No Direction Home

This humble blog was started to document our travels around the country during the summer of 2006, We have opted to continue updating it due to the requests from family & friends. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Son Also Rises

August 5, 2015

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 photo 137_zpseopxfcik.jpg Graham Rahal

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The Son Also Rises

Growing up the son of an Indy Car champion and Indy 500 winner can’t be all that easy, especially if you choose to enter the same profession as your accomplished father, just ask Marco Andretti who has but a single Indy Car win following in the footsteps of his accomplished father and grandfather. For Graham Rahal, it has been somewhat of a struggle competing in the shadow of his famous father Bobby. Early promise with his first Indy Car win in 2008 had vanished into a sea of mediocrity as his career has plodded along.

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Never terrible, mind you, just frustrating with flashes of brilliance that still never quite got over the hump until something just clicked this year. In spite of driving the under-powered Honda, Rahal has managed to put it all together and with a combination of pluck and luck and the promise he has always shown finally being realized with on track results.

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 photo 075_zpscxifuais.jpg Jack Hawksworth

Competing on what is basically his home track at Mid-Ohio, his qualifying effort was nothing all that special, starting back in 13th place. It would take a combination of luck and skill for him to get a victory in the 90 lap race. Rahal's surge in the second half of the Verizon IndyCar Series season continued with an emphatic home victory in the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio.

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Rahal, who started in the No. 15 Steak 'n Shake Honda for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, corralled his second victory of the season and third of his Indy car career. The New Albany, Ohio, native closed to nine points of Verizon IndyCar Series championship front-runner Juan Pablo Montoya with two races left in the season.

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Since earning his first victory of the season June 27 at Auto Club Speedway -- his first win since March 2008 -- Rahal has placed third, fourth and first to challenge for his first series title. Rahal is the eighth different winner in nine road/street course races this season. He picked up the lead for good on Lap 67 when the lead pack, including race leader Montoya, pitted under caution for their final fuel/tire service.

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Rahal then fended off an amazing charge by Justin Wilson, Simon Pagenaud and Scott Dixon on a Lap 84 restart on the 2.258-mile, 13-turn road course following a full-course caution and went on to win by 3.4 seconds. It was clear immediately how special this win was for him as he was greeted in Victory Lane by his emotional father Bobby (who won here in 1985 and 1986).  

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Wilson, who started 14th in the No. 25 Andretti Autosport Honda, placed a season-high second. Pagenaud also was a big mover in the race, advancing 12 positions relative to his starting spot in the No. 22 PPG Automotive Refinish Team Penske Chevrolet to finish a season-best third. Scott Dixon, a five-time winner at Mid-Ohio, started from the pole and finished fourth in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet. He is 26 points behind Rahal in the title chase.

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 photo 062_zpsdpwpjsju.jpg Montoya

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Montoya, who started 10th in the No. 2 Hawk Performance Team Penske Chevrolet and led 21 laps in the middle of the race -- including the 19 laps preceding his Lap 67 pit stop -- finished 12th. But the day belonged to Graham Rahal who celebrated and declared that only an Indy 500 victory would top this win for him personally.

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August 4, 2015

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 photo 348_zpsmkw0rwxj.jpg Scott Dixon

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Nestled just outside the village of Lexington, Ohio about halfway between the cities of Columbus and Cleveland is the beautiful natural road course, the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course which is home to the fourteenth stop of the 2015 Indy Car series. I had wanted to utilize my Indy Car hard card one more time before the season completed and this venue offered the best chance with my schedule.

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I headed out of Chicago late Friday night after the conclusion of Paul McCartney’s set at Lollapalooza determined to drive as far as possible before stopping and continuing on to Mid-Ohio on Saturday morning. I made it to mid-northern Indiana and drove the rest of the way in the morning, arriving at the track in time for the first Indy Car practice.

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I love Mid-Ohio, it is the first track outside of Indianapolis where I ever attended an Indy Car race, back in the early 80s and my first experience watching the cars run on a road course. I have been a fan ever since though I have only been back infrequently since that first visit. 

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The track itself is beautiful, sitting in the Ohio countryside the thirteen turn, 2.4 mile winding road course features elevation changes and historic turns such as the keyhole and thunder valley. There are permanent grandstands as well as elevated mounds throughout the facility allowing fans to wander about to see the action from a variety of viewpoints. 

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Another cool feature is the open-air garages that have elevated walkways where fans can look directly down into the garages as the cars are being worked on. It offers a really cool perspective that is not found elsewhere on the circuit. I just love the place and the festive atmosphere that goes along with it. Many of the fans camp on site as do some of the teams themselves which is also an interesting feature of the track which adds to the close comradery that is felt between the fans, drivers, and teams.

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 photo 515_zpsoamylgml.jpg Sage Karam 

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I arrived in time to see the final practice, the sports car race, the first of two Indy Lights races and the Indy Car qualifying. The crowd was great, it had to be in the top 3 or 4 crowds for any Indy Car race of the season after Indy, Long Beach, and possibly St. Pete. It was cool to once again have the ultimate access during all of the action, whether it be being on the grid pre-race, in victory lane or just hanging in the pits during the races.

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Scott Dixon was fairly dominant during the practice sessions and during the Indy Car qualifying, easily snaring the pole position and smashing the track record in the process. Will Power grabbed position two followed by Sebastian Bourdais and Helio Castroneves.

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 photo 378_zpsz4hcdote.jpg Jason

After qualifying, I headed north to downtown Cleveland where I had booked a hotel so that I would have access to the excitement of Cleveland nightlife rather than staying closer to the track where there is not so much to do. Cleveland is a happening place with a number of excellent breweries and brewpubs to experience- which is exactly what I spent my evening doing.

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