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St Pete 2008: Rahal first at first time of asking.


IndyCar Series newcomer Graham Rahal made history at the Honda Grand Prix of St Petersburg by becoming the youngest winner of a major open-wheel race at the age of 19 years and 93 days.

More impressive, however, was the fact that the Florida street circuit outing was the Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing driver's first in the IndyCar Series, Rahal having had to withdraw from last weekend's Homestead-Miami Speedway opener after damaging his car in a pre-season test the week before the race.

Rahal, who started in ninth in a rain-affected race, overcame a setback on lap 37, when he made contact with fellow Champ Car convert Will Power, to win the IndyCar Series' first temporary street course race of the season, and ousted fellow 'son of' Marco Andretti as the youngest winner. Andretti was 19 years and 167 days old when he won at Infineon Raceway in 2006.

“It was tough,” Rahal said, “After getting hit by Will in the rain and everything, it was going to be a tough start. But it doesn't get any sweeter than this - to expect a win in our first race...... We had the pace and pulled away from them, so it wasn't like we lucked into it. This is just awesome.”

Rahal, the son of 1986 Indianapolis 500 winner Bobby Rahal, becomes just the fourth driver in history to win on his IndyCar Series debut and just the fourth rookie to win in their first IndyCar season. He also ensured that those teams making the switch from the near-defunct Champ Car World Series could shake the 'when will they win' monkey from their backs early in the campaign after fending off double defending race winner Helio Castroneves in the final stages.

“Obviously Helio is very successful and has won a lot of races but, at the same time, I knew we had the pace and I knew that, if I could just keep calm, we could pull away," the youngster continued, "We were pulling away before and we were aggressively fuel saving, so I knew that, if I could attack the car, we could pull away.

“On the last lap, you just don't want your focus to get off of the car and the race so, for me, I just needed to keep calm and make it through the last set of corners, especially since there was a yellow out on turn eleven. I just wanted to be cautious, but I knew we had quite the gap, so I wasn't too worried. This has just worked out so well. It's awesome.”

Rahal Sr, who runs a rival team in the IRL-sanctioned series, was naturally delighted for his son, who joins Buzz Calkins - in the first ever IRL event at Walt Disney World in 1996 - Juan Montoya and Scott Dixon as first-start winners.

“Do you think he'll ever listen to any advice from me again?” he smiled, “He really thinks he knows everything now. But he drove a phenomenal race and the crew did a great job. The engineer gave him a great car, and he was fast at the end. That's the best conditions, a lot of people banging each other, and he kept it together. I'd hire him, but I can't afford him. I'm really pleased. Pleased for him and pleased for the team.”




Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Graham Rahal celebrates victory in St Petersburg   [pic credit: IRL/Haines]
Ed Jones - Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
Juan Pablo Montoya, driver of the #2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6 celebrates his victory Sunday, March 13, 2016 after winning the Verizon IndyCar Series Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in St. Petersburg, Florida. It is the second year in a row Montoya has won this race. (Photo by Michael L. Levitt/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Juan Pablo Montoya, driver of the #2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6 celebrates his victory Sunday, March 13, 2016 after winning the Verizon IndyCar Series Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in St. Petersburg, Florida. It is the second year in a row Montoya has won this race. (Photo by Michael L. Levitt/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Juan Pablo Montoya, driver of the #2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6 takes the chequered flag to victory Sunday, March 13, 2016 during the Verizon IndyCar Series Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in St. Petersburg, Florida. It is the second year in a row Montoya has won this race. (Photo by Sam Cobb/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Juan Pablo Montoya, driver of the #2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6 races to victory Sunday, March 13, 2016 during the Verizon IndyCar Series Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in St. Petersburg, Florida. It is the second year in a row Montoya has won this race. (Photo by Michael L. Levitt/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Juan Pablo Montoya celebrates his second successive victory in the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg (Photo by: Shawn Gritzmacher for IndyCar Media)
Juan Pablo Montoya celebrates his second successive victory in the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg (Photo by: Shawn Gritzmacher for IndyCar Media)
Simon Pagenaud on track during the 2016 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg (Photo by: John Cote for IndyCar Media)
Juan Pablo Montoya navigates the Turns 11-12 chicane during the 2016 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg (Photo by: John Cote for IndyCar Media)
Multi-car incident during the Firestone Grand Prix of St Petersburg on March 13 2016 (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Takuma Sato poses for a photograph during the autograph session in the St. Petersburg Fan Village (Photo by: Shawn Gritzmacher for IndyCar Media)
Takuma Sato on course during qualifications for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Will Power, driver of the #12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6 celebrates capturing the pole with the fastest lap Saturday, March 12, 2016 for Sunday`s Verizon IndyCar Series Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in St. Petersburg, Florida. The four Penske Chevrolet`s were the fastest in qualifying and Chevrolet had the five fastest cars. (Photo by Michael L. Levitt/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Will Power, driver of the #12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6 captures the pole with the fastest lap Saturday, March 12, 2016 for Sunday`s Verizon IndyCar Series Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in St. Petersburg, Florida. The four Penske Chevrolet`s were the fastest in qualifying and Chevrolet had the five fastest cars. (Photo by Phillip Abbott/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Will Power, driver of the #12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6 captures the pole with the fastest lap Saturday, March 12, 2016 for Sunday`s Verizon IndyCar Series Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in St. Petersburg, Florida. The four Penske Chevrolet`s were the fastest in qualifying and Chevrolet had the five fastest cars. (Photo by Phillip Abbott/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Will Power, driver of the #12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6 captures the pole with the fastest lap Saturday, March 12, 2016 for Sunday`s Verizon IndyCar Series Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in St. Petersburg, Florida. The four Penske Chevrolet`s were the fastest in qualifying and Chevrolet had the five fastest cars. (Photo by Phillip Abbott/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Will Power wins the Verizon P1 Award for claiming the pole position for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)

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