Graham Rahal has admitted that the 2008 IndyCar Series season has been a challenging one for the Newman Haas Lanigan Racing team, despite the fact the team is the only one of the Champ Car converts to have tasted victory so far this season.
Rahal took victory in St Petersburg earlier this year in only the second race following the reunification of the American open-wheel scene but it remains the only victory by a 'Champ Car' team to date in 2008 – aside from Will Power's win in the last ever Champ Car event at Long Beach.
Indeed, the late nature of the deal confirming that Champ Car and IndyCar would reunite for 2008 left those teams moving over from Champ Car on the back foot and Rahal admitted that it had led to a challenging campaign for all concerned.
"It was great to do well at St. Pete, and we knew it was going to be challenging, and it certainly has been," he said. "We've worked hard as a team, and I think that we saw we were getting closer, and I think we are. It's just it takes quite a lot of time and effort to get to the top.
"Being that we came in so late in the year; that the merger was announced so late, it didn't give us any time to really prepare. So the first opportunity we are going to have is obviously this upcoming off season. We are extremely looking forward to that. It's been obviously busy not only for us, but everybody, and to keep this thing going has been quite the challenge."
With two of the remaining three races on the calendar being on road courses, the Champ Car converts will hope to finish the season well, and Rahal added it important to finish the campaign as strongly as possible going into the off-season.
"I think that's what we are hoping for," he said. "We all realise that we need to get some good results here at the end, and of course, that gives us more of a knowledge base. And if we are winning or doing well on road courses, that gives us something and that gives us confidence going into next season knowing we've figured things out so we'll just keep moving forward like that.
"With two road courses [left], we hope to do well there. I don't think our results on road courses have been as good as they should have been so far. Obviously we are hoping to change our luck there. With Chicago, it's a hometown for both our team and the team sponsor, McDonald's. We would love to do well there for all of the employees, and we have gotten closer on these mile and a halves. At Kentucky we were going to be extremely competitive, going from 20th up to eleventh or twelfth within the first ten laps was a good sign, and I felt like we had a good car there. Unfortunately we had some gearbox glitches and that kind of took us out of it.
"Like I said, we are going to keep working, and certainly I think if we can get some good results in these coming races, it's going to be a good sign for us in the years to come."