons behind the wheel.
Tipped as the person who will likely take over management of the team from his father Bobby Rahal, and showing a natural inclination towards business dealings, the decision of when to move onto the next phase of his racing career is not always an obvious one.
Rahal spoke to IndyCar.com about the thoughts that went into his recent contract signing, and what he found while evaluating his and the team’s options ahead of the announcement.
“What I found is what I kind of expected, which is that my desire is to remain racing – my love and my heart and everything else is in this game,” said Rahal.
“I wasn’t ready [to retire]; I’m not ready to just give up. I felt frustrated that I hadn’t won more. I felt frustrated that I haven’t helped, in reflection, make this team into a winner the last couple of years like I would have liked to.
“Because at the end of the day, as a driver, you can sit and go, ‘OK, Scott Dixon has won a ton of races because Scott Dixon is with Ganassi.’
“That is an accurate statement. But what is also accurate is that Scott Dixon helps that team more. And so, for me, you sit and look at it and say, ‘OK, well, what have I not done to make sure that RLL is a race winning organization?’
“There are certain restrictions to that. I mean, I do a lot of things within the organization. But there are things I think I could have done better and in reflection, it’s like, ‘Well, I’m not ready to just move along yet.’
“I’m not ready to give up on that dream of winning many races, not just Indy, but many, many races. And the [Gallagher Grand Prix] proved to me — not that I needed it – but that race, among others, proved to me again that I know how to win, that I can win and that I’m a driver capable of being up front. End of story.
“So that’s my focus is to get back in the seat and to get myself back into a place that we’re winning again.”
RLL collected one win last season when Christian Lundgaard snagged his first career win in Toronto, the team’s first since Takuma Sato’s Indy 500 victory in 2020.
The Gallagher Grand Prix was Rahal’s best chance at his own win, with the veteran scoring pole and leading 36 laps around the IMS road course.
He was chasing down Dixon for the lead in the final laps of the race, but ran out of time to make the pass and ended up finishing less than half of a second behind in second place.
Despite missing out on his first win since the 2017 Detroit Grand Prix, Rahal feels it is those types of performances that can keep fueling his motivation as he enters the later stages of his racing career.
“I wouldn’t say there was more pressure to finish this career off on a positive note, but the desire is more than ever before, and that’s actually been the case the last couple of years.
“That’s why the frustration has mounted a little bit the last couple of years [since] we haven’t been able to win.
“I mean, the [Gallagher Grand Prix] loss was kind of a fluky deal that we didn’t win. And that’s OK. But it was nice to feel that and have that heartbeat again, you know, to know you’re in the hunt.
“And so yes, for me right now, that is a huge part of this deal. That’s why it took so long for this [contract] to come together.”
Rahal will partner Christian Lundgaard and Pietro Fittipaldi for the 2024 season, which kicks off March 10 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.