WEST ALLIS, Wis. – Having replayed his brush with the wall over and over in his mind this week, Graham Rahal takes full blame for the mistake that almost certainly cost him a victory at Texas Motor Speedway last week.
Still, heading into today’s IndyCar race at the Milwaukee Mile, Rahal does wonder whether the team of Texas winner Justin Wilson deserved a more significant penalty for a technical infraction that series officials found on his car after the race after missing them before the event.
Wilson took the checkered flag after Rahal touched the wall in the closing stages of the race; Rahal recovered to finish second. A post-race inspection found unapproved pieces of bodywork fitted to Wilson’s car, and Wilson was docked five points while his Dale Coyne Racing team was fined $7,500.
Rahal doesn’t think the violation was the decisive factor in Wilson’s win – but he doesn’t see the punishment as much of a deterrent, either.
That’s what bothers me, 7,500 bucks? If you win a race, I’ll pay 7,500 bucks out of my own pocket, Rahal said Friday. If you get five points, that doesn’t even take you from finishing first to finishing second. The points gap is barely that. So it’s like it’s no penalty. It’s no penalty.
Rahal isn’t directing criticism at Wilson, a former teammate he respects as just about any other driver in the series.
It takes nothing away from him, Rahal said. But when is cheating cheating? Oversight or not, it doesn’t matter. It’s illegal.
During a test at Iowa Speedway this week, IndyCar vice president of technology Will Phillips said Wilson’s team used standard parts that initially were approved for Texas but were later banned.
Wilson called the criticism from drivers – others have chimed in as well this week, including Dario Franchitti and Helio Castroneves – disappointing.
Wilson insisted the part didn’t provide a significant performance advantage and said the relatively light penalty was an indication that series officials agreed.
Now Rahal is ready to move on to the Milwaukee Mile, one of his favorite tracks.
It’s a track I want on the schedule, and it’s a place that I’ve always loved coming to, said Rahal, who helped organize a bus trip for fans from the Indianapolis area who wanted to attend. Anything I can do to help makes a difference. And I wish that the drivers would get more involved, generally, to make these things happen. It’s pretty simple for us to do.