Eight weeks after a disastrous Indianapolis 500 literally took a toll on his health, Bobby Rahal is seeing his team take big strides towards recovery as IndyCar enters the final stretch of the 2023 season.

His Rahal Letterman Lanigan team earned its first IndyCar win in over three years last weekend on the streets of Toronto, with his rising star of a driver Christian Lundgaard converting pole into his maiden victory in the series.

The result was something Rahal could hardly have imagined just a short while ago, and is the product of some drastic changes made behind the scenes to correct a troublesome trend in the team’s performance.

Striking a serious tone among his race win celebrations, Rahal described to media how hard it has been to make the necessary changes that have led to the team’s quick turnaround.

“Making changes is difficult because it’s obviously affecting people’s lives, and that’s not fun,” said the 70-year-old team owner.

“When everybody says, ‘Oh, it must be great to be a president of the company.’ Yeah, it’s great until the minute you have to let somebody go. Then you feel like crap, whether they deserved it or not.

“Just things weren’t working. I think that we felt we just had to — you know what they say about the definition of insanity is keep doing the same thing time and time again and expecting a different result.

“I just felt that we were at that point. We needed to give some people some opportunities that they maybe had been wanting for a while and hadn’t been given that opportunity. I think that contributed to this turnaround of sorts. Just different atmosphere.

“You know, again, it’s no fun making those kind of decisions. I mean, it’s no fun at all, but we have to. We’re a company. We represent great companies.

“We have great people within our team, and we have an obligation to those groups, to the people within our team, and to our sponsors. So you have to do what you have to do.”

Bobby Rahal had little to smile about during the Month of May. Photo: Kevin Dejewski

The RLL team has been slowly expanding in recent years, and for the first time in its 30 year history has fielded three full time IndyCar entries for the last two seasons.

The team also began working out of a brand new shop this year, which houses the IndyCar and IMSA squads in the same facility.

Rahal and the rest of the team had hoped that investing in their resources would immediately give a boost their performance, but instead they found themselves struggling this year.

Often coming to the track with setups that were far from optimal, RLL attempted to find the source of the problem before the heart of the season approached.

A quick solution was not found, however, and Rahal watched on as his son Graham Rahal was bumped out of the Indy 500 by one of his own team-mates on qualifying day. That sequence delivered a big hit to the longtime owner’s pride.

Graham Rahal was bumped from the Indy 500, before joining Dreyer and Reinbold to fill in for an injured Stef Wilson. Photo: Kevin Dejewski

“Well, after Indy, the month of May took — I’m 70 years old, and the month of May took a real toll on me. I wasn’t sleeping well at night. We’re here to win. We’re not here to fricking play around or to be part of it. We’re here to win.

“I’m telling you, it was bad. So much so that I thought my physical health had been — you know, a year ago in June I had open heart surgery. This May, I mean, it knocked me back a few steps because I’m not here just to show up. I’m here to win.

“All the effort [Christian Lundgaard] and Graham [Rahal] and Jack [Harvey] and our team. Everybody is working their butt off, and it haunted me. It pained me.

“That’s why I just said right after Indy, I said, ‘We’re going to create and instill and initiate the Indy Recovery Plan,’ which we’re in the process of doing. Which is all about looking into why we performed so poorly and fixing those issues so that next May we’re fighting for the pole, and that’s our goal.

“I’ve got great people to help me do that: Steve Eriksen, Stefano Sordo, Ricardo Nault. May was hell for me. That’s why we made the decisions that we made, and they weren’t easy. I think we’re getting the results of those, but I don’t take any confidence that we’re there yet.”

Much of the team’s recent strong results have been delivered by the #45 entry. Photo: Kevin Dejewski

Rahal confirmed that part of his ‘Indy Recovery Plan’ included letting some of his staff members go so that he could bring in some fresh perspectives.

He took those decisions very personally, and was very cognizant of the lives and families he was disrupting in order to make room for new people in the operation.

Nearly two months on, it seems as if that plan of attack is beginning to manifest itself with more consistent pace on track the past couple race weekends.

Christian Lundgaard earning pole and his first win in Toronto is just the most visible part of the team’s recovery, as there are many other pieces that are beginning to work better behind the scenes.

Rahal reiterated after the Toronto weekend how proud he is of the whole team for working through the changes, and that he expects more good things to come from their continued efforts.

Christian Lundgaard delivered the team’s first win in over three years. Photo: IndyCar

“Detroit really — that bothered me more than Indy because we should have been — I mean, we won Detroit several years ago, the two races. We won that race. Then to go back there and be so out of it, that just really bothered me.

“I have to tell you it was emotional for me because of the hell that we went through in the last six weeks and to have a race like we had this weekend, and to see Graham going from 27th to ninth, I mean, Jesus.

“Yeah, I’m just very proud of the team, very proud of the working relationships we have within the team, whether it’s with Christian and Graham and Jack or the engineers or what have you.

“So, anyway, you have to make changes that you think are right, and thankfully we’ve had some good results since then, but we’ve got to keep doing what we’re doing. You just can’t rest on our laurels. We have to keep pushing.”

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