Rahal ready for team leader status

Graham Rahal is confident that he is ready to become team leader at Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing in his third season of top-level American racing

Rahal ready for team leader status

The 20-year-old was kept on for the 2009 IndyCar season after his previous team-mate Justin Wilson was released as NHLR hunted for more sponsorship.

With his new team-mate Robert Doornbos lacking any oval experience, Rahal accepts that he will be the eight-times Champ Car title-winning team's main championship hope this year.

"I think the expectations that are put in place aren't necessarily because of my role on the team but more because of the fact that I want to go out there and win races and be successful," said Rahal, who won at St Petersburg last year on his IndyCar debut, having joined the series when Champ Car folded.

"Coming from a situation in Champ Car and transitioning here last year, it's all building blocks and leadership skills and a lot of learning that's taken place. Basically, every step in my career has been a learning year for me.

"This season, I think the entire team comes in with a lot more confidence, knowing that we ought to have a much better shot at being successful and winning races.

"I want to go out there and win races and prove that I deserve the role that I've taken in this team now.

"I feel like I've done a good job of building the team around me over the last couple of years and now it will hopefully all show through."

Although Rahal expects to be NHLR's main contender, Doornbos is confident that he will rapidly get up to speed as well.

"When I made the move from Formula 1 to Champ Car in 2007, I had no knowledge of circuits, tyres, drivers, engine, whatever, of that series, and I had five podiums out of the first six races, so that was a motivation boost," he said.

"I think my attitude is the same for IndyCar. The team contacted me because they know what I can do, and I'm here to do the best job I can. Of course, I have respect for the ovals, there's still a steep learning curve, but nothing to be worried about."

Newman/Haas/Lanigan could also run a third car for Milka Duno, who tested for the squad at Homestead last month.

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