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Rahal, Wilson getting ready for jump to IRL

Story by Chris Graham

Listen to today’s “SportsDominion Show,” featuring interviews with Indy Racing League drivers Justin Wilson and Graham Rahal. Show Length: 7:45.

rir_suntrust_indychall_ft.jpgIt was good news for race fans – the IndyRacing League and the Champ Car Series are finally one.

But the good news for fans meant a scramble for Champ Car teams to get ready for the start of the season on March 29 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

“For us, it’s going to be tough, especially these first couple of races, especially the ovals, for myself. Because I’ve only done one before, and that was in a Star Mazda car, and obviously that’s significantly slower than this. It’s going to be quite an eye-opener the first time I get in the car in the oval, especially when we get into race trim at Homestead in the first race,” said Graham Rahal, the 19-year-old son of racing legend Bobby Rahal.

The youngster finished fifth in his first and only season on the Champ Car Series, and was viewed as a contender for the series title heading into 2008 before the merger of the Champ and IRL circuits.

“It’s obviously a great thing that the two series have come together. I feel that if I had stayed in Champ Car, there would have been a shot for me to win some races and challenge for the title. But now we look at it in a different light, and we need to get out there and learn and do our best,” Rahal said in a conference call with reporters on Wednesday.

He was joined on the call by Newman/Haas/Lanigan teammate Justin Wilson, who himself was considered a contender for the ’08 Champ Car title before the merger.

“It’s going to be tough. We’ve got a long road ahead of us trying to work everything out. The guys are working very hard right now. So it’s hard to understand what kind of goal to put on it,” Wilson said.

“My personal aim is to do the best we can, whether that’s to get a podium or pick up race wins. I don’t want to overestimate, and I don’t want to underestimate. We’ve got to judge the competition when we get there and be realistic and not get carried away,” Wilson said.

The IRL will be at the Richmond International Raceway on June 28 for the SunTrust Indy Challenge. Rahal and Wilson both hope to have worked out their IndyCar Series kinks long before that point in time.

“These first few races will be difficult. The short time that we’ve had to get the cars prepared and the lack of information that we have as far as setup wise – we don’t have years of experience setting these cars up. That takes time,” Wilson said.


Chris Graham is the executive editor of The SportsDominion.

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