By Amy Konrath
Today’s IZOD IndyCar Series, Firestone Indy Lights and Mazda Road to Indy headlines:
1. If you missed it: Graham Rahal-Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing conference call
2. Kimball drives messaging of diabetes awareness
3. Castroneves joins field for Brazilan stock car finale
4. Mazda Road to Indy drivers represented at SKUSA Supernationals
5. Tickets on sale this week for event in Houston
1. If you missed it: Graham Rahal-Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing conference call: Earlier today, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing announced a multi-year agreement with Graham Rahal to drive the No. 15 Honda with sponsorship from the TBC Retail Group.
Two of the three co-owner of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing – Bobby Rahal and Mike Lanigan – driver Graham Rahal and Orland Wolford, CEO TBC Retail Group, Service Central participated in a conference call to discuss the announcement.
A full transcript and a broadcast-quality MP3 are available at media.indycar.com. Selected quotes from the interview are below.
Q. Graham, I know a lot of young men can’t wait to grab the keys to the family car and your dad finally gave them to you today. Congratulations on that, and talk about what it’s like to get the opportunity to drive for your dad’s team?
GRAHAM RAHAL: It’s awfully exciting for me. It’s a great opportunity to be a part of this team and with the sponsors that we have behind us. For me, it’s a bit of a fresh outlook, really. As I look towards next year and beyond, this is a great group and a great organization here, and everybody is aimed to achieve the same goal, which is to win races and championships. I think together we can do so.
I think this has been a long time coming. I think everybody probably knew that eventually this would be the case that we would all be together under one roof. But here we are and I’m extremely excited. It’s a great day for myself and for the team and for our family and for our sponsors really. For TBC Retail, which I think everybody knows from the last couple of years. But I think you’ll see primarily Midas and Big O on our car, and also Valvoline being back in the sport, it means a lot to have us all together. It answers all those questions of why I don’t race for dad, that’s for sure.
Q. Bobby, I know you’re a big proponent of having Graham develop as a driver away from your team. Why bring him in now at this stage of his career?
BOBBY RAHAL: Well, I think he’s one of the best drivers out there. If we take away the father-son aspect, I think any team would want him driving their car. We got back into Indy car racing a year ago now, and with the intent of really rebuilding the INDYCAR side of the team to one of the major teams in the series.
I think we had a reasonably good year this last year in preparation for ’13. Having a top-notch driver in there and key, obviously. Obviously, I’m super pleased with Graham, because I think that together we can achieve a lot of great things both on and off the track. So we’re really thrilled to have him driving the car. Thrilled to have TBC Retail and Valvoline back with us. When we won the 500 it was as a Valvoline sponsored driver. So there are a lot of coming home in this whole thing by a lot of the different entities involved.
So we’re really pleased to have Graham, as I said. I’m confident we can create the environment that he needs to excel, and that’s our commitment to him and I think we’re going to have a lot of success as a result.
Q. Mike, obviously you’ve been a big part of Graham’s development as a driver. Owned his Atlantic team, co-owned the team that gave him his start in Indy car racing. What about Graham gives you the confidence that your current team, Rahal Letterman Lanigan has a driver that can win races and championships?
MIKE LANIGAN: First of all, we had him in ’06 in Atlantics, he won. We had him in ’08 in the IRL. He won his first race in St. Petersburg, and I’ve known him since he was 17 years old. I’ve known Bobby a long time. And I know the quality team Rahal Letterman Lanigan puts out, and I think it will be very successful. We’re very optimistic that great things will happen for Graham and for our team.
Q. Orland, I know you’ve also been a big part of Graham’s career dating back to 2010 when he drove for Sarah Fisher’s team. Teaming up with Graham and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing has to be a very big occasion for the TBC Retail group?
ORLAND WOLFORD: TBC Retail is extremely excited to continue our relationship that we’ve had with Graham for the last three years. We’re excited that he’s joining a great team in the Rahal Letterman Lanigan crew, and we are anticipating great things. We are excited to be with them.
Q. Graham, I know you mentioned this at the press conference we had at the Speedway earlier, but your team has a history of taking some drivers that people have kind of given up on and turning them into winners. I’m sure you just can’t wait to add to that legacy for the team.
GRAHAM RAHAL: For me, I think that’s one of the most exciting aspects of this program is that we touched on it briefly. But if you look back on the history of this team, you go back to guys throughout the ’90s, of course, but even given guys their first big chance, guys like Max Papis, of course, Buddy Rice, Michel Jourdain in the early 2000s. Guys that, as dad would say, probably their careers were looking like they’re coming to an end and next thing you know they’re wing races on a consistent basis and always a contender each and every weekend.
So that’s where I want to be and where I need to go as a driver. And that’s what I think this team is going to allow me to do. Of course, for me, the people that I’ll be working with here, many of whom I’ve known for many, many years there’s a lot of advice and lot of learning to be done. But I’m surrounded by the best group of guys that I see out there.
