Graham Rahal feels right at home on Mid-Ohio course

Posted at 5:22 PM, Jul 30, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-30 17:22:07-04
LEXINGTON, Ohio (AP) -- Graham Rahal grew up at this track.
The Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course is about an hour north of his home in suburban Columbus. And he watched his father, 1986 Indianapolis 500 winner Bobby Rahal, navigate its 13 turns.
Before that, Bobby Rahal's father, Mike, also raced there.
"This track, probably to my dad, means more to him on a personal level than it does a driving standpoint," Graham Rahal said Friday. "We all enjoy driving here, we all love this facility. If you go back to (track owner) Jim Trueman, my grandfather raced here in the early `60s. My dad raced here like `72.
"This is a special track to the Rahal family. It goes back to Jim Trueman and the opportunity he gave my dad to go racing."
Bobby Rahal won two IndyCar races at Mid-Ohio and Graham finally joined him in the winner's circle last year, his third victory in the series.
Rahal, driving for Rahal Letterman Lanigian Racing, will defend his Mid-Ohio title Sunday after qualifying Saturday for the sixth position on the outside of Row 3.
Series points leader Simon Pagenaud earned his sixth pole this year by setting a course record for the fastest lap at 127.271 mph. Team Penske teammate Will Power, who was has won three of the past four races, will join him on the front row.
Knowing the twists and turns of the 2.258-mile course is an advantage for Rahal. But with the ever-changing track conditions, drivers are always looking to adjust.
The last practice session Friday was shortened because of rain and there was a brief shower during qualifying Saturday.
"You know every time you go out on this track, the conditions are going to change and you want to predict what will happen with the car, especially with putting on new tires," two-time Mid-Ohio winner Helio Castroneves said.
To make last year's win even sweeter for Rahal, he wore a helmet designed like the one worn by his beloved Ohio State Buckeyes in honor of their 2014 national football championship.
"Everyone knows this, but I love Ohio. I'm very proud to be from Ohio," he said. "That event means so much to me. To win it is a career accomplishment that I will never forgot or take for granted. I sure hope it happens again, but you never know."
He's back this year with not only the helmet but a scarlet and gray fire suit that looks like the Buckeyes' home uniform. It complements his OSU inspired gloves and shoes.
The outfit will be auctioned to benefit Ohio State's engineering program.
"I thought let's do head to toe, the Buckeye suit," Rahal said.