Graham Rahal knows that his Verizon IndyCar Series championship hopes are likely over. Yes, he's still mathematically alive with currently being sixth in the standings heading to Watkins Glen this weekend. But, the Rahal/Letterman/Lanigan Racing driver knows that his chances are also very limited. Right now, Rahal trails points leader Josef Newgarden by 111 points. In order to not be eliminated from title contention this weekend, he needs to gain at least seven points on Newgarden leaving Watkins Glen on Sunday afternoon.
That's a tall task to ask for since Newgarden has four straight top two finishes on the season and came home second at Watkins Glen last year as well.
But, Rahal is now shifting his focus to finishing in the top five of the final standings. That's a realistic goal too as he's within 28 points of that feat right now. With having eight top 10 finishes over his last nine stats during the season, mixed with being very good on natural road courses the last few years, his confidence is really good still.
"My expectations for the weekend are extremely high," Rahal said ahead of this weekend's race in upstate New York. "Last year the car was very good at Watkins Glen, so I believe we can start where we left off. The tires are the same this year so there shouldn't be anything unexpected and it should be similar to Mid-Ohio this year. Obviously, I would like to get into the top five (in the season-ending point standings). I'm disappointed with the way the last two races ended off after being competitive, but I do believe we are a team that is capable of taking it to the big boys. We have all year and our goal is to sneak up there into the top five. Certainly, a win this weekend would really help that. I think that the upcoming races fit the strengths of our team very well, so I'm looking forward to them. I'm glad we're through some of the more challenging tracks for us of the year and on to a really good track at Watkins Glen that I believe we can qualify and race well at, and hopefully run up front. It's going to be tough as always. We can't overlook that. We will keep our heads down and push as hard as we can. Fuel strategy played a role last year, amongst other things, but hopefully we can put it all together."
Rahal, was running well last year before being involved in a heavy crash in Turn 1. But, at Mid-Ohio he came home on the podium in third, and with this race going to be very similar to that one, expect another solid outing of the No. 15 Honda.