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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Theories Behind No. 30 For Rahal

Since today's announcement that Graham Rahal will be driving a No. 30 car for Rahal Letterman Racing in this year's Indianapolis 500, speculation has run rampant as to why the car's number was changed for No. 17. RLR has run a No. 17 car throughout most of its time in the IRL, and has never run a No. 30 car. Some of the theories include:

- A reference to the No. 3 Truesports car that team owner Bobby Rahal won the race with in 1986. No. 3 itself is unavailable, as is No. 33, but No. 30 has not been taken in the 500 since 2002, when George Mack drove the number to a 17th-place finish, two laps down. The last team to campaign the No. 30 full-time was McCormack Motorsports, which shut down in 2001.

- A reference to the 30th season that Bobby Rahal has been involved with major open-wheel racing in North America, but unless there's some data from 1981 of which I am unaware, 2010 marks his 29th season. Rahal made his CART debut in 1982. No. 29 is taken by Sebastien Saavedra and Bryan Herta Autosport.

- Finally, the theory that makes the most sense (and is the most exciting for history buffs) refers to a No. 30 car from the heyday of the 500 and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Between 1982 and 1990, Shierson Racing entered a No. 30 car sponsored by Domino's Pizza in every Indianapolis 500, usually posting strong results. In its final year, 1990, driver Arie Luyendyk took the team to victory. Other former 500 winners to drive the car included Al Unser Jr. and Danny Sullivan.

Explaining the car number, Domino's Pizza offered a "30 minutes or it's free" guarantee for pizza delivery throughout the 1980s and 1990s. It reintroduced the concept, though not the money-back guarantee, in 2007 with its slogan "You Got 30 Minutes." Most recently, Domino's has been reinventing itself as a brand, going to great lengths to promote its new pizza recipe.

The brand has been out of racing since 2007, when its NASCAR sponsorship proved unsuccessful, but may be looking to return for Indianapolis with the right combination of driver and team. The father-son combo at RLR may just be it.

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