Rahal gets driver's seat, IndyCar leaders get hot seat

March 24, 2010
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With the news that Graham Rahal has found sponsorship to put him in the Izod IndyCar Series full-time this season, the open-wheel series is running out of excuses not to succeed.

Rahal is young, American and good-looking. After piloting Sarah Fisher’s Dollar General mobile for two races early this season, Rahal will be reunited with his posse at Chicago-based Newman/Haas/Lanigan for the rest of 2010.

The 21-year-old Rahal has been without a ride since McDonald’s pulled the plug on its sponsorship of his car following last season. That deal was largely due to McD’s relationship with the late Paul Newman and his line of salad dressings.

Many within the IndyCar Series decried Rahal’s inability to get a ride as a devastating blow to the series at a critical time. Now that he seems to have a solid, full-time ride—at least for this year, it will be interesting to see if his presence makes a difference in any of the critical measuring sticks; television ratings, race attendance and merchandise sales.

A sponsorship announcement for Rahal is expected later this week or next week. The son of three-time CART champ Bobby Rahal will team with Hideki Mutoh at NHL.

Rahal will pilot Fisher’s car in St. Petersburg this weekend and at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama April 11, before starting with NHL in Long Beach April 18.

Rahal, a road course specialists, should be a serious competitor this year, assuming he has decent equipment to propel him around the track. If Rahal is a front-runner in the series, which has become more dense with road races, that is good for the series on multiple fronts.

First, it widens the competitive base, which currently is woefully narrow. Second, it puts one of the series’ chosen cover boys in a position to actually get some positive attention.

The good news is ratcheting up for the series. But so is the pressure to perform.

One more excuse is gone. 2013 is looming. And the board of directors is watching.

  • More positive news. I figured when Rahal was being selective that he had something brewing.

    the IRL has all the tools, lets see what they can do with them.
    Yeah...they got all the tools all right. None of them are very sharp though.

    Anthony's foreshadowing is for naught...the 500 will fuel this IRL failure forever, win or lose, right or wrong. So, don't worry if they dump ovals for street races in Brazil and Baltimore. Or allow a retired general named LOONEY to construct a committee of non-speedway based pros get involved on making the decisions for the speedway. Naahh, nothing wrong with that....just as long as their not named "CART". Then everything gonna be alrighttt! Catchy, isn't it? IZOD ain't got nothin on me...lyricly!

  • 2013?
    There's nothing of essence for that year, 2013, that has to do with IndyCar other than they'll be racing with new chassis on the second season.

    And Chief, you seemed covered in grief. It is my belief that you're in need of relief.

    Igore those things you do not follow, otherwise you're a closet fan and your words are hollow.

    You're spending too much time and your dime, and to admit you're a fan is not a crime.
  • 2013 is a real deadline
    I've heard Terry Angstadt myself say that 2013 is the deadline the board of directors has given IRL officials for making this thing profitable. I think if that doesn't happen it's serious decision time ... so here's hoping Graham can help. But I must admit, I remain dubious. Not even Danica has budged ratings. Though Izod's ads are encouraging.
  • Barring a total melt down, IMS can't afford to shut down the IRL. Where else are they going to get cars to run the 500? i expect they will still be running in 2013 and beyond.

    • 500 post-IRL
      While I do not think this eventuality will occur, if the IRL fails the Indy 500 will be without a series. I would then look for it to be reconstituted as a NASCAR Sprint Cup race. The Lowe's motor speedway Coca-Cola 600 would move to August (taking the Brickyard 400's date on the NASCAR calendar) and the Indy 500 would be the Memorial Day NASCAR race. This would be a boon for NASCAR and the only option for the 500. Think of the ratings as Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart et al finally had the chance to win their "Indy 500." A bit far-fetched, sure, but if this series fails that's where we're headed.
    • NASCAR doesn't need the Indy 500
      Sorry, NASCAR already has a big race on Memorial Day. You, like most of the people in Central Indiana, have an over-inflated view of the importance of the Indy 500.

