IndyCar 2015 Season Grades: Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing

rahalmidosportsusatodaycom

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A tremendous effort by “Son of ‘Stache” and for the most part his crew earned the single car team high marks. RLL underwent a maturation from last year to this, growing into a certified championship contender. Improving three full letter grades, Rahal made the biggest turnaround in the entire paddock. This follows a dreadful season, another winless campaign and loss of a major sponsor. The diminutive team pulled off quite an achievement, especially considering it was all accomplished with Honda – and without a mustache.

Wins: 2

Podiums: 4

Poles: 0

The series’ latest all American star – at least since Josef Newgarden in April – Graham won at both Fontana and Mid-Ohio, prevailing in the former with a fuel hose attached to his car for a portion of it. Certainly it can be said that he won at one entertaining race track, anyway. In fact he nearly triumphed in several more races coming within a whisker of doing it, finishing second both at Barber funnily enough and the Grand Prix of Indy – the 500 it isn’t.

rahalfontanaindycarcom

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The Rahal with hair atop his head also came in third at Milwaukee and in Detroit’s superfluous second race, as well as fourth place in the Iowa “Sage Show.” Don’t forget the sizable payday for his fifth place showing in the Indy 500, either. Those results landed the soon to be Mr. Courtney Force in fourth place at the conclusion of this season’s pencil thin title hunt. All this – and more! – after a dismal 2014.

grahamcourtsportsusatodaycom

Photo from sports.usatoday.com

In essence his performance was unbelievable, as the clean shaven Rahal stormed his way to eight top fives and ten top tens during a magnificent season. Running at the finish in fourteen out of sixteen races, even that stat doesn’t accurately capture his remarkable consistency. Graham’s two DNFs were neither his fault nor Honda’s, surprisingly.

Graham Rahal, left, and Tristan Vautier, of France, hit the wall in Turn 3 after colliding during the Pocono IndyCar 500 auto race Sunday, Aug. 23, 2015, in Long Pond, Pa. (AP Photo/Mel Evans) ORG XMIT: PAME111

Photo from ap.org

Crassly crashed out by French villain Tristan Vautier in the penultimate race at Pocono, he’d previously been collected by rookie Stefano “Car Compacter” Coletti at the start of Detroit’s calamitous first race. These two DNFs resulted in finishes of twentieth place and last respectively, tearing clumps out of his otherwise thick and bushy championship chances.

davebeardsportsusatodaycom

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RLL faded at the end though, managing only an eighteenth place finish after tangling with Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais late in the Sonoma finale. Regardless, the team still had a renaissance year. Bobby stepping back clearly made a difference, allowing Graham to be Graham, so kudos to ‘Stache for effective fathering. Kudos also to Steak N’ Shake for stepping up with an expanded sponsorship campaign. With increased television viewership this year, hopefully their support paid off and will continue. Obviously we’re overwhelmingly pro ‘stache, but that frightening white beard Dave was sporting gets an “F” in our book.

2015 Grade: A-

2015 Midseason Grade: B

2014 Grade: D-

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