I know that after being around them and they’ve known me for so many years. They’re not going to give me any bad advice and we’re all working towards the same goal. So I’m looking forward to that part of it. And we’re going to start off here pretty soon, going testing in Barber on the 27th, so that will be the kickoff our 2013 season.
2. Kimball drives messaging of diabetes awareness: While making an appearance on behalf of sponsor Novo Nordisk on Nov. 11 before the Seattle Seahawks hosted the New York Jets at CenturyLink Field, Charlie Kimball learned that quarterback Russell Wilson’s life had been touch by diabetes. Wilson’s late father was a type 1 diabetic like Kimball.
“I would have never known that unless she told me. It’s much less than the six degrees of separation isn’t it?” said Kimball, who attended the event in support of sponsor Novo Nordisk during Diabetes Awareness Month.
With the escalating rate of diabetes (the World Health Organization estimates that more than 346 million people worldwide have diabetes and the number is likely to more than double by 2030 without intervention), that degree of separation will continue to shrink.
“It continually surprises me during a race weekend or during one of these events who say to me I don’t have diabetes but my cousin or brother or uncle do,” said Kimball, who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2007 but competes at the highest level of open-wheel racing in North America.
The IZOD IndyCar Series driver continues to drive the message of diabetes awareness and education, and has been especially busy this month. On Nov. 14 – World Diabetes Day – he took part in programs at the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin in Milwaukee.
World Diabetes Day was created in 1991 by the International Diabetes Federation and the World Health Organization and became an official United Nations Day in 2007. The campaign draws attention to issues of paramount importance to the diabetes community and keeps diabetes firmly in the public spotlight.
“(Events) focus on diabetes education and awareness. Also, I remind people that your diabetes doesn’t have to slow you down and at the same time it’s a time for the diabetes community to come together and show the world how strong we are,” Kimball said.
“That’s one of the great things about being associated with Novo Nordisk is all the work they’ve done with the United Nations to recognize World Diabetes Day. It’s a great opportunity to stand together as one group and educate people who might not know they are part of that community, know what that community means and what they can do together.”
3. Castroneves joins field for Brazilan stock car finale: Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves, who finished fourth in the IZOD IndyCar Series standings this season, will join Tony Kanaan and Rubens Barrichello in competing in the Copa Caixa Stock Car season finale Dec. 9 at Interlagos in São Paulo, Brazil.
Castroneves will drive for Shell Racing in the No. 3 car. Valdeno Brito will be his teammate.
“… it certainly will be a great experience,” said Castroneves, who was co-owner of the NasrCastroneves Racing that competed in the Brazilian Stock Car V8 Championship.
This past weekend, Kanaan finished 19th in the penultimate series race at Autódromo Internacional Nelson Piquet in Brasília. He teamed up with Raphael Matos (23rd place) for Bassani Racing. Barrichello, who competed for Medley Full Time Sports, retired from the 41-lap race won by Max Wilson.
Both Kanaan and Barrichello, who were teammates this past season at KV Racing Technology, will donate their winnings to the Barrichello Kanaan Foundation that helps underprivileged children in Brazil.
Vitor Meira, who made 112 IZOD IndyCar Series starts over 10 seasons, finished 17th and is 22nd in the championship standings for Officer ProGP.
4. Mazda Road to Indy drivers represented at SKUSA Supernationals: Jorge Goncalvez, who competed for Belardi Auto Racing in Firestone Indy Lights this past season, and Star Mazda Championship runner-up Gabby Chaves are among the Mazda Road to Indy racers who will return to their racing roots this weekend in the 16th SKUSA SuperNationals karting event in Las Vegas.
Star Mazda competitor Bruno Palli and USF2000 driver Scott Hargrove and Firestone Indy Lights racer Joel Miller are also entered in the TaG Senior division.
Also competing is Colton Herta, son of IZOD IndyCar Series team co-owner Bryan Herta, in the TaG Junior division.
Buddy Rice, the 2004 Indianapolis 500 champion; Phil Giebler, the 2007 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year; and IZOD IndyCar Series starter Jay Howard have teams entered in the competition.
5. Tickets on sale this week for event in Houston: Tickets for the inaugural Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston will be available for purchase Nov. 15.
The Oct. 4-6 event, featuring the IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights, will be held at Reliant Park. The race weekend includes an IZOD IndyCar Series doubleheader (one race each on Saturday and Sunday).
“We’re exciting that tickets are going on sale and we’re gaining a lot of enthusiasm and momentum going into 2013,” said Mike Lanigan, CEO of event promoter Mi-Jack Promotions. “It will be here before we know it. We think it will be on heck of a race weekend on one of the best venues in INDYCAR.”
The on-track activity will be complemented by entertainment, live music, a family fun zone, interactive exhibits and go-karting.
Tickets and event information is available at www.grandprixofhouston.com, at www.Ticketmaster.com, at the Reliant Stadium South ticket windows inside Budweiser Plaza and by calling 1-800-745-3000.
Ticket prices range from $10 for a Friday grounds admission to $155 for a three-day SuperTicket with Pit Pass. Free grounds admission entry will be available for children 12 and under all three days of the event.