Photo: Bret Kelley/INDYCAR

Rahal Slips to 10th in Watkins Glen Qualifying

By Christopher DeHarde, IndyCar & Road to Indy Writer

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. — After setting the third fastest time in Friday’s two practice sessions and the seventh fastest time in Saturday’s third practice session, Graham Rahal was only able to qualify his No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda tenth fastest ahead of Sunday’s INDYCAR Grand Prix at the Glen at Watkins Glen International.

Rahal got through group two in the first round of qualifying to advance to round two but his fastest lap of 1:23.2240 was not enough to get him to the Firestone Fast Six on the 3.37 mile natural terrain road course. Rahal’s fastest qualifying lap wasn’t his fastest lap of the weekend, which was a 1:22.9716 on Friday in the second practice session.

“It’s just way too loose,” said Rahal. “The times look good but I’m hanging on, absolutely hanging on. We can’t seem to get it under control so I’m pretty frustrated, I mean but our guys are working hard. We just can’t figure it out, I mean, loose, really really loose, so we’ll just keep our heads down, focus on tomorrow, hopefully we can improve it.”

Even with a car that was competitive in the practice sessions, Rahal doesn’t believe it matters because practice isn’t the race.

“It doesn’t matter though, (Sunday) is a new day,” Rahal said. “We’ve got to make it a good race car and right now it’s not quite there so it’s got pace. It’s got pace but it has to be consistent to be a contender.”

Whether the Ohio native was on the black sidewall tires or the Firestone red sidewall tires, Rahal was loose no matter what color sidewall tire was on his car.

“Both, it doesn’t matter to me,” said Rahal. “I mean, I don’t know why. I don’t know why. Last year we had a really quick car that was very neutral but it was stable and this year we just can’t get any stability out of it, it just wants to spin like a top all the time.”

Friday was a different story for how Rahal felt after practice.

“Overall, it was a very good day,” said Rahal. “I feel like we made really good gains on the setup, the car rolled off the trailer extremely competitive and that’s what you need because you don’t want to have to reinvent the wheel during the weekend. The guys have done a great job.

“The car is close. Do we want to be a little bit better? Yes, but overall we are pretty close. This is a phenomenal place. There is a lot of grip, and the track is very smooth just as we left it last year. It should be a great race this weekend.”

With rain coming tomorrow, Rahal’s team might have to throw everything and the kitchen sink at the car to make it go faster. The INDYCAR Grand Prix at the Glen goes green around 1:45 PM ET on Sunday.

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A 2012 graduate of LSU, Christopher DeHarde primarily focuses on the NTT IndyCar Series and the WeatherTech Sports Car Championship. DeHarde has actively covered motorsports since 2014.