Graham Rahal will race the Indy 500 in place of injured Stefan Wilson with No. 24 Chevrolet
Graham Rahal, who had failed to qualify two days earlier, will replace the injured Stefan Wilson in the 107th Indy 500.
Wilson suffered a fractured vertebrae in a Monday practice crash after colliding with Katherine Legge, Graham’s Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing teammate.
Dreyer & Reinbold Racing/Cusick Motorsports’s first choice to fill the No. 24 Dallara-Chevrolet was Rahal, who had been bumped from the field on the final attempt of the Last Chance Qualifying session Sunday by Jack Harvey (who drives for the RLL team that was founded and co-owned by Graham’s father, Bobby).
“It’s been a whirlwind,” team owner Dennis Reinbold said in a Tuesday morning news conference at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “We’re excited to put Graham in the car. Stefan will have a further evaluation today and is going in for X-rays to determine the best path for him.
“We had to do a lot of work yesterday to get things put together with Graham. There were a lot of hurdles involved. So many conflicts and things to work through to put this together.”
As a replacement driver, Rahal will start from the rear of the field in his 16th consecutive Indianapolis 500 since 2008. It also will mark his first time racing a Chevrolet in an NTT IndyCar Series after a career of driving Hondas.
We are happy to announce that @GrahamRahal will will pilot the No. 24 in the 107th Running of Indianapolis 500!
Rahal replaces Stefan Wilson who suffered an injury in yesterday’s practice session. #DrivenByDRR | #Indy500 | #ThisIsMay pic.twitter.com/VqQgLrNHHo
— Dreyer & Reinbold Racing (@DreyerReinbold) May 23, 2023
“I told Dennis I’m not really sure I want to waste your time,” Rahal said about the manufacturer conflict. “I’ve spent my entire career in a Honda, and I’m not sure they could get the releases in place. Sometimes weird things happen in this world, and I’m fortunate to be here.
“I knew the hurdles were going to be massive. It wasn’t just as easy as saying yes. Last night at 10:30, we were going, ‘I can’t believe this actually happened that Honda and Chevy allowed this to happen.’ We’re very appreciative. I knew the challenges were far greater than me.”
With the team going to a backup car after Wilson’s crash, Rahal will drive a 2-year-old chassis in Sunday’s race. Reinbold said using Rahal’s No. 15 RLL chassis for the race wasn’t an option.
The dramatic turn of events will help Rahal avoid missing the Indy 500 just as his father, Bobby, did 30 years ago as a defending series champion.
“First, I feel bad for Stefan that he is hurt,” Bobby Rahal said in a release. “I’m sure he was very excited after qualifying for the race and had done a great job all month. It’s a real shame that this happened. I wish him the best and hope he has a speedy recovery. I’m sure we will see him again.
“I have to say this came out of the blue. I’ve known Dennis for years personally. I have always liked and respected him as a fellow racer and also a car dealer. When Dennis called, we went to work to make this happen. The most amazing thing is how all these different groups, out of respect for the sport and the Indy 500, agreed to agree and go forward even though it may have been somewhat of a difficult decision.
“The fact that everyone pulled together to make this happen for Dennis, and also for Graham, makes us very thankful. I am also thankful that Dennis asked Graham to join him and his team and appreciate the commitment and excitement from Mike, Dave, United Rentals and Fifth Third Bank to see this happen. We wish them the best in the race.”
Graham Rahal is no stranger to Dreyer & Reinbold, having finished ninth in the June 20, 2010 race at Iowa Speedway with the team.
“It’s also special for me to come back,” Rahal said. “I had a really strong run (at Iowa), and I’ve always admired what Dennis has been able to do, and the entire organizaiton does a great job.”
Rahal said he texted Ryan Hunter-Reay, who now becomes his teammate at the Brickyard, after practice last Wednesday that “Damn, dude, you’re going to win this thing. It was the best car I saw all day.
“I’m excited for the opportunities, but this is certainly Stef’s ride, and I’m fortunate to be in position to help and fill in and hopefully have a really great Sunday.”
Rahal was a close friend of Justin Wilson, Stefan’s older brother who was killed in a crash at Pocono Raceway 13 years ago.
“I feel for Stef,” Rahal said.”I know how much he puts into this year in and out to get the opportunity to be here. To see what hapepned to him is never good. I know the roller coaster he’s on, and I know he’ll be back really strong and better than ever.
“The Wilson family in my life has had a very strong impact. Everything in life happens for a reason. Sometimes it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. When I got the call from Dennis, I felt compelled that for some reason my calling was to be here and be able to help as best I could to fill in. It was an honor for me to receive the call. I’m very grateful.”
Graham Rahal will race the Indy 500 in place of injured Stefan Wilson with No. 24 Chevrolet originally appeared on NBCSports.com