Graham Rahal cherishes the year he spent as the late Justin Wilson’s teammate in 2008, when the teenager learned some important things about the gentle Briton’s life and race. Fifteen years later, he has another opportunity to join the Wilson family, this time with Justin’s younger brother, Stefan, who is sidelined from the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday due to injury.
In one of the most remarkable stories imaginable at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Stefan Wilson, his sponsor and team owner Don Cusick, and the Dreyer & Reinbold Racing team that fields Wilson’s No. 24 Chevy asked Rahal to be their driver in the 107th Indy 500.
“We are very sad that Stefan was injured on Monday and will not be able to compete again this Sunday in the #24 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing/Cusick Motorsports/CareKeepers Chevrolet,” said DRR Team Owner Dennis Reinbold.
“Stefan put so much effort into this race that it’s just heartbreaking that it happened. However, we are announcing that Graham Rahal will now be driving the #24 car this Sunday. We have known Graham for over a decade so that he drove our car at Iowa Speedway in 2010. He’s had a rough weekend here, but we think Graham can perform very well this Sunday.
The call was made on Monday, the day after Rahal was ousted from the field in his own No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, and Rahal accepted, completing his own emotional journey. The opportunity arises after Wilson learned he had broken his back and would be unable to race after being hit from behind and thrown into the wall at Turn 1 at over 200mph during practice.
“First and foremost, the only thing that matters is that Stefan is doing well given the circumstances,” Cusick said. “We are completely disgusted for Stefan and will now miss his favorite racing event, the legendary Indy 500. We wouldn’t be here without him and are committed to supporting him every step of the way to recovery and beyond. .
“Dreyer & Reinbold Racing and our partners have been nothing but supportive and I couldn’t be more grateful. I’m glad we were able to fill the #24 DRR/Cusick Motorsports/CareKeepers Chevy seat with a quality replacement in Graham Rahal. Graham knows the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval very well and we wish him the best this Sunday in the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing”.
Wilson qualified 25th on Sunday, and with the Cusick/DRR team preparing a new No. 24 entry for Rahal after the main frame was destroyed, he will have his first chance to drive it in Friday’s two-hour final practice of 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. . Due to the driver change, it’s unclear whether IndyCar will move the No. 24 car to the back of the 33-car field to start the race or allow Rahal to take Wilson’s original qualifying position.
“I admit it was a very tough weekend for me and the United Rentals/Fifth Third Bank/RLL team,” Rahal said. “We tried everything, but we just didn’t have the speed. I am very sad that Stefan was injured in training on Monday. I wish him a speedy recovery.
“I want to thank Dennis and Don for giving me this opportunity in the #24 car. I look forward to working with the team and preparing for the greatest race in the world, the Indianapolis 500. .
Fifth Third Bank and United Rentals, which had partnered with Rahal for the No. 15 entry, will move to No. 24.
Fostered by gratitude for all that Justin Wilson gave while mentoring the 19-year-old second IndyCar, the enduring bond between Rahal and the Wilsons runs deep. With Wilson’s loss in the Pocono IndyCar race in 2015, Rahal sprang into action to care for Wilson’s wife, Julia, and young daughters, Jane and Jess, by rallying the IndyCar paddock and some of the biggest names in the sport, including NASCAR and Formula 1, to donate helmets and other memorabilia. for a charity auction.
Driven by Rahal’s tireless efforts, which also included the help of Stefan Wilson, $637,067.94 was raised for Justin Wilson’s wife and daughters. In their proverbial hour of need, Rahal was there, and with an opportunity to return the kindness, Rahal was chosen from a number of riders to ensure he didn’t miss out on the race that matters most to him. every IndyCar driver.