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Rahal poised to step up.

At 20 years of age, Graham Rahal could be finishing up his sophomore year of college and debating whether spring break should take him to Cancun, Fort Lauderdale or South Padre Island. Instead, he is entering his third season with Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing, now as the anchor of a team that won two races in the IndyCar Series last year.

Rahal, who has been team-mates with Sebastien Bourdais and Justin Wilson the last two seasons, will step up to the red-and-yellow #02 McDonald's Racing Team entry previously campaigned by the frontrunning pair, having earned the position with a fifth overall as a rookie in the final year of Champ Car, and a strong showing in the unified IndyCar Series that included a record-setting victory in St Petersburg.

“I think the expectations that are put in place aren't necessarily because of my role on the team, but more because of the fact that I want to go out there and win races and be successful,” said Rahal, who became the youngest winner in major open-wheel racing history when he won on his IndyCar Series debut in 2008.

“Coming from a situation in Champ Car and transitioning here last year, it's all building blocks and leadership skills and a lot of learning that's taken place. Basically, every step in my career has been a learning year for me.

“This season, I think the entire team comes in with a lot more confidence, knowing that we ought to have a much better shot at being successful and winning races. I want to go out there and win races and prove that I deserve the role that I've taken in this team now. I feel like I've done a good job of building the team around me over the last couple of years and now it will hopefully all show through.”

Rahal's team-mate in 2009 will be 27-year old Robert Doornbos, a rookie in the IndyCar Series but a driver who has experience in both Formula One and Champ Car.

“When I made the move from Formula One to Champ Car in 2007, I had no knowledge of circuits, tyres, drivers, engine, whatever of that series, and I had five podiums out of the first six races, so that was a motivation boost,” the Dutchman noted.

“I think my attitude is the same for IndyCar. The team contacted me because they know what I can do, and I'm here to do the best job I can. Of course, I have respect for the ovals, there's still a steep learning curve, but nothing to be worried about.”

Despite not having seen eye-to-eye with the American's team-mate in Champ Car, Doornbos is happy to be partnered with Rahal at NHLR.



Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Indy Racing League. 24-25 Feb. 2009. IRL Homestead Test.  Homestead Internation Raceway. Homestead, Florida. Graham Rahal.
Graham Rahal celebrates victory in the Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway   (image credit: IndyCar Media/Chris Owens)
Ed Jones - Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
Graham Rahal sits in his Honda machine on pit lane during practice for the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma at Sonoma Raceway. (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Will Power, Josef Newgarden, and Graham Rahal drive their machines across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, CA (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
James Hinchcliffe, Will Power, Josef Newgarden, Marco Andretti, and Graham Rahal at the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, CA (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Marco Andretti, Josef Newgarden, Will Power, Graham Rahal, and James Hinchcliffe bring their machines across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, CA (Photo by: John Cote for IndyCar Media)
Graham Rahal leads a group through the Turn 2 Keyhole turn during the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Graham Rahal and his father, Bobby, celebrate in Victory Circle following their win in the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio (Photo by: John Cote for IndyCar Media)
Podium celebrations for Graham Rahal and Justin Wilson after the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio. (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Podium celebrations for Graham Rahal, Justin Wilson and Simon Pagenaud after the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio. (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Graham Rahal sprays the champagne in Victory Lane following his victory in the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Graham Rahal wins the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio (Photo by: Bret Kelley for IndyCar Media)
Graham Rahal begins the celebration as he wins the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio (Photo by: John Cote for IndyCar Media)
Juan Pablo Montoya, Marco Andretti, and Graham Rahal barrel into Turn 1 during practice for the Iowa Corn 300 at Iowa Speedway. (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Graham Rahal flashes across the start/finish line during practice for the ABC Supply Wisconsin 250 at The Milwaukee Mile (Photo by: Shawn Gritzmacher for IndyCar Media)
Marco Andretti, Tony Kanaan, and Graham Rahal go three-wide going into Turn 1 during the MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Graham Rahal wins the MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California on Saturday, June 27 2015. (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)

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December 06, 2009 6:59 AM

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