Team owner Bobby Rahal (middle) alongside drivers Jack Harvey (left) and Graham Rahal during Indy 500 qualifying. (Penske Entertainment/James Black Photo)

Bump Day: A Nightmare Scenario For Rahal Letterman Lanigan

INDIANAPOLIS — It was a nightmare scenario for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing in Sunday’s Last Chance Qualifying for the 107th Indianapolis 500.

Graham Rahal was on the bubble and teammate Jack Harvey was on the outside of the 33-car starting lineup. The only way for the Rahal Letterman Lanigan driver to make the race was to bump out his teammate and friend.

For team owner Bobby Rahal, it was also the 30th anniversary of when he failed to make the 1993 Indianapolis 500 starting lineup just one year after he won the 1992 CART IndyCar National Championship.

Rahal hit the 2.5-mile oval in his Honda and put down two decent laps at 229.614 mph and 229.298 mph.

But there was trouble brewing in Rahal’s Honda on the first lap.

The weight jacker broke and the driver was having to hang on to the race car to make sure it remained in control while still running a speed fast enough to make the race.

“That ruins the handle of the car and the aerodynamics, but you can’t do anything,” Graham said afterwards. “You try to adjust the tools on the car with the front bar, but everything that need to happen, it didn’t happen.

“It also failed on us on practice, too, but we thought we had fixed it. Then it happened again.”

Graham Rahal on track during Indy 500 qualifying. (Dallas Breeze Photo)

Sitting on a golf cart on pit lane sat 70-year-old Bobby Rahal as he tried to remain calm but was obviously concerned.

Graham’s third lap was 228.975 mph, an expected drop-off from the Firestone Firehawk Tires which begin to lose grip when Indy cars are running on the aged edge.

Rahal’s final lap was 228.751 mph and that gave him a four-lap average of 229.159 mph.

Harvey went out for another run at 4:55 p.m. and turned in a 228.929 mph average for four laps. It wasn’t enough to bump Rahal from the field.

He quickly came back down pit road; the team slapped on a fresh set of Firestones and immediately sent him back onto the track.

By the time his four-lap run was completed at 229.166 mph, he made the field and knocked Rahal out of this year’s Indianapolis 500.

“It’s a tough day, mate,” Harvey said. “I said to Graham, ‘I’m sorry, I’m not sorry.’

“What do you say to someone in that moment?

“I want to be in the race. I want to be in the 107th running of the Indy 500. I want to do it for me, for my family, my friends. I want to do it for the mechanics on the team, for everybody on the team, for all of the sponsors that we have on the No. 30 car, especially for people ready this weekend.

“I hate what it means for the 15 car and for Graham and all his crew because at the end of the day we are one united effort, and we know there’s a lot of work ahead, but I just said to him, ‘I just wanted to do the best four laps I could. I’m sorry it’s bumped you out.’

“On the personal side, Graham is a very close friend of mine,” Harvey continued. “The guy texts when I’ve got issues, or I want his advice or want to pick his brain on something. Not fun, essentially not only knocking out a team car but one of your mates at the same breath.

Jack Harvey hugs a crew member after qualifying for the Indy 500. (Penske Entertainment/Chris Jones Photo)

“Obviously, me and him chatted about it. We kind of felt like it would be me or him that gets knocked out, and obviously everyone knows it’s not personal. He wants to be in the race, I want to be in the race, and the tradition of this place is tradition for a reason.

“Bump Day is notorious, and as soon as there’s 34 cars — maybe these guys are confident, but I don’t think anyone is confident as soon as there’s a car that you know is not going home.”

It was back in 2020 when Bobby Rahal was with co-team owners David Letterman and Michael Lanigan celebrating Takuma Sato’s victory in the Indianapolis 500.

“That is what is so odd,” Bobby said. “Three years ago, we had two great race cars. Now, we have four race cars that can’t get out of their own way.

“We have to figure out what the hell is going on and we have a couple days to do that.”

Graham Rahal was extremely emotional after he was knocked out of the starting lineup. He even broke down a few times.

But the 34-year-old son of Bobby Rahal believes the team must fix the problem.

“We have to make sure we are doing the right things and fixing the inherent speed issue of the cars,” Graham Rahal said. “It’s hard to imagine it’s us in this position, but I could have told you at the test in April that we were in trouble.

“When you get to the test and feel that way, it’s too late. It just came to a head here.”