      With a Superbowl quality NFL team in Indianapolis, the Indy 500 is quickly fading into the background. 16th and Jonestown will soon be a shopping mall with an Indy 500 themed restaurant and bar for all the folks in Central Indiana to sit around and talk about how great it once was. Probably open some time around 2014, if not before.
    • Yep Yep
      George Anthony has it about right. Any number of things can happen to prevent this, but the smart money is the IRL folds in 2011. The owners then form a new Champ Car-like series with a new car, and run street parades for a few years, with an Atlantic-level following, until the whole thing collapses in a sea of debt. This should happen about 2014. Meanwhile, back at W. 16th and Georgetown, the sisters and crew take the deal, about $1 billion, and after the place sits empty and all 1945-like for a couple years, the headache ball swings and the ripper rips. A mixed-use shopping, sports-recreational, and residential facility goes in and yes, folks go to the Indy 500 Bar and Bistro and look at memorabilia from the 100-year run of the Indianapolis 500. George is also right about the self-importance of the race in Central Indiana. In most places in the country, the Indy 500 these days is not even known, much less followed. Go ask anyone in a sjopping mall or park in Seattle, Los Angeles, San Antonio, Boston, or Montana. It is a regional curiosity and fading fast, just like the IRL. All good things must come to an end. Especially ones that have alays hung in a delicate balance.
    • You would think the haters would eventually get tired of being wrong. I beleive the first calls that the IRL would fail was predicted for 1996. Then like clockwork every year they have predicted failure. And every year they have been wrong.

      Then you got Burl with his dearest wish that IMS would go away. Ignoring the fact that it still hosts the two largest single day sporting events in the world. That kind of ignorance in the face of facts charaterizes the hate felt by many of these haters. Hate that has to come from some personal issue with TG and/or IMS.
    • iman's issues
      The only times IMS has had to worry about car count was when iman and TOney were involved. Go figure.
    • ICS Dead? Not from my perspective
      You guys sounding the death knell for the ICS are being a way to presumptive. Lots of positives to talk about lately in ICS; Rahal finds a ride, Versus TV deal looking better with DirectTV back on board. Ratings were way up for the Sao Paulo race, which also drew a huge crowd of spectators. Also the hiring of Bernard as ICS CEO seems so far to be a great call. Reports are that a new chassis, engine, and tire formula will be anounced shortly after the 500 this year, with some pretty spectatcular looking prototypes being considered. Have you even seen the Delta Wing car? It appears to be as cutting edge as anything F1 has produced ans WAY beyond anything the flat roof guys drive. As far as wrecking balls and shopping carts coimg to the IMS? Close to 250k bought seats to the 500 last year, and almost as many for the NASCAR race, so I'd say the idea of IMS being turned into a strip mall is about as close to preposterous as one can get. Might I make a suggestion? Grab a brew or 2, and set yourelf down Sun and watch the St. Pete race. You might be surprisingly entertained. You may decide to tune into the next race in Alabama. Maybe even renew your season tickets at 16th and Georgtown.
    • The only time cart had to worry about bankruptcy is when the owners took over. they they hit it repeatedly. Your point is?

      24 cars for the season is a good number. Sounds like Indy should get more than 33 as well.
    • Congrats!
      ...to BUTLER for beating Syracuse.

      CART is dead and the IRL has never been profitable...EVER. $644 million has been spent to get the IRL in condition it's in: JUST LIKE CART. The IRL is what they hated and Indy lovers are eating it up. Suddenly street races, dropping ovals, foreign ride buyers, foreign back-breaker chassis, engine leases are all GOOD now. Hypocrites.
    • As usual you are wrong. The IRL is not just like cart. As you stated, cart is dead, IRL is not, no matter how much you wish it was. I get the feeling you wake up everyday praying and hoping it does so it revenges your dear departed cart.

      The IRL is more of what it should be then cart ever was. They still run ovals, they still run American tracks, they still run american drivers. Ride buyers are a fact of life in any series, but the IRL still has room for the little guy (or girl) trying to make it. See Sarah Fisher for proof of that.

      They have engine leases, but the cost of running the series is far cheaper then the mega millions cart cost. Again, it gives the chance for the little guys. now they have five major chassis manufacturers that are hoping their design is chosen so they can make it in America, and most likely in Indiana. Is the IRL perfect? nope, they have tried too hard to win back cart fans, for what reason, i do not know. But they are much closer to the vision then cart ever was.

      And it still kills you that your series committed suicide and the IRL still survives.
    • iman's issues
      iman still stuck in the '80s iman is cart's biggest fan these days, it makes him feel better about the pittiful condition of his league, comedy gold
    • I keep reading your posts hoping that you have found a clue....still waiting.

      if being lost in the 80's means enjoying a racing series that has ovals, American tracks, American drivers, affordable racing, close finishes, and the chance for even low budget teams to compete, then i guess i am.

