Grand Prix of St. Pete: Rahal hopes for a fast start in 2014

The Firestone Grand Prix of St Petersburg kicks off the INDYCAR season
The Firestone Grand Prix of St Petersburg kicks off the INDYCAR season

Sunday the 2014 IndyCar season gets underway with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg  broadcast nationally on ABC with the green flag being waved at about 3:15 p.m.

You can bet that Graham Rahal can’t wait to get going. He will behind the wheel of the No. 20 National Guard, Honda powered car. He is racing for his father and former driver Bobby Rahal who along with racing aficionado David Letterman and businessman Mike Lanigan make up the Rahal-Letterman-Lanigan Racing team.

Yesterday via conference call Rahal talked about a very forgettable 2013 season and his hopes for better 2014.

Rahal: St. Pete has always been good to me. It’s obviously a track I like, getting my first win there, my first pole there. Always been good vibes around St. Pete for whatever reason. I’m definitely excited to get back racing, number one, and number two there at St. Pete. Of all of our races throughout the year, I wish we had more identical to St. Pete. Great place, great atmosphere. Ready to go racing. Feel like I’ve been sitting around for the last six months. Nice that that is finally over and we can finally get on with it.”

Sports Talk Florida:  From a driver’s perspective, what does it take to go quick at St. Pete?

Rahal: “Well, I think it’s a pretty typical sort of street course as far as the layout is concerned. However, the one thing that I think makes St. Pete pretty different is a lot of time, even on some of the street courses, there’s a small margin for error. St. Pete, especially when you get in the back section of the track, turns five, six, seven, eight, there’s no margin for error at all. I think that’s extremely, extremely difficult. Makes it very difficult. 110 laps there is a long time. It gives you an opportunity to make a lot of mistakes.”

Sports Talk Florida: Getting used to the new twin turbo, you’ve driven it for a full winter now. While your team wasn’t quite high up on the charts, the Hondas and Chevys were pretty even as far as the Barber tests go. How confident are you that the new Honda twin turbo is going to be very competitive this season?

Rahal: Well, we all have the utmost respect and confidence in Honda, otherwise I don’t think we would be with them. It’s a great group of people. Certainly with Roger Griffiths gone, it’s certainly going to be a changing of the guard, some adapting to do.  I thought the engine worked very well. We were making a lot of changes throughout the two days there that were having a big effect. I feel pretty confident with the group of people we have around us with our support engineers. I hope we can start it off well in St. Pete for them. I think it’s going to be very competitive. I don’t think we know exactly what we have till qualifying Saturday, maybe not even till Indy. You just never know. I remember the last time there was a big change like this in 2012, the Hondas were dominating at St. Pete, then came qualifying, and the highest Honda was eighth. Everybody was wondering what the heck just happened. We just have to see how it all works out for us come Saturday and Sunday.