A Good Guy Steps Up And Comes Through
Over the years, I’ve made some rather candid statements about Graham Rahal that probably infuriated some of you who are fans of his. My feelings at the time were that he had a tremendous amount of talent, but it was being under-utilized. I also felt that he had a tremendous amount of growing up to do. That’s easy to say when you are in your fifties and passing judgment on a kid who was in his early twenties.
For years I have followed Graham Rahal on Twitter. His posts were always about his jet-set lifestyle and his cast of drop-dead gorgeous girlfriends. Did I really want him to grow up or was I just jealous?
Fast forward about five years to today, and we find a Graham Rahal that is now twenty-seven. For the last year and a half, the young Rahal has impressed me. What he did last year with an underperforming Honda engine while on a one-car team is legendary. In the past offseason, I said that I’d be a Graham Rahal believer if he could back up last season with a similar one this season. So far, he has done just that.
The light goes on for some quicker than others. Sometimes it never goes on. I think mine didn’t go on until I was in my late thirties – at the earliest. So who am I to question the maturity of any driver that is brave enough to climb into a cockpit and routinely push the envelope at Indianapolis and any other track? Don’t answer that.
Whether it was getting married last fall, gathering wisdom or just gaining experience – Graham Rahal has proven himself to be a top driver in the Verizon IndyCar Series. More than that, he’s a racer. There is a huge difference between being a driver and a racer. So suffice it to say that since the start of last season, I’ve completely changed my opinion of Graham Rahal.
Now he’s given me another reason to like and admire him.
If you’ve ever watched one of our One Take Only videos, you’ve gotten to know my good friend John McLallen. What you don’t know is that John has an identical twin brother named Frank, who lives in Memphis. This past winter, Frank was diagnosed with Stage IV prostate cancer. He had his last radiation treatment a couple of weeks ago and things look promising.
The week before the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis, just after it was announced that this year’s Indianapolis 500 was a sellout – Frank’s wife called John saying she wanted to surprise Frank with a trip to the “500” to boost his spirits. John tried to explain to her that for the first time in over twenty years, the race was a sellout. With tickets and hotels at a huge premium, it may not be possible – but he would check.
Thinking I knew a few people, John asked me if I knew of any way to get hold of two extra tickets on short notice. I really didn’t, but I threw it out on Twitter that I was looking for two extra tickets to the “500” to buy for a friend’s brother with cancer. I figured someone with two tickets might see it, but would want to charge a huge premium to make a few bucks. After less than an hour, Graham Rahal sent me a direct message on Twitter saying that he would buy the tickets for my friend’s brother as his gift to him.
John and I are co-workers. I called him into my office to show him the message. He couldn’t believe it. He called Frank’s wife and told her. Within the hour, Frank had been told about his Indianapolis surprise and was beside himself – to say the least.
Frank got lucky on the hotel also. John called his hotel and found that they had just had a room cancellation, so he got a room for Frank and his wife at his hotel.
On Carb Day, I got the tickets in hand. On Saturday at Legends Day, I met John and Frank behind the Pagoda and gave Frank his tickets.
Unlike John who goes every year, Frank had not been to the “500” since 1969. He always talked about going back, but just never did. I’ve never seen anyone beam more than Frank when he opened up the tickets and saw they were premium seats in the Tower Terrace. He gave me a crushing bear hug as if I was the one responsible. I assured him that all I did was put a post on Twitter. It was Graham Rahal who saw the tweet and stepped up big-time.
In our e-mail exchanges, Graham never once asked me to publicize this. He has no idea that I’m writing this and will probably never see it. The fact that he sent me a direct message rather than sending out a public tweet, tells me that he didn’t do this for the publicity. He did it because he could and his heart is in the right place. As I thanked him, all he kept saying was that he was happy to do it and he hoped Frank would have a good time.
Graham Rahal probably will not win the championship this season. He may or may not ever win the season championship or the Indianapolis 500, although I wouldn’t bet against him. But even if he doesn’t, I can promise you that he is already a champion in the eyes of the McLallen family. He has provided the best medicine anyone could possibly have as Frank continues his fight against cancer – the trip of a lifetime to the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500.
And for what it’s worth, Graham Rahal has completed his turnaround in my eyes. Not only do I now think he’s a great driver; he’s proven that he’s an exceptional human being. Thanks for helping out a friend, Graham.