No. 976
December 12, 2018
 

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Peter DeLorenzo has been in and around the sport of racing since the age of ten. After a 22-year career in automotive marketing and advertising, where he worked on national campaigns as well as creating many motorsports campaigns for various clients, DeLorenzo established Ujian-nasional.info on June 1, 1999. Over the years DeLorenzo's commentaries on racing and the business of motorsports have resonated throughout the industry. Because of the burgeoning influence of those commentaries, DeLorenzo has directly consulted automotive clients on the fundamental direction and content of their motorsports programs. DeLorenzo is considered to be one of the most influential voices commenting on the sport today.

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Fumes


Tuesday
Apr082008

FUMES #440

April 9, 2008

A great run for Rahal, and a shot in the arm for U.S. open-wheel racing.

By Peter M. De Lorenzo

Detroit.
Long-suffering open-wheel racing fans had to enjoy last Sunday's Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. As a matter of fact for me it was even a bit surreal watching the race unfold, thinking that this kind of good fortune for the sport couldn't really be happening, could it? But it did and it was great to see. Graham Rahal became the youngest winner in major league open-wheel racing history when he captured the win in his very first IRL race at the age of 19 years, 93 days, breaking the old mark set just two years ago by Marco Andretti (19 years, 167 days) when the Andretti scion won an IRL race at Sonoma, CA.

Graham's win was special for any number of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that he's the son of one of America's greatest champions - Bobby Rahal - and the torch being passed to a new generation was not missed by anyone watching (Bobby's bear hug of his son in Victory Lane made it all the more special too). The fact that Graham survived an early-race spin, changeable track conditions and then had to out-run Team Penske's Helio Castroneves for a convincing win served notice that the kid is special and looks to have all the characteristics of a future champion. He's smart, calculated, calm behind the wheel and quick when he needs to be, very much like his dad, come to think about it.

But the bigger picture for the IRL with Graham Rahal's win is that the series is actually beginning to see early signs of media and fan momentum. No, one race doesn't flip the switch to good times overnight, but St. Petersburg was an excellent start to better things. The fact that the IRL has talented young American drivers in the mix and fighting for wins is a huge (and long overdue too). And having legendary American racing names like Rahal and Andretti back in the forefront again can only help with the more casual media types who too often only seem to pay attention when they can recognize a driver's name.

If it weren't for the fact that the upcoming ball of confusion on April 19-20 - when the Twin Ring Motegi and Long Beach races occur on the same weekend - is going to be a debacle, I might be inclined to get even more jacked about the direction of major league open-wheel racing in this country. But that weekend is shaping up to be Not Good no matter how the IRL spins it. It's as if we have to suffer through one final shot from the Ghosts of Open-Wheel Racing's Dismal Past to remind us all of just how much better things are going to get - and be.

Once that lost weekend is finished, however, I believe the Month of May is shaping up to be the best in recent memory at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and I expect the Indy 500 to be back firing on all cylinders in terms of the caliber of the drivers and the depth of the field of 33.

One huge win doesn't make a season or give life to an entire series - that does sound like a lot to put on a 19-year-old kid's shoulders after all - but make no mistake, young Rahal's win was a huge shot in the arm for the reborn IndyCar Series, and something tells me the kid can take the pressure.
 

Publisher's Note: In our continuing series celebrating the "Golden Era" of American racing history, here is another image from the Ford Racing Archives. - PMD

mtrsptshist_1726_HR1.jpg
(Ford Racing Archives)
Riverside, CA, 1967. Dan Gurney drives his All American Racers Gurney Eagle-Weslake Ford to victory in the Rex Mays 300 Indy car race at Riverside International Raceway.