      Although the haters keep dreaming that cart of the 90's and 00's was the cart of the early 80's. it was far from it.
    • Izod Indycar Series
      did you see the crowds in St. Pete? Neither did anyone else. hahaha
      THe IRLcar Series Suckage AMplified

    • did you see the cart race this week? No one else did either, because it is long dead and in its grave. Get over it. Your series lost. in the words of Chief, cart killed itself. Now i hope Belaskus is smart enough to not go down the same road or it will indeed kill itself as well. TG tried to walk a fine line to lure over cart fans after it died. some think he went too far. Some think Belaskus has gone too far. Only time will tell. But now is the time for you to take you hate somewhere else. We know you hate this series. We know you wish it, IMS, TG and pretty much anyting else associated with it goes away, and you do not care who or what gets damaged or destroyed in the process. That is truly sad.
    • CART didn't die, it's the IRL now
      In 2008 there was a merger of the remnants of CART/CCWS with the IRL. The CART/CCWS faction has essentially taken over 16th and Georgetown, again.

      Iman, you keep fooling yourself into believing it's not, but it is....and NOW you like it. They got Tony George tossed out, they have their bred racer Gil DeFerran on the committee (a Penske supported joint). Non-speedway types gonna tell the rubes at 16th and Jonestown how it's done.

      How does it feel to be owned by CART...errr the IRL?
    • Hey, how come?
      How come they didn't take John Barnes, or John menard or Sarah Fisher and put them Innianner types on the compass committee to find direction? What Leo Mehl doing these days? Ain't heard much from him since the 2000, 2001 Indy massacres. That's the guy the IRL needed or maybe even Howard Katz, the guy that backed the horse that Tony built.
    • So if the IRL is cart reincarnated, then you should be loving it. But you are not. Strange. Is it that unless you are the leader, you are not happy? Or is it that you are spouting off nonsense again?

      While the IRL is not as close to the vision as I would like, it is still much closer than cart was.

      I thought you haters predicted Barnhart would be out. I guess it is just another failed prediction.
    • Seriously
      What vision? there was no vision, it was all to seize control of AOW.

      Sir, I knew CART...I went to CART events...I enjoyed CART the series very much. The IRL is no CART. The IRL cars are ugly, the engines sound like crap and no one has a clue why it sucks so much.

      So, IF the IRL is CART reincarnate, then you should be hating it. But, you are not. Strange.

    • Izod Indycar Series
      When them foreigners buy the Speedway, iman will start h8in
    • FREE!
      In an effort to get a poorly attending St. Pete race attendance, the promoter allowed free admission for anyone on the Monday race.

      Certain IRL defenders feel this is good practice. Perhaps, but, cutting the market low on sanction fees and doing this free admission stuff is what pioneered the IRL's AOW venture in the first place.

      When you've gotten fans used to FREE and you still parade the same junk car forumla with the same winners for 10 years (like the IRL does), HOW are you going to get fans to PAY to watch it? Quite a conundrum for the IRL.

      GIve it all away FREE....just like the defenders of the IRL world suggest. I can't see how that's great for business.
      • So Chief, when did you start acting like Sybil? I swear you have multi personalities going on. Just above my post, you title your post "CART didn't die, it's the IRL now" you follow it up by this comment "The CART/CCWS faction has essentially taken over 16th and Georgetown, again." and this "How does it feel to be owned by CART". Then you post how the IRL is nothing like cart. Make up your mind. You are all over the place.

        Of course you must not have read or understood my post, because I clearly said " While the IRL is not as close to the vision as I would like, it is still much closer than cart was." Come on Chief, pull it together, it sounds like you are coming apart at the seams.

      • Strange how you make it seem like opening up the gates for free on rain delays is new. In '97 when the race was delayed till Tuesday because of rain, they did not have anyone watching the gates. Same in '86 when it was postponed to the next weekend. Part of the reason is many of the security guards had to go back to their regular jobs. '97 I was able to sit high in turn one. An area that I have held tickets in ever since.

