INDIANAPOLIS -- Graham Rahal already had a small celebration with the bricks at Indy.
Rahal placed a gold plate inscribed with his grandfather's name on a Wall of Gratitude erected in honor of servicemen at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Michael Rahal, who died earlier this month, earned a purple heart for injuries suffered in World War II. He also sparked the love of racing in his 28-year-old grandson, who will race Sunday in the 101st Indianapolis 500.
"He was big into racing," Rahal said. "He was the guy that started all this love of racing for all of us. We certainly have a lot of thanks to give him for what he's done for us."
Rahal starts 14th in the No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda.
He has attended Indy since he was a kid _ his father is 1986 champion Bobby Rahal _ and said the last time he could remember missing a race was in 2004. Rahal was racing at Lime Rock Park, right around the time his father's race team won Indy with Buddy Rice.
"It's a great place to race and it only continues to get better," Rahal said of IMS.
But before he qualified for the race, Rahal was proud to offer a small token of appreciation for his grandfather at the military wall, sponsored by Crown Royal.
"Crown Royal's Wall of Gratitude and the chance it provides to celebrate our military members and veterans will be a highlight for many fans visiting the track," IMS President Doug Boles said.
The Wall of Gratitude, located in the infield, displays names of military members past and present. Fans can stop by starting Friday to submit names for the wall.
"Any time we can honor the military, any time we can say thank you, we will," Rahal said.
There's an added bonus for fans at the wall:
"You can taste some whisky, too," Rahal said, laughing.
No doubt, he'd gladly chase it with a swig of milk and a kiss of the bricks at Indy.