More importantly, the win is just what the IndyCar Series needed to showcase its new era of unity.
Rahal has one of IndyCar racing's most famous last names and carries on the lineage of his father, a three-time CART IndyCar Series champion in the 1980s and 1990s and winner of the 1986 Indianapolis 500.
Young and poised, Rahal sounds like a 30-year-old veteran when he speaks. And by winning in his first-IndyCar Series start on Sunday, the driver from New Albany, Ohio, became American racing's newest star and could become the poster boy for IndyCar's new unified era.
His fearless drive at the end of the race edged
"I think it's great," said IndyCar driver
Castroneves was attempting to win the St. Pete street race for the third straight year and drove to the rear of Rahal's car on the final restart before getting left in its wake.
"You know, we're talking about
Rahal became IndyCar's youngest winner at 19 years and 93 days. Prior to that,
Rahal is also the fourth driver in IndyCar Series history to win in his first series start.
Those are some impressive accomplishments for a kid who has friends back home either flipping burgers at Wendy's or attending college looking for someone old enough to buy them beer.
"When I go home, I'm just another kid," Rahal said. "I really don't talk about racing much when I'm around town. In New Albany, where I live, it's nothing that I really ever talk about."
Ironically, Rahal's father owns a rival IndyCar Series team.
While Graham drives for Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing -- one of the new teams in IndyCar which came over from Champ Car during unification -- Bobby is the owner of Rahal/Letterman Racing, which features
"I don't know that I expected him to win this year at all," Bobby Rahal said of his son. "I was hoping he would but I didn't expect him to because this is a tough crowd. It was a tough crowd in Champ Car when you had
"To win his first race and to win it pretty convincingly ... this wasn't won on a yellow or on a fuel-consumption race. It was won when it was time to go fast. He was the fastest guy on the track."
Bobby Rahal talked to his team partner, television's
"Dave was thrilled," Bobby recalled. "Dave has said in the past he wouldn't put Graham on until after he won a race so now we'll see if we get that call."
It's probably a pretty safe assumption that sometime in the next two weeks, Graham Rahal will be strolling out onto the set of
"I drove down here," Graham said afterwards. "I was looking forward to driving back home on Monday but now we'll have to wait and see. I've got a long drive home and I'm sure there will be plenty of people calling me."
It was important for the sport to have a new winner because it shows that, by adding both series together, an even stronger single series has emerged. Instead of having two series becoming increasingly irrelevant, the unified IndyCar Series has begun to get noticed and Rahal's victory embodies this new era of optimism.
After winning Sunday's Sprint Cup Samsung 500 at Texas Motor Speedway,
Essentially, the three-time race winner said
"I don't want to get on a rant here, but let me state my position very clearly, because you asked," Edwards said. "I've heard people say that the races are boring, and people always want something to complain about -- if it's too hard to drive, you don't get enough side-by-side racing.
"The fact is that these are the 43 best drivers in the world. The cars have 900 horsepower and go 200 miles an hour, and the track is slippery and the tires are slippery and that's a spectacle. That's what it's supposed to be. It's not supposed to be easy, everyone. It's not supposed to be driving down the interstate.
"I'm tired of hearing people complain. The media make up stories about how terrible it is and stuff. This is auto racing. There are going to be people that are faster. We're going to have days when we can't keep up because the car is too hard to drive. Somebody is going to win. That's racing.
"So, for me, personally, I didn't have trouble with the car at Atlanta. I think that as long as the tires don't blow out, they're fine. So it's the same for everyone and it just makes it more exciting to win and it means more. That's how I feel about that."
NASCAR likes to take credit for a lot of things, including the SAFER Barrier that has been installed at all of its race tracks throughout the series.
Because of NASCAR's strength and influence in the racing industry, it helped implement one of the greatest safety innovations in recent auto racing history.
But after watching
He thanked Indianapolis Motor Speedway CEO and Indy Racing League founder and CEO
It was the IRL that worked with the University of Nebraska and its crash research department led by Dr.
"Tony George was instrumental in the creation of the SAFER Barrier," Waltrip said after McDowell crashed on Friday. "I just have to tell you that millions of dollars were spent to try to make a car -- through the passion of
Despite the crash, McDowell made the race because he took over a car that was in the Top 35 in points when teammate
"I came off of four on that first lap and I just felt a little bit off, like something wasn't right," McDowell recalled. "I went into one and I didn't know if it was the oil dry or something happened, but it's real unfortunate. I hate to make that much work for the guys back at the shop. Fortunately, I'm okay.
"I got to see that replay and it wasn't very good. I'm thankful for everyone back at the shop that makes these cars safe. That's one of the worst wrecks that I've seen in a while and I'm not excited I had to participate in it. We'll be fine."