- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 28, 2014


By Matt Baker,

c.2014 Tampa Bay Times@

Bobby Rahal spent two decades pushing the thought of danger out of his mind to have a championship open-wheel racing career.

Sixteen years after his retirement, Rahal has a different role as an IndyCar series team owner. But his task during today’s Indianapolis 500 task is the same, if not tougher: block out the thought of 200 mph wrecks while watching his son Graham race in the car he owns.

“As a parent, you want your child to have (the tools) to succeed, to achieve the goals they’ve set for themselves,” Rahal said. “That drives me more. That gets me going more than the thought of him getting hurt.”

The Rahals are one of many families who will balance the thought of fun and fear during auto racing’s biggest weekend, which culminates with today’s Grand Prix of Monaco, Indy 500 and Coca-Cola 600.

Rahal, the 1986 Indy 500 champion, said he trusts his son, though he worries more about the other drivers around Graham’s No. 15 Honda. Because the cars are so much safer than they were when he retired 16 years ago, Rahal said he doesn’t get too anxious watching Graham race, even at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“I think he might be lying to you,” Graham said. “He must get a little nervous.”

Graham was 9 when his dad retired, so he only remembers being scared once, when his dad’s car slid upside down and into the wall at Japan in 1998.

The rest of the time, Graham was excited to shadow his father, picking up tidbits here and there that have helped him in his own career.

The positives of living in a racing family outweighed the negatives — a feeling echoed in NASCAR garages.

“I thought it was the coolest thing ever honestly,” said Chase Elliott, 18, a two-time Nationwide series winner and the son of 2015 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Bill Elliott. “Watching your dad race and getting together at races every weekend was a dream come true.”

Ryan Blaney loved spending time around NASCAR as a boy with his dad, journeyman driver Dave Blaney. But his father didn’t have the stability of Elliott or Rahal. He spent more time on smaller circuits and racing more dangerous sprint cars where accidents can be catastrophic.

“I used to get nervous all the time before he’d go out there and race,” said Ryan, 20, who made his Sprint Cup debut this month at Kansas. “Honestly, I still do.”

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