Rahal's revved up

DAVID CAMERON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:59 AM ET

Between races in Toronto and Edmonton, Graham Rahal decided to stay in Canada.

But not in either city or somewhere in between.

Rahal headed east.

"This cabin has been in our family for 45-50 years," he said yesterday from the Rahal retreat on the east coast of New Brunswick, where you can look across to Bangor, Maine. "So I've been coming up here all my life."

What? No getaways in Ohio, where the second-generation driver was born and lives?

"My mom is from New York state. It was her dad that bought it. He came up here on a business trip and bought a cabin."

Family is a big part of Rahal's equation.

In the racing world, his name gave him instant recognition because of his dad, Bobby.

But Graham quickly adapted to making his own name as a driver. At 19 years, 93 days he became the youngest winner in IndyCar history in his first race of 2008.

He was also the youngest-ever podium finisher in the ChampCar books as, they were about to close them in 2007. During 2006, he was youngest winner in the nearly 40-year history of the Atlantics Series. And -- in case you haven't sensed a trend here -- at 15 years old he was the youngest to win a race in Star Mazda Championship.

Now he comes to Edmonton for the fourth time in his young-gun career. (In Atlantics, ChampCar, then Indy.)

As if he didn't already have a profile here, he'll be hitting the track this weekend behind the wheel of the most successful car in this event's short history: the Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing McDonalds ride.

The same car that Sebastien Bourdais drove to a win and two second-place finishes here.

It nows bears the No. 02 tag, but it was the same car -- No.1 in all ways -- in which Bourdais, under the guidance of the late great Paul Newman and his partners, absolutely dominated the ChampCar World Series.

To top it off, last season the McD was driven by Justin Wilson, the only other ChampCar driver besides Bourdais to win here.

"I never thought of that, but that's for sure," he said.

"So there's pressure for sure and I enjoy that."

Even at 17, you could see in his eyes that Rahal knew where he wanted to get to. Not "give it to me, now" -- but not exactly wanting to enrol in any long-term internship-scholarship-graduate program.

He was borderline cocky/confident in the good way.

"Ever since NHLR displayed their interest in having me drive, this is what I wanted to be in-- the No. 1 car," he said. "I'm honoured to be in the position."

As smoothly as Rahal's ascension has gone, things haven't been as smooth so far in 2009.

"Kathi (Lauterbach of NHLR) told me the team has won at least one race every year except 1994."

Newman/Haas started in 1983, so that adds even more pressure.

"We definitely want to be able to continue that (streak), at the very least. Road courses, we're competitive. Ovals, we certainly struggle. We've been fighting. We're close.

"Except for last year, Edmonton's been good to me. Two podiums. So, it's an opportunity for me to have a good race, an opportunity for the entire team to step up."

Rahal doesn't have a deal for next year yet, but he likes being in the series the old man plied his trade in as it tries to get back to those glory days.

"This is the most competitive series. You've got your couple of stragglers in the back, but other than that ... you look at a Dan Wheldon (struggling). This guy has won races.

"ChampCar, you looked at the back and some guys you knew (had no hope), guys that weren't going to be around."


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