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Rahal: IndyCar needs to focus on parts shortage, not new teams

Graham Rahal believes a bigger focus should be put towards fixing the parts shortage issues plaguing the IndyCar paddock before having new teams join the series.

Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda

Photo by: Richard Dole / Motorsport Images

The surging growth that has seen the full-time entries go from 18 in 2017 to now 27 which has presented an ongoing problem that continues to worsen. That number is likely to only get bigger next year with Prema fielding two cars.

At a time when there is a collective effort to push forward with a charter system in IndyCar and increased interest from prospective new teams, Rahal stressed the importance of keeping the series healthy by also not spreading itself thin with resources.

"This isn't a cold take, but in my opinion, we don't need new teams right now," said Rahal. "It's a great thing to have Prema, which is a very well-known international team. The reality is we need to get what we've got right first; we need to be able to supply the teams."

The Ohio native shared a story of how dreadful the supply issues are, with the chassis ordered for the Indianapolis 500 arriving roughly five months late at the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (RLL) base.

"We ordered a new chassis for me for the Indy 500," Rahal said. "It was supposed to be the beginning of December. We just got it [in early April]. Now, it's a mad thrash just to get that car ready to go race."

Those issues also extended to team-mate Christian Lundgaard, who suffered sidepod damage on the opening lap of his heat race in the non-points exhibition at The Thermal Club in March. With no spares available, his crew were forced to take a sidepod from another team-mate's car.

The scarcity of parts goes beyond just sidepods, too.

"It's front wings, it's rear wings, it's floors, it's everything," said Lundgaard. "It's more components as well. Luckily, all the teams are in the same trouble."

Christian Lundgaard, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda

Christian Lundgaard, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda

Photo by: Michael L. Levitt / Motorsport Images

As it stands, there may be no other driver better suited to understand the supply problems hindering IndyCar than Rahal, an entrepreneur with several businesses with multiple touch points in the automotive industry.

"Until we can get the basics of supply and demand right, I don't know," Rahal said. "Second to that is I live this every day in my businesses, I get supply is a trick, I get demand is a trick. Vendors are struggling, but the COVID excuse at some point has got to stop.

"We're past COVID. We need to start delivering on product. I feel bad for IndyCar because it's not their fault. I see all the tweets and all these guys that think they're experts, like fans talking about, 'Oh, IndyCar sucks, IndyCar this, IndyCar that'. They [IndyCar] are absolutely handcuffed.

"You're waiting on vendors to deliver parts and probably those vendors are waiting on somebody else to deliver them what they need. There's a lot of trickles down, too.

"People don't see [it but] obviously the war in Ukraine, a lot of wiring looms, a lot of braking components, a lot of semiconductors come out of Ukraine. There are issues, unfortunately, sad what's going on there, but it also has greatly affected - 10 degrees of separation later - where we are, too.

"So, I would think before we introduce more new teams, I think it's really critical to get the base sorted first."

Even with the parts problems extending throughout the paddock, tension is only going to escalate when the hybrid engine debuts mid-season.

"Whether it should or not, I think it's going to happen," Rahal said. "It's that simple. I think there's too many pressures. I think that they've got to make it happen, which is challenging for the series. It's challenging for the teams.

Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda

Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda

Photo by: Josh Tons / Motorsport Images

"Even on the series perspective, they probably wouldn't say it, but I think even for them it'd be easier to wait till '25. But there's a lot of external pressures that are making you implement it now. So, we'll see.

"Now, knock on wood, I think it has been quite reliable and that helps. I think they've done a really good job in all their testing. It's been pretty solid. That helps because at least when we get there."

One of the factors that is worrisome is how it could impact the championship.

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"But it's going to be a real shame if you go to Toronto or if you go to Mid-Ohio, which is supposed to be the first, and something stupid happens and you're out and you got no spare parts," Rahal said.

"What do you do? If you're in the championship hunt at that point in the season and you miss a race because your power unit failed or something, that's not going to be a good story to tell either. So, it's a little bit of a tough, tough thing. But we'll see."

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