In a media briefing at Barber Motorsports Park, Graham Rahal acknowledged his excitement about one of his racing heroes - Fernando Alonso - crossing over from Formula 1 to race at the Indianapolis 500. Rahal feels Alonso is uniquely well positioned among F1 drivers to come to Indy, both in terms of his celebrity and his style.
"Not that many of those guys would have the pull that Fernando Alonso does, so we've got the right guy," he said. "You know - voted most popular Formula 1 driver however many times. He's the guy, and on a worldwide scale. I grew up a big fan - I loved watching him, loved his style. I loved his aggressive nature, his battles with [Michael] Schumacher back in the day.
"I think that's why I think he's going to have a lot of fun here - he's going to get back to being able to just go race. Not a lot of electronics and stuff in these things [IndyCars] compared to those cars, and so I think he's going to enjoy the purity of the racing here."
Rahal downplayed the suggestion that Alonso's move could build momentum toward more crossovers between the two series, however.
"First of all, it's impossible to get a crossover going that way [IndyCar to F1] because, in my opinion, there's a big financial aspect to it. They're not going to park some of these guys that are bringing money to the teams or whatever so we can go," Rahal said. "And the other side of it - and I had this conversation with Jenson Button not long ago - I'm really not that interested in running 15th. I mean, I'm just not. So for me, Monaco would be great, but if you're not a Mercedes or Ferrari, you're not going to win right now anyway.
"For Alonso, I think he's going to have a ball. He's going to come over here [and] be in a damned good car. You guys know that, and he's going to have fun. He's going to get passed and pass more cars in one month than he will in his entire Formula 1 career combined, but he's going to have a complete blast, and I think it's great for our sport that he has the interest that he has in it.
"Obviously, I wish that he was going to be seated next to us in our team, but I mean, look, you can tell Dad [Bobby Rahal] and I are McLaren fans, because if you remember a couple years ago we ran a McLaren orange IndyCar. It will be fun to see those colors run around Indy."
Rahal also was enthusiastic about the prospect of McLaren returning to IndyCar as an entrant, as team boss Zak Brown has suggested could be a possibility.
"Zak Brown is a great family friend of ours, and I think Zak is a brilliant marketer," said Rahal. "He's a smart guy. He's a race fan, which is awesome, so hopefully this is just the start of what we see of McLaren's involvement in IndyCar going forward."