Graham Rahal is hoping to score a win in Sunday's 101st Indianapolis 500 and not just for the usual prestigious historical importance that it would represent. He also knows it would help remedy the present and turn around a current season in which the Verizon IndyCar Series veteran has scored only a pair of top-10 results in the first five races of 2017.
Rahal was in Buffalo Tuesday on a promotional swing boosting the IndyCar Series.
He also hopes to be in much better shape point-wise as well when the IndyCar Series visits Watkins Glen International on Labor Day Weekend. Rahal will have some work to do at Indy, where he will start Sunday's Indy 500 from the 14th position.
Rahal drives the No. 15 entry for Rahal, Letterman, Lanigan Racing co-owned by his father Bobby Rahal, retired late night television personality David Letterman and businessman Mike Lanigan. The elder Rahal is the 1986 Indy 500 victor.
Graham is confident he has what it takes to taste victory at Indy.
"I feel good about where I'm at for Sunday," said Rahal who is 13th in current IndyCar Series points. "It's tough at Indy to get just the right balance so that the wind, and the conditions - everything completely changes it. So, we're constantly trying to keep up the best that we can. But I feel good where were at. I think we're going to be pretty competitive. I think we're going to have a good shot at this thing. We start 14th which is perfectly fine. We have a good pit crew too so I'm sure the pit stops will be fast. We'll make up some spots there.
"There's a lot of guys who are fast. Nobody looks dominant from what I can see but a lot of guys are pretty quick."
Should Rahal win, he and Bobby would become only the second father-son combo to win the Indy 500, joining Al Unser and Al Unser Jr.
"There's only been one other father-son to win it, the Unsers, so if we can make that happen it would be spectacular," said Rahal. "My dad is extremely passionate about the idea and concept of the thought of winning the Indy 500 with his son. The same for me with him."
An Indy 500 win would also go a long way toward righting what has been a frustrating, bad-luck 2017 season at times for Rahal.
"We're fast but our qualifying performances haven't been very good," Rahal said. "But honestly we've had a lot of bad luck. At St. Pete I got taken out in the second corner of the race and at Phoenix it was the first corner. In Long Beach I was running fifth when I had a flat tire for no reason with two laps to go. Stuff just seems to have kind of happened this year. If you look at our last race, at the road course at the Indy Grand Prix I started way back and I finished sixth. We didn't finish sixth by luck.
"There was no yellows so I genuinely worked my way through the entire field and passed a lot of cars. There's been nothing missing, just the bounces haven't gone quite our way this year."
Rahal began his IndyCar career debut in 2007 at age 18. He has won four races in his career, including three since the beginning of 2015. He claimed checkered flags at both Fontana (Calf.) and Mid-Ohio in 2015. He was victorious at Texas last season and enjoyed his first career triumph at St. Petersburg (Fla.) in 2008.
Rahal will also be looking to have a much more enjoyable weekend on the track at The Glen this year.
What started out as a promising weekend for Rahal when he arrived at The Glen last September became disappointing as the event rolled along. After posting the eighth fastest lap in the combined practice sessions on The Glen's fast 3.45 mile road course, things went sour from there.
In group, multi-round qualifying in which multiple cars are out on track at the same time, Rahal recorded the sixth-fastest time in Group 2 but was penalized when IndyCar officials deemed he had impeded the qualifying effort of Jack Hawksworth. Rahal was stripped of his two fastest laps during that session and ultimately had to start the race 20th out of 22 cars.
Rahal's fortunes did fare any better in the 60-lap race when he was contacted by Charlie Kimball on lap 19 and was forced into the Turn One wall. Rahal's day was over, finishing 21st. Rahal called that accident the hardest hit he's ever had in his IndyCar career.
"We were plenty quick at The Glen last year," said Rahal. "We got that qualifying penalty otherwise we would have advanced to the second round of qualifying. That penalty really ticked me off. I don't think it was justified. I started at the back but I worked my way up to eighth in the race by lap 18 so I had moved up fast. We had a car that was very capable of winning or certainly finishing second. Scott Dixon (race winner) was pretty dominant on that day."
Rahal gave his perception of what it is like to drive at The Glen.
"The speeds that we're going now at The Glen, it takes such a high commitment level," said Rahal. "The bus stop is like unbelievably fast. The carousel is unbelievably fast. Every corner is a little bit different. To me the stretch from Turn One up through the bus stop is as good of racing as you can get."
He hopes that he will arrive at The Glen this September an Indy 500 winner.