By Dave Lewandowski, IndyCar.com
Published: Jun 5, 2013
There's heightened anticipation in Graham Rahal's voice as he heads into the Firestone 550 on June 8 at Texas Motor Speedway. The first-year Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing driver is seeking a second chance on the 1.5-mile, high-banked oval in the Honda-powered No. 15 Midas/Big O Tires car to claim "one that got away from me."
Rahal had his second IZOD IndyCar Series victory in sight last June 9 until his ill-handling car brushed the wall with two laps left, allowing the fast-closing Justin Wilson to charge to the front and win for the first time since 2009.
"It is one that got away from me until I win my next one and then I won't think about it," Rahal said. "It adds fuel to the fire to come back and do well this year. I don't get fazed by much, and when I left here that night I still felt satisfied. When you finish second at Texas it feels good."
The 228-lap race was the first on a high-banked superspeedway with the new-for-2012 engine-chassis package and less downforce that virtually eliminated the pack racing that had defined IndyCars at Texas Motor Speedway in the past.
"It was a tough race all night," Rahal said. "We started really strong; Scott (Dixon) and I took off. Then once the sun went down our (Chip Ganassi Racing) cars really started to struggle. I tried to tough it out and we fell back a bit. On the last restart I said to myself - and I've never done this before -- I'm going to do one of two things: I'm going to crash or I'm going to win. I just decided to go all out.
"On the restart I passed six guys and got back into the lead. In the end I probably put a little too much pressure on myself. On the team radio they kept telling me Wilson was closing. The handling had been gone for the 20 laps before. I was hanging on and was lucky enough that I had built up quite a lead that I maintained."
The lead and his aspirations dissipated when the car drifted up the track and brushed the Turn 4 SAFER Barrier on Lap 226. Rahal had pulled away from the field after overtaking Ryan Briscoe's car on Lap 200 of 228.
"It's one of those things when I look back at it I didn't think I was going to," Rahal said. "I was forced to use all the road every lap to be fast. I really didn't hit the wall that hard, but what I think happened is when the tire hit the wall the force bent the rear suspension."
For the June 8 race (8:30 p.m. ET on ABC), an alteration to the aerodynamic setup of the cars will produce slightly less drag, which likely will increase lap speed a few mph, and the Firestone Firehawk tires will have a new compound and left-side construction designed to give the cars slightly more grip.
"We enjoyed that race last year because it was in the drivers' hands. We put on one helluva show," Rahal said. "What the INDYCAR technical staff has done here is put a great product on the track. It's a great place for us to be."