A Good Guy Steps Up And Comes Through

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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.

Frank

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.

George Phillips

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13 Responses to “A Good Guy Steps Up And Comes Through”

  1. Very cool. Top man.

  2. Wow! That actually brought a little tear to my eye that I won’t admit ever again happened. That is just a wonderful story right there. Also George, that should tell you that you are a great blogger because I would bet that Graham does know who you are and maybe reads this blog. Keep it up. I to have transformed into a Graham supporter after a rocky relationship that even went so far as Bobby Rahal and I having a twitter spat about his sons abilities when he had a crash with Tristian Vautier.

  3. Damn. That’s impressive. What a good guy.

  4. DZ-groundedeffects Says:

    I’m glad you told this story because it needs to be told.

    I can appreciate Graham’s willingness to remain private, but these are the stories that complete one’s total view of any sport. Especially with Indycar because up and down the paddock, I doubt you’d find a better quality of people when compared to most all other sports, than in Indycar.

    Thanks to Graham Rahal for showing the importance of extending the good humanity that exists in all of us.

  5. Graham’s generosity gave us the opportunity to spend a fabulous week together and, together, visit old friends and family in Indianapolis. These tickets had a far bigger impact than only attending the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500, which in and of itself is immeasurable. After all of the radiation treatments we were ready to slow down a bit to accommodate Frank’s energy level, but he had his go button pressed and stayed energized. This was the best medicine that a fellow could ever ask for and it was also a good boost for the family.

    Frank now has a goal of bringing his 2 boys and son-in-law up next year and I am very much looking forward to that. He’ll be there! Of course, we will all be cheering Graham on and there is no doubt that RLL can put together the perfect month and our guy can find himself on the Borg Warner Trophy. I will be as unbiased as I can on “One Take Only” (yeah, right), but I think it goes without saying who I’m pulling for. Thanks Graham!!!!

  6. billytheskink Says:

    Thank you, thank you so much for sharing, George. It is stories like these that make me proud to be an Indycar fan.

    Graham has plenty of company in a paddock full of good guys. Still, this is one of the most outstanding gestures I’ve heard of by an Indycar driver. Having some very close family members who have battled prostate cancer, I’m especially touched. I’m very happy to hear that Frank had a great time at the 500 and I’m sure Graham is too.

  7. Ken Parman Says:

    Excellent story and one of the big reasons I follow Indycar as compared to the other racing series out there. Many great examples of generosity from drivers and teams fill the paddock…. Graham Rayhall , Pippa Mann, RHR, are just a few of the”stars” of Indycar Good on ya Graham!!!!

  8. Mark Wick Says:

    George, your years of blogs obviously made it possible for you to have this story to tell, but if this were the only post you ever made it would be enough to make a significant difference to many people in many ways. Thank you for sharing. Thank you Graham Rahal for doing something so meaningful.
    My Dad dealt with prostate cancer for years, so this hits home. dad also took me to my first two races in ’63 and ’65.

  9. Yannick Says:

    Hats off to him. He’s a class act. Thanks for sharing the story.

    By the way, I’ve read somewhere that under the old CART points regulations, neither Scott Dixon nor Juan Montoya would have won last year’s title, but Graham Rahal would have. So in a way, you are right that he is already a champion, for completely different reasons. Best of luck to him. And here’s to a full recovery for Frank.

    • billytheskink Says:

      I read that about Graham and the old CART points structure as well, but whoever did that miscalculated. Using the points system that CART used for most of its existence, Montoya wins the 2015 championship over Dixon 152-142 with Rahal leaping Power for third with 136 points.

      Using the CART points system this year would move Rahal from 12th to 6th with 52 points, within 15 points of 2nd. Pagenaud’s points lead becomes even more daunting in this structure, though, as he would have 117 points.

  10. Ron Ford Says:

    Even at the age of 75 I would be very reluctant to question someone else’s maturity level considering my own lack thereof. I am not that surprised that Graham would do this. Quite a wondeful story. Graham was probably the most accessible driver to talk to at the Road American IndyCar practice I attended. I was also impressed that he arranged for busses to take fans from Indy to Milwaukee for the race. He is certainly fun to watch on the track.

  11. What a wonderful story, George! Thank you for sharing. I was just saying to someone this morning about the approachability and the overall kindness I have been shown by IndyCar drivers. (I am always recruiting). I think Graham has matured as a driver and as a man. He has confidence that I don’t think he had before last year. And he is fun to watch and to root for. Lastly let’s not forget Graham’s role in the online auction to benefit Justin Wilson’s family. A class act!

  12. Edgar Emmitt Says:

    Being a Graham Rahal fan for years doesn’t surprise me.Sometimes the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree given the Rahal family name.His dad was a great example to his son.
    My hat’s off to a wonderful young man and with a few breaks a Champion in the Indy Car Series and most of all an Indy 500 winner.

    Graham is a great example of a real human with feelings for his fellow man.

    Thanks for the happy ending to a great story line.

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