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August 30, 2015

Graham Rahal


THE MODERATOR: We're pleased to be joined by Graham Rahal of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. Graham, we're sure it's not the way you wanted the day to wind up. Just kind of recap what happened today.
GRAHAM RAHAL: Yeah, obviously a frustrating day. Car was just miserable today, just miserable. I don't know why. We've been pretty strong on road and street courses all year, but we found a bad day to be bad. But that doesn't overshadow the year we had. I think the year we had was phenomenal. We proved a lot of doubters wrong. We proved to people that we can contend, that this team belongs in the championship hunt, and we'll be back next year. I'm already looking forward‑‑ this is obviously not the way we wanted to go out, but all things considered, this year we did a tremendous job. Like I said, I'm very proud of the team and thankful to Steak 'n Shake, D‑A Lubricant, Maxim and all the people that made this possible because they allowed us after the Guard bolted late on us, I think everybody thought we might not be able to get this thing back together and get back racing, and here we are, so it's been a pretty good year. Just already looking forward to 2016.
THE MODERATOR: Was the car good after morning warm‑up? Did it change between then and the race?
GRAHAM RAHAL: Honestly the car hasn't been good all weekend. People look at me and say how is that? You've been right up at the front. Yeah, on new tires we're able to get there. On new tires we're able to put good lap times in. But we struggled all along to get the rear of the car right, and in our attempts to get the rear right, all we did was continuously hurt the front. Even in the race today, I mean, the rear tires were gone after not even a lap for me at times. Just couldn't get them to work. I just could not get the tire to do anything. So unfortunately we were in a bind.
Going to go back and‑‑ this year, honestly, every track we went to we started with a clean sheet of paper, and next year at least at a lot of tracks we're going to have a good baseline to go from.

Q. Graham, when you said your car was the whole weekend very bad, maybe this question is very naïve. You have the new aero kit, and you raced here last year. Could you not look into the data just to give you an idea what could be improved with the car?
GRAHAM RAHAL: Yeah, but we weren't good last year. Yeah, we led the race in parts, but we didn't start the race that well last year. We weren't that competitive. Look, in the aero kit we found changes in the setups quite a lot, which is why I think early in the year we were pretty good because we were kind of the first to adapt to that. Obviously Andretti kind of caught us up there toward the end of the season with Hunter‑Reay. But that being said, like I said, we're going to come back next year. Other than here, we're going to have something to look at and go from there.

Q. Steak 'n Shake sponsored you; can you speak to what that means, to have that kind of support and sponsorship and how that kind of blended in with the way that your season began and rolled out and how it just kind of merged all together?
GRAHAM RAHAL: Yeah, I mean, you know, they came on board right before St.Pete, and we knew Long Beach was going to be the first one to kind of fire it off, and we just had a great run with them. I think the Steak 'n Shake car was always competitive, and it got a lot of media attention this year, which really got them to continue and sponsor us the last couple of races, and we're hoping that things look good for next year. Steak 'n Shake is cool for me on a personal level because where I'm from there's a lot of Steak 'n Shakes. We used to go there a lot as a kid, particularly near Mid‑Ohio, and to go back there this year and win Mid‑Ohio with them and to have our celebration dinner at that same Steak 'n Shake was pretty unique and a lot of fun, and it was tremendous to have them this season. I'm definitely looking forward to 2016 and hoping we can have them back.

Q. Graham, Juan came in here and not a fan of the double points. He was not, at least. But aside from that, how do you think the championship from that standpoint is going? Should they drop them from Indy or keep them just at Indy and drop them from the end?
GRAHAM RAHAL: I don't think any race should have double points.

Q. What about the double‑header part?
GRAHAM RAHAL: Those are two races. Just like Indy, why there's points for qualifying is stupid. I know what they're trying to do, trying to make it more interesting, trying to get everybody‑‑ but everybody is already hanging out on the line, and all you're doing is benefiting the big teams. Like for instance, us, it killed us this year. Definitely is not to our advantage.
Obviously there's two sides to me here on this weekend because obviously if it had been single points or normal points, I'd have been in trouble. I think it made it interesting, you know, at the end. If I look, I finished fourth. If I'd finished one more position up, I think I would have tied Power for third and fourth, and obviously the No.1 and 2 tied, and I think we would have beat Power on a head‑to‑head on a tiebreaker, I think. But it was interesting. However, I don't think any race should be valued above another. I know people will say the Indy 500 should, but I think every race is equally important if you're looking at a championship.
Anyway, just my take.
Just like we tried the double‑file restarts and all that stuff. We don't need gimmicks in this sport to make it exciting I don't think.

