A Sponsor You Can Cheer For
Over the years, I’ve taken my fair of shots at Graham Rahal – some deserved, some maybe not. As I wrote a few weeks ago; I heard something in his voice when he was interviewed on Trackside that told me that we may be looking at a new and improved Graham Rahal. He seemed more mature, more focused and most importantly – more likeable. I attributed it to age and the fact that he is now engaged. Whatever the case, I found myself hoping that the second generation driver would have a much improved season this year.
Unfortunately, the old Graham Rahal resurfaced at St. Petersburg this past weekend. I really want to like Graham Rahal. I really do. He has so much going for him, and the series could benefit from his having a dominant presence. It’s too bad that he can be really hard to like sometimes, but believe me – I’m still trying.
Last week, I did find a reason to pull for Graham Rahal. It was announced last Tuesday that one of my favorite restaurant chains, Steak ‘n Shake, would be sponsoring Rahal for five races this season – including the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis and the Indianapolis 500.
I’ve been a fan of Steak ‘n Shake for years. Until recently, I was working in a location for over three years that had one just down the street. To say that I ate there frequently would be an understatement. Unfortunately, my new work location doesn’t have one nearby. Last Wednesday, I was out of the office for half the day and found myself fairly close to one at lunchtime. I pulled in and dined there, simply because they had chosen to become an IndyCar sponsor.
It seems that we don’t often get a chance to vote with our dollars and support the sponsors that support IndyCar. We can switch to Verizon and buy Firestone tires, but there aren’t too many chances beyond that. I do frequent Target on a regular basis. I’ve looked for Fuzzy’s Premium Vodka in Nashville, but have come up empty so far. I’m not in the market for a new television, so I can’t really support Hitachi. I don’t smoke, so there is no need for me to support any of the e-cigs that have supported IndyCar recently.
I don’t have any use for a crane, so Mi-Jack is not a company I can support. I rarely ship anything, so I can’t help DHL out – although I did drink Sun-Drop when they sponsored Ryan Hunter-Reay, but not now. I prefer Mountain Dew. I was a Boy Scout and have made contributions to them as an adult. Likewise, I made a contribution last year to Susan G. Komen. Once Pippa Mann is confirmed in the car, I’ll gladly make another contribution.
Bowers and Wilkins is not a company I can help – even if I were in the market for a new sound system. They are just a tad bit out of my price range. I don’t own a construction company, so there is no way I can help ABC Supply. Arrow and Spyder are partners with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. Although Arrow was the company that developed the car that Sam Schmidt drove at IMS last May, I’m not exactly sure what either company does, but I don’t think I’m a potential prospect for either. NTT Data is another company that I appreciate their help, but not real sure what they do.
But Steak ‘n Shake? That’s different. I’ll be honest, until I read last week’s press-release – I didn’t know they were based in Indianapolis. I knew there were tons of them in Indiana, but never really knew where they were based. Lately I’ve considered Indianapolis my adopted hometown, so that’s an even better reason to eat there.
I wish more sponsors that we have heard of would get involved in IndyCar. Not only does it help the overall visibility of the series, but it helps when we can all show our support with our wallets. How much was my bill for a Grilled Portobello & Swiss with fries and a glass of water, plus tip? $7.00. Assuming you have a Steak ‘n Shake in your area, we can all afford to show our appreciation to them for getting involved in the series.
But please understand – it’s not like I was looking for a reason to eat at Steak ‘n Shake. I already loved going there. But now that they are the primary sponsor on Graham Rahal’s car for five races, I’ll go out of my way to eat there even more. But more importantly, it has given me another reason to try to pull for Graham Rahal.
As I mentioned earlier; some say I’ve been a little hard on Graham over the years. But I feel like he’s hit rock-bottom after last season. Not only do I sense some maturity coming from him, I now notice there is some genuine humility in his voice that never used to be there – last weekend notwithstanding. I’m all about second chances if someone is genuine about changing their ways. Instead of the cocky and arrogant teenager that won his first race in the series, Graham Rahal is now a veteran that has experienced the low side of the sport and wants to improve. I can get behind someone like that, if he’ll give me a reason to.
But that’s not the only motivation to back someone. I’ll come up with the strangest reasons to suddenly pull for a driver that I never paid much attention to before. Maybe they’ve changed to a team that I like, or I like the looks of their livery. Maybe I’m a fan of their sponsor. Graham hasn’t changed teams, but he’s got a good looking car and a sponsor that I’ll be glad too support as often as I can.
Rahal was in the Mi-Jack car this past week at St. Petersburg, but he was carrying a retro-scheme that was a throwback to the orange and blue McLaren colors from the seventies. Next weekend at NOLA, he’ll be in another throwback livery – the D-A Lubricant Special that Bob Sweikert drove in his last 500 start in 1956. For five races, Rahal will be in the red Steak ‘n Shake car. It’s not a throwback, but it sure does look good.
Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing gives every indication that they are vastly improved over a disastrous 2014. Last season made Graham Rahal and easy target for some pretty funny punch lines. He didn’t help his cause or his popularity by blaming everyone under the sun for his misfortunes.
But most IndyCar fans are a forgiving bunch. If he and his team can create and sustain some momentum and display a good attitude – all that and his good looking cars and popular sponsors will suddenly make Graham Rahal someone very easy to pull for – if he’ll just stop getting in his own way.