Sunday, January 17, 2010

On a Homeless Rahal

No, not in the traditional sense; I don’t think we’ll see Graham pitching a tent in Bobby’s backyard or wheeling an overflowing shopping cart through the streets of Speedway anytime soon. I presume his IndyCar retainer affords him some pretty decadent digs for someone who just recently got his first (legal) taste of Bud (Stella? Blue Moon?). I digress...

It came to light this week that, with roughly 60 days till the green flag drops in Sao Paulo, the Series’ hottest rising star “still doesn’t have a contract for 2010.” (Read Curt Cavin’s article here:

So CC’s just winding us up, right? No, any self-respecting devotee of the IZOD IndyCar Series’ foremost authority on substantiated scuttlebutt knows full well Curt DOES NOT kid.

So, it’s true... How in the name of all things Al Unser could such a thing happen? Say it ain’t so. IndyCar finally gets a legit series sponsor, is building momentum for 2010, and one of the Series’ most valuable properties is relegated to bench racing with Servia and the ex-Indy Lights champions’ club?

Now, don’t go getting your signed Milka Duno boxers in a bunch. GR is smart—wickedly smart, from what I can see—and therefore, one can only assume he’s very assiduously weighing his options. And if his talent has anything to do with it (and there’s truth in a couple of other nuggets dropped by CC in his article), they’re formidable options at that.

Let’s take a closer look. Unlike yours truly, Rahal’s smart enough not to make a lateral move, unless his back’s against the wall. So assuming GR hasn’t told Carl Haas, flat-out, he doesn’t want to be at NHL next year, I just don’t see how he’s not welcomed back with open arms (and all the Cohibas he can chew on).

If he’s going to take a substantial step up, that leaves for a narrow playing field.

First, let’s take the two options Curt mentioned:

• De Ferran—Gil’s apparently proclaimed Rahal as his man, if adequate sponsorship can be
found, and De Ferran will likely run a first-class operation, but I’m sure the former employees of Gil’s defunct sports car team are scattering further to the wind with every passing day.
• Ganassi—team officials have gone on record that they’d like Graham, but again... money.

Other possibilities:

• Andretti—Though Tom Anderson mentioned publicly that talk of a fifth car had been bantered about at his shop, that’s stretching things pretty thin, don’t you think? Besides, I would think Graham would want more personal attention than that.
• Penske—Nah, brimming with hot shoes already.
• Last but not least, you knew it was coming... wait for it... get ready... USF1? Okay, okay. I know, the debate over who’s going to drive for USF1 has become about as interesting as knowing which posh European locale Robert Doornbos is currently “training” at. But considering Rahal’s stated interest in F1, you gotta throw it out there. That, despite the fact the IICS seems to be where his heart is.

So there you have it, just a paragraph in Pit Pass, but worthy of further discussion, in my book. I think the notion of Rahal being a free agent is fascinating—savory grist for the silly season rumor mill.

So where does Graham ultimately get down to business? Who knows, but it will most certainly be in IndyCar, and it’s going to be very interesting until we know for sure.