        Same goes for most race series. Do you really think there were people taking tickets at Martinsville yesterday? Besides the fact that they would have had to get their normal tick takers back on a work day, how many people who sat through the rain would have a ticket in reuseable shape? I have been through many rain delays, and normally you and everything you have is soaked. Finally, it is worthwhile for the track owner to allow as many people as possible in so he can try to sell stuff to make up for the lost revenue from the day before. Good try, but St. Petes did nothing that does not happen at just about every other track.
      • Truth,

        Is that another prediction we should hang on the wall and then laugh at when it does not come true? You guys would really suck at seeing the future.
      • TOney TOney TOney
        we've been telling you for 15 years that the IRLcar series is a poor imitation of open wheel racing.
      • iman's issues
        we told you 15 years ago the IRLcar series would never make a profit and bankrupt the family
      • Izod Indycar Series
        we told you 15 years ago the IRLcar series would turn into a foreign strret race series for foreign strret race ride buyers
      • You have told us every year for the last 10 that the next year will be the last. You have told us that cart would take over the IRL. You have told us that Barnhart would be fired. you have been wrong time and again.

        By the way, the IRL has the closest most exciting racing there is. the series has not bankrupted the family. the series has not turned into a foreign street series and it is not full of foreign street ride buyers. That was cart.

        i guess you might as well continue the wrong predictions. good thing you are not a weatherman, you would have been fired a long time again.
        • ho hmm
          Wheres the St Pete ratings? Not too good, huh? Maybe the IRL product is CRAP...what with all the great promotion etc.

          Sao P had ratings next day for Versus...waht happened? Who could turn away from the closest racing EVAH!?
        • Delusional
          "By the way, the IRL has the closest most exciting racing there is."

          BZZZZT. WRONG.
          F1 and Superleague are the only OWR worth watching anymore, IMO.
          I'm thinking about a line in the movie Ed Wood, when I say: The IRL Doesn't deserve to sniff F1's or Superleague's exhaust fumes...
        • F1? Are you serious? Sorry, I cannot get excited about a sport where the time between first and second is decided by an hourglass and the race is typically won by who takes the lead on the first lap. Even the put crews sit in their garages sipping tea and champagne waiting for something to happen.
        • Considering the rain delayed race was run in the middle of a work day, I am betting the ratings were not high. Just like every other race that is delayed for whatever reason No reason to get your panties in a bunch. Besides, the IRL and Nielsen ratings are in cahoots to keep them from you, or do you not remember your previous posts?
        • But but but
          NASCAR rain delays garner MORE ratings.

          Cahoots? Those are your words...not mine. However, we do not see the IRL freely distributing the ratings, do we? Sponsors will know and that's all that really counts. That Skip Babrber race in Alabama will pack 'em though, huh? Betcha there'll be some IRL wine and cheesers there. Deliverance style!

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        1. How much you wanna bet, that 70% of the jobs created there (after construction) are minimum wage? And Harvey is correct, the vast majority of residents in this project will drive to their jobs, and to think otherwise, is like Harvey says, a pipe dream. Someone working at a restaurant or retail store will not be able to afford living there. What ever happened to people who wanted to build buildings, paying for it themselves? Not a fan of these tax deals.

        2. Uh, no GeorgeP. The project is supposed to bring on 1,000 jobs and those people along with the people that will be living in the new residential will be driving to their jobs. The walkable stuff is a pipe dream. Besides, walkable is defined as having all daily necessities within 1/2 mile. That's not the case here. Never will be.

        3. Brad is on to something there. The merger of the Formula E and IndyCar Series would give IndyCar access to International markets and Formula E access the Indianapolis 500, not to mention some other events in the USA. Maybe after 2016 but before the new Dallara is rolled out for 2018. This give IndyCar two more seasons to run the DW12 and Formula E to get charged up, pun intended. Then shock the racing world, pun intended, but making the 101st Indianapolis 500 a stellar, groundbreaking event: The first all-electric Indy 500, and use that platform to promote the future of the sport.

        4. No, HarveyF, the exact opposite. Greater density and closeness to retail and everyday necessities reduces traffic. When one has to drive miles for necessities, all those cars are on the roads for many miles. When reasonable density is built, low rise in this case, in the middle of a thriving retail area, one has to drive far less, actually reducing the number of cars on the road.

        5. The Indy Star announced today the appointment of a new Beverage Reporter! So instead of insightful reports on Indy pro sports and Indiana college teams, you now get to read stories about the 432nd new brewery open or some obscure Hoosier winery winning a county fair blue ribbon. Yep, that's the coverage we Star readers crave. Not.