Q. You talked before about what you guys as a team are going to take out of this year into 2016, but how about you as a driver? You're disappointed now, but there are a lot of good things to‑‑
GRAHAM RAHAL: No, I'm not disappointed. I feel like I drove pretty well this year. I feel like I improved a lot on the areas that I knew that I needed to improve. We won a couple of races. We were in the hunt a lot. We were in the hunt today until we got punted, and today was a bad day. Our car was bad, and to still be running sixth I think was a miracle until Mr.Bourdais decided to ruin it for us.
But I feel like we did a good job. I'm proud of the efforts that I put in. I'm proud of the efforts the team put in, and we have a lot to improve on yet.
Obviously our job would be a lot easier if we could qualify at the front more often. Luckily we ended the year with two good qualifying sessions in a row.
You know, it's one of those things. You just never know how these things are going to go, but I think all around we did a great job this season, and I'm proud of these guys.

Q. You talked the other day about being a one‑soldier army against these hordes. Apart from the obvious one of Bourdais, did you feel like you were fighting solo out there most of the day?
GRAHAM RAHAL: I knew I wasn't going to beat Dixon. I knew I didn't have the pace he did, but I knew I could beat Montoya and Power after their deal, and I felt at that point with those two out like that, that I was third in the championship. That's all I was thinking, third in the championship, great year. But then with about five corners to go, they go, you might want to pass Coletti. I'm like, well, it's a little late now. Would have been nice to know that a couple laps ago. But all in all, today was just tough. It was just a tough day. But again, I may seem disappointed. I'm not disappointed. I didn't want to finish fourth in the championship, work all season for like a $20,000 paycheck. But at the same time, I'm very, very proud of this organization because it's true. I mean, I drove at Ganassi, and at Ganassi they build their own dampers, they do everything. We don't even have the machines to do that. You're not talking apples to apples, but yet our guys did a tremendous job this season, and they deserve all the credit. I mean, Mark asked me about me, but it's not about me, it's about them, because people questioned me last year, I felt very confident I could compete with Dixon and Power and Juan and all these guys, and I think this year we did, and it's really thanks to them. Today was just brutal. It seemed like everybody that could hit me did. I don't know who all hit me at the start, but I got hit like five or six times and before Turn 4. I don't even know who all it was honestly, almost spun in Turn 4, luckily gathered that up, and then ended up getting hit by Bourdais. Just frustrating.

Q. Did you already have the opportunity to speak to Bourdais or he came up to you and talked to you?
GRAHAM RAHAL: What did he say? I mean, it's too late. Bourdais unfortunately in recent times has made a lot of moves like that. I don't know what kind of excuse he could possibly come up with, with hitting me in the rear, but I hit the brakes at the 200 mark. It was going to be impossible for him to stop had he gone inside of me, and even if he had gone outside, he wasn't going anywhere, yet he clearly just wasn't even looking. He was obviously just focused right on my gearbox and not where we were on the circuit, and he just drilled me, and around I went. He comes up to me and said he doesn't mean to, but unfortunately that cost us third in the championship. What do you say? Again, what do you say? I don't know, man. It's frustrating.
Actually Bourdais has done that in recent times for some reason, but he's a champion. He's been a‑‑ I was his teammate. He was a tremendous driver then. He's a tremendous driver now. I mean, obviously we've been‑‑ there's been a huge discussion about teammates this year, and was Bourdais a teammate like Justin Wilson? No, but he was a hell of a driver, and I respect him tremendously for who he is and what he's accomplished. But on a day like today, he's a guy you should‑‑ you should have high expectations for, and when you see stuff like that, it's pretty disappointing.

Q. This kind of leads into that about teammates. You've been a one‑car team. It's been like a David and Goliath with what your team has accomplished this year. As a single‑car team, what about next year? Do you think it would help you competitively to have a teammate? I guess it depends on who it is, but would you want to expand to a two‑car team?
GRAHAM RAHAL: Yeah, I think having a teammate would be a good thing from the standpoint of data. I can tell you at a place like Pocono we started with too much downforce, Texas we started with too little downforce, but that's really because we didn't really have anybody to go off of. When we were starting the race we were kind of taking a guess, and so with that‑‑ and we didn't really have any information on what other Honda teams were running or anything like that, so we were on our own, and that's where it kind of hurt us a little bit. Had we had a teammate maybe we would have been just able to try it out. We noticed in practice a lot of times Andretti is able to run three or four different configurations on aero. Unfortunately we can't, so it's hard for us. Mike Talbott has been in charge of our aero all season, and what he's done speaks volumes to the human being he is and the engineer that he is. But I think it would be beneficial.
But again, as I look forward, what does this team need? This team needs a teammate, this team needs a second car that is cohesive with what we already have. We cannot have two separate teams. We need to make sure everybody is in the same frame of mind at all times working together at all times, and I think that's what will make it beneficial.
THE MODERATOR: Graham, thank you very much. Congratulations on a great season.

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