COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Graham Rahal did not qualify for the Indianapolis 500 for the first time in his IndyCar series professional career.
Nevertheless, Rahal will sit behind the wheel at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the 16th consecutive year, this time as a substitute driver for Stefan Wilson. According to Racer.com, Wilson will miss the 107th Indy 500 after he suffered a fractured back in a Monday afternoon practice crash.
One day earlier, Rahal, a New Albany native and one of three drivers for the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (RLL) team, was vying for the last qualifying spot at the Brickyard. His teammate Jack Harvey took the 33rd and final spot, edging Rahal by 0.0044 seconds over four laps and 10 miles.
Rahal will drive the No. 24 car for Wilson, who qualified 25th for the Cusick/DRR team. Wilson is the son of Justin Wilson, who mentored Rahal in 2008 as a member of the Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing team.
Rahal released a statement on Twitter, which said in part, “The Wilson family has had a huge impact on my life. Justin was a guy I had the utmost respect for, who really helped shape my career, and me as a person in many ways. And I feel for Stef, I know how hard he works for these opportunities…. This is his seat and he certainly deserves it. When the call came I was certainly surprised, but happy and excited at the same time.”
Justin Wilson died in 2015 after he was struck in the head by flying debris in the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania. Rahal, who was emotional after his qualifying race Sunday, helped raise over $600,000 through charity auctions for the Wilson family.
Alex Palou captured the pole position with a record-setting run and an average speed of 234.21 mph. The Indianapolis 500 will air on NBC4 with the green flag set to wave at 12:45 p.m.