IndyCar: Could Graham Rahal soon become the next team owner?

Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, IndyCar (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)
Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, IndyCar (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images) /

Ed Carpenter has been the only active driver-owner in IndyCar since Michael Andretti put away his racing gloves, but that could soon change.

With another IndyCar season tucked away, drivers continue to find themselves looking at future endeavors, and what direction they want to pivot down the road. For many of them, that begins while they’re still behind the wheel.

Ed Carpenter started his team more than a decade ago, following his race win at Kentucky Speedway in what turned out to be the 2011 season finale. He drove the full schedule of races in 2012 and 2013, then shifted his focus to only the oval events.

All three of his wins, all nine of his podium finishes, and all four pole positions have come on oval tracks. He was able to focus most of his attention on running his organization, while also still doing what he loved.

Graham Rahal has 16 years of IndyCar racing experience, and while it may be a few less than Carpenter, he does have twice as many wins and 62 more starts to his name. The 28 podium finishes are a clear indicator that he certainly knows his way around a variety of tracks.

Although he is a better all-around driver, Rahal loves racing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway more than anything.

Graham has been trying to replicate the Indy 500 success that his father Bobby had, winning the Greatest Spectacle in Racing in 1986. Like Carpenter, Graham has not been able to secure his ultimate goal, but he still has plenty of opportunities ahead of him.

There were many times when Graham was close, finishing third twice and recording another top five finish in 2015. He was in a prime position in 2021 when a wheel came off of his car after a second-half pit stop, crushing his hopes and dreams. Of his 15 Indy 500 starts, 11 have been with Rahal Letterman Lanigan (RLL) Racing, including the last 10.

Graham Rahal is set to make his 16th Indy 500 start next year, but what about after that?

There are a lot of smart drivers in the paddock, and Graham is certainly one of them. But he also possesses something else that most others don’t have: a strong pedigree in business.

Graham learned about the business world through his father’s company, and he already has an organization of his own. He opened Graham Rahal Performance in 2017 and it has been thriving ever since.

RLL Racing are building a new $20 million global headquarters in Indiana, and they are thriving in IndyCar and the IMSA SportsCar Championship. Graham has always played a major part in the success of the organization, but his ambition and desire to run his own team may soon be on the horizon.

What will that look like if it ultimately comes to fruition? Only time will tell, but he certainly has the drive and the resources to do what Carpenter has been doing. It is difficult to imagine another driver in the paddock who would have any interest in doing something like this, but it seems like a natural transition for the 33-year-old.

A more likely scenario might be Graham moving into an ownership role with RLL Racing, as opposed to creating his own team. That thought was brought up at Media Day before this past season.

Graham admitted that he is closer to the end of his career than the beginning and that the plan is for him to take over RLL Racing one day.

“It never really was my mindset that someday I would be a team owner,” he said. “The minute that new team shop was built, I got a phone call from Mike and my dad. It was very clear that the expectation is that I’m going to assume that role with Pat Lanigan.”

The team expanded to three full-time cars last season, with Christian Lundgaard and Jack Harvey joining the fold. When the time comes, Graham will likely need to decide if he wants to continue racing full-time or scale back his driving duties as he takes on the important role of team ownership.

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No matter what he decides, Graham Rahal should be a familiar face around the paddock for many years to come. It has been 24 years since the last time a team owner (Eddie Cheever) won the Indy 500, but that drought could come to an end soon enough.