Fathers do not always know best at Indy 500

Reuters News
Posted: May 23, 2015 7:02 PM

By Steve Keating

INDIANAPOLIS (Reuters) - At the Indianapolis 500 it is not always a case of father knows best, not even when those fathers are two American motorsports greats.

Graham Rahal, the son of 1986 Indy 500 winner Bobby Rahal, and Macro Andretti, whose father Michael won 42 Indycar races, both work in the family businesses and will be on the starting grid Sunday at the Brickyard.

Now retired and operating successful IndyCar teams - Andretti Autosport and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing - Michael Andretti and Bobby Rahal, like many parents, have at times had issues communicating with their kids.

Delivering fatherly advice through a headset while their sons speed around an oval at over 225 mph has not always been welcomed, the messages sometimes conveyed in a forceful not so subtle fashion.

This year Bobby Rahal has stepped back from pit wall and allowed other team members to talk strategy with Graham while Marco and Michael are once again in communication, ending nearly three years of radio silence.

"I like hearing him (Michael), he has a driver mentality," said Marco. "But the way we were was affecting other people, we were just very intense.

"I drive way up on the wheel, my heart on my sleeve. We told the guys in the crew you need to smile when you hear us. They thought we would be in a fist fight after the race but we where just fine.

"I use to listen to my dad on the radio when I was a kid and thought he was nuts.

"In 2012 I led a lot of the race. It was hot and I was on the ragged edge. It was circumstances and maybe I changed a little."

Close knit families, both the Andrettis and Rahals understand what happens on the track, stays on the track and have not allowed their heated word or the chill of radio silence to seep into their home life.

But when your name is Andretti or Rahal the passion and need to win is almost genetic, and Marco and Graham have not yet achieved the success many had expected.

Marco, who has spent his entire 10-year IndyCar career driving for his father has just two wins from 156 races.

Graham made a spectacular IndyCar debut winning his first race but in 118 starts since has not been back to Victory Lane.

This year the Rahals decided it was time to shake things up with Bobby handing over the headset on race day.

The move appears to have paid off with a more relaxed confident Graham, who has delivered a pair of storming runnerup finishes in the two races leading into the Indy 500.

"I have always heard everything dad said, maybe I haven't actually been the best at making it happen," said Graham. "I think people that have heard me on the radio this year would say that my demeanor is different, I am a lot calmer.

"That was a talk Dad and I had over the winter about just trying to control the atmosphere a little bit better when things are going not very good, to just try and be calm about it.

"But there are always positives and negatives. Dad is an excellent strategist, he is a smart guy, and he gets this

sport better than almost anybody.

"It is not always a positive to have him gone."

(Editing by Gene Cherry)