until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


Rahal to race in Indy 500 after all as Wilson’s stand-in

by Matt Beer
3 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Graham Rahal will race in the 2023 Indianapolis 500 after all, despite being bumped from the field in qualifying, having been called up to replace the injured Stefan Wilson in the Dreyer & Reinbold and Cusick Motorsports entry.

Wilson sustained a fracture in the 12th thoracic vertebrae in a collision with Katherine Legge during Monday’s practice session, and was ruled out of participating in the race, having qualified 25th.

Rahal had ended up being the race’s sole non-qualifier after a fraught practice and qualifying for the whole Rahal Letterman Lanigan team.

He and team-mates Christian Lundgaard and Jack Harvey were all among the four cars fighting for a place on the back row in the bump day session, with Legge the team’s only first-day qualifier and even then only in 30th on the grid.

It was Rahal who was left on the sidelines when a last-gasp effort by Harvey bumped him out.

While he now gets to race after all, Rahal said his biggest feeling was sadness for Wilson – whose family he has been close to since being team-mates with Stefan’s late brother Justin at Newman/Haas in the late 2000s.

“I certainly feel for Stef,” said Rahal. “I know how much he puts into this year, in year out to get the opportunity to be here.

“The Wilson family certainly in my life has had a very strong impact. Everything in life happens for a reason. Sometimes in life it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.”

Cusick founder Don Cusick said the team hoped Wilson would be fit enough to attend the race on Sunday.

“Obviously he’s fairly crushed emotionally, but supportive of what we’re doing here, and we can’t wait to get him better and get him back out here,” he said.

“He really appreciates all the concern, and hopefully we’ll get him back here on Sunday and he can walk down the track with them.”

The arrangement required the approval of the series’ two engine manufacturers, with the Rahal team a Honda runner but the DRR Cusick entry powered by Chevrolet.

Rahal had previously made a one-off start with DRR in 2010 when he did not have a full-time drive and was called up to stand in for its injured regular driver Mike Conway.

He is far from the first bumped driver to get a chance to participate in the Indy 500 after all, though it has more commonly happened when an arrangement is made for a non-qualifying full-season IndyCar driver to take over an entry that made the grid with someone else.

The most notable occurrences in the modern era both came at Bruno Junqueira’s expense, when he stood aside for Conquest Racing’s full-season driver Alex Tagliani in 2009 and then two years later had his short-on-sponsorship AJ Foyt entry sold to Andretti Autosport so its no-qualifying driver Ryan Hunter-Reay could make the race.

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