After being bumped out by his Rahal Letterman Lanigan teammate Jack Harvey by four thousandths of a millisecond, Graham Rahal is back in the Indy 500!
Monday afternoon during practice, Katherine Legge, driver of the 44 car for RLL, collided with Stefan Wilson’s 24 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing/Cusick Motorsports car in the entry to turn one. Both cars slammed hard into the outside safer barrier. While Legge was able to walk off, Wilson had to be taken off by a stretcher and immediately transported to a local hospital. Later that night, it was announced by the team that Wilson had suffered a fracture of the 12th thoracic vertebrae and would not be allowed to compete in the 107th running of the Indianapolis 500.
This morning, Dreyer & Reinbold owner Dennis Reinbold and Cusick Motorsports owner Don Cusick announced in a press conference that Graham Rahal would pilot the car for the team. Reinbold stated that Graham Rahal was “always the first choice” to replace Wilson in the car, but wasn’t sure if it was possible. Graham Rahal started his press conference by sending condolences to Wilson and talking about how he was excited to rekindle a connection to the team. Rahal drove for D&R in a one-off appearance in 2010 at Iowa Speedway, where he finished 17th. Coincidentally enough, he ran that race with the number 24.
The biggest concern for this to work was Rahal’s contract with Honda. Rahal has only driven a Honda in the IndyCar Series and D&R and Cusick Motorsports are supplied by Chevy. Reinbold stated that RLL owner Bobby Rahal, Graham’s father, immediately approached the two to work something out. Another issue was Rahal’s sponsors. Rahal is linked with United Rentals and Fifth Third Bank, who are always on Rahal’s number 15 RLL Honda in some capacity. Reinbold, who also owns Ryan Hunter-Reay’s number 23 car in the race, stated that both cars will look different for the Indy 500. Ryan’s car currently sits blank with sponsors, while Wilson’s car was full of sponsors. Many speculate some of Rahal’s sponsors could jump ship for this one race and Wilson’s sponsors will be moved to Hunter-Reay’s 23 car, but time will tell. “It’s the Indy 500 and people come together to make this event so special,” stated Reinbold.
This is the first time we’ve seen a driver be replaced post qualifying since 2015 when James Hinchcliff suffered a serious crash in a practice session that saw a piece of the suspension go through his leg. He was replaced by Ryan Briscoe. Due to IndyCar rules, Rahal will not start in Wilson’s 25th qualifying spot and will instead start last in 33rd. Cars who qualified 26th through 33rd after Wilson will be moved up one spot.
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