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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Finally, Rahal Returns to Newman/Haas

Earlier in the season, Robin Miller at SpeedTV.com reported that Graham Rahal would reunite with his old team, Newman/Haas Racing, at Long Beach and beyond, saying that the young American talent had finally found sponsorship to resume his IZOD IndyCar Series career.

That didn't happen; instead, Rahal lent his services to Sarah Fisher Racing for that event, while also making appearances for Rahal Letterman Racing at Indianapolis and Dreyer & Reinbold Racing at Iowa. But after tweeting last night that he had "good news" to announce today, Rahal and Newman/Haas have revealed that they will return the No. 02 car to the track for this weekend's Honda Indy Toronto, as well as subsequent races at Mid-Ohio, Infineon, Motegi, Chicagoland, and the season finale at Homestead.

Quick Trim, which backed the father-son Rahal effort at Indianapolis, will sponsor the car.

Rahal finished 7th in points last year with Newman/Haas in the No. 02 car, scoring a pair of pole positions and third-place finishes at Richmond and Motegi. Last year, Rahal qualified sixth or better in each of the six events that he will drive for Newman/Haas this year.

Rahal did not return to the team this year when sponsor McDonald's exited the sport and the team could not find a replacement in time. Subsequent offers from Dale Coyne Racing and a handful of other teams were not to Rahal's liking, and so he sat until Fisher offered him her seat at the three road course events at St. Petersburg, Barber, and Long Beach. A poor chassis kept the team towards the back for the greater part of those runs, and a crash at Long Beach ended his SFR tenure.

Rahal finally finished an Indianapolis 500 this year, coming home in 12th, though not without controversy, as drivers complained that he was blocking too aggressively on the track. Regardless, Dreyer & Reinbold, looking to replace the injured Mike Conway, gave him the call two races later, and he matched his best finish of the season by coming home ninth.

Now Rahal gets to go home again with the team that launched his major open-wheel career and try to re-establish them as contenders. While Hideki Mutoh has proven himself a worthy driver in the past, luck has not been on his side for much of this year. The No. 06 team has finished no better than 12th all season, with more DNFs (four) than lead-lap finishes (three).

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