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Will this Rahal also win in Ohio?

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Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course sits smack in the middle of open-wheel country, an hour or so away from Columbus, Ohio. And when you think of motorsports in the Buckeye State, the Rahal name stands front and center. Twenty-year-old Graham Rahal is the current standard-bearer for the legacy his father, Indy 500 champion Bobby Rahal, forged as a driver in the 1980s and 1990s. Among Rahal the Elder's 24 CART victories were a pair of triumphs at Mid-Ohio in 1985 and 1986. Graham has shown flashes of the same glory, including a victory last season at St. Petersburg, Fla., in his first Indy Racing League start. This weekend, he's keen on etching his own name into the history books at a track that has been a major part of his life. "Growing up, I came to Mid-Ohio and the Cleveland street course, which were the two closest courses for me," says Graham, who still resides an hour away from Mid-Ohio in the town of New Albany. "When I would go to Dad's races, I used to always take all my buddies. I have a lot of fun memories and this is only my second IndyCar race here, but I've raced several other times at this place. "[Mid-Ohio's] a circuit that means a lot to my family and to me. To do well there would mean quite a lot because I have a lot of friends and family who are coming here for that event, so to do well in front of them shows that I'm no slouch. I feel that I've got all the potential to be one of the best there and I think that there's no reason that we can't make that happen." This year, the confident American is in a much better position to reach his goals. His Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing team isn't having to learn new equipment on the fly like they did last season in the wake of open-wheel unification. After a solid fifth-place effort on the 1.5-mile superspeedway at Kentucky — a sign of their oval program's improvement — they all have a good head of steam going into Sunday's race on the 2.3-mile natural-terrain road course. Mid-Ohio, a Champ Car staple from 1983 to 2003, features plenty of elevation changes and leans toward the technical side with plenty of tight corners. To Rahal, it's more than a worthy challenge. "It's tough to get the car right," he said. "You really have to push hard and it's not something that happens too easily without mistakes, so it takes quite a lot of effort, but at the same time, it's a very good time." He also has his standing in the championship to think about, too. While defending Mid-Ohio champ Ryan Briscoe, reigning series king Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti continue to fight for the championship, there's another points battle brewing. Only 26 points separate sixth-place Marco Andretti from tenth-place Justin Wilson and at ninth position (and only 14 markers behind Andretti), Rahal can rise up the rankings with some solid results. But it won't be the pecking order that serves as Rahal's greatest motivation this weekend. That will come from performing in front of his loved ones as well as his fellow Buckeyes. "You get tons of fans and tons of friends and family that can come out and that feels good for me in the race," he said. "I think that we as a team ought to be very competitive. I think the race will be a good one for us, our car has been very competitive on the road courses all year and I don't see a reason why we can't put the McDonalds car in victory lane. "If there was a race I'd love to win, other than the Indy 500, Mid-Ohio's the one."

Why, no, it's not Silly Season

Rahal will also have a veteran teammate to help him at Mid-Ohio this weekend. Former N/H/L pilot Robert Doornbos of the Netherlands decided to forgo an extension on his 12-race deal with the team and has landed at HVM Racing. Not only will he finish out 2009 with his former Champ Car squad, but he will also race the entire 2010 season for them as well. Doornbos will drive the No. 33 machine alongside new teammate E.J. Viso of Venezuela in the No. 13 car. In 2007, the Dutchman claimed Champ Car rookie of the year honors and won twice for HVM (then known as Minardi Team USA) on the road course at Mont-Tremblant, Canada and a street race in San Jose, California. Naturally, "Bobby D." is happy to continue his IndyCar Series career in familiar surroundings. "I was very successful with this team in 2007," he said in a press release. "My mission is to become Rookie of the Year again with this young and eager team. I like to thank Keith for his confidence in my driver skills and look forward to the first race for HVM [on Sunday]." Doornbos has had a tough rookie season in the IRL. His highest finish has been ninth and he's been stuck there after achieving it four times so far this season (Long Beach, Richmond, Watkins Glen, Edmonton). In comparison, his former teammate Rahal has collected three top-5s and six top-10s with a high finish of third (Richmond). With Doornbos' departure, Spanish pilot Oriol Servia will step into the vacated No. 06 car for N/H/L this weekend in his first start since the Indy 500 with Rahal Letterman Racing. In 2008, Servia finished fifth at Mid-Ohio for KV Racing Technology. "Last year, I missed being in the Firestone Fast Six by a small amount, but then in the race we did find the sweet spot in the car and were moving forward and building up speed," recalled Servia. "By the end of the race, we had a car that could have been on the podium, but it was a crazy race with the rain. In normal conditions, I think we would have been much closer to the front. If we had the potential last year, we should be able to improve on that this year with better weather."

Condolences for the Moraes family

KV Racing Technology's Mario Moraes will not compete in Sunday's event following the death of his father on Wednesday in Sao Paulo. Mario Ermirio de Moraes, 51, had been suffering from cancer. A statement released on Wednesday by KVRT said that he was to be buried on Thursday. Reports from Brazil said that his son, driver of the No. 5 car, has been in Brazil since Monday. Team co-owners Kevin Kalkhoven and Jimmy Vasser had the following remarks: "On behalf of the entire KV Racing Technology organization we wish to express our deepest sympathy to Senhora Nidia Maria Faustino de Moraes, Mario, his sisters Fabiana and Natalia and the entire family for their loss."

Other stuff

The details on the "push-to-pass" system for IndyCar drivers this weekend at Mid-Ohio: 15 boosts at 20 seconds each, plus the 10 second blackout for recharging after each one. Last week at Kentucky, drivers received 20 boosts for the race, but only had each one for 12 seconds...Conquest Racing will re-emerge at Infineon Raceway later this month with ex-Champ Car driver Nelson Philippe at the controls. He will also race in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway in October. As for the September round at Twin Ring Motegi in Japan, Conquest has hired Kosuke Matsuura, who raced in the IndyCar Series from 2004-2007.
Tagged: Mario Moraes, Dario Franchitti

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