HomeShowsThe Marty Smith Podcast: IndyCar Driver Graham Rahal Talks Indy 500, Driving for David Letterman, and Drinking Milk at the Brickyard

The Marty Smith Podcast: IndyCar Driver Graham Rahal Talks Indy 500, Driving for David Letterman, and Drinking Milk at the Brickyard

by Chris Haney
(Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)

With the Indy 500 coming up later this weekend, Outsider has the perfect podcast to get you ready for the famous race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. For the newest episode of The Marty Smith Podcast, the guys welcome in IndyCar driver Graham Rahal to the show to talk all things racing.

Rahal was born and raised around the IndyCar circuit because of his father, Bobby Rahal. His dad won three championships as a driver and took the checkered flag 24 times in the CART open-wheel series. Bobby is the winner of the 1986 Indianapolis 500 and also won the 2004 and 2020 Indy 500s as an owner.

Racing isn’t just a hobby for the Rahal family, but a way of life. So there’s no surprise that Graham followed in his father’s footsteps. In fact, he’s the second-youngest driver to compete in an IndyCar Series race after debuting in 2007 at only 18 years old. Further, he married drag racing icon John Force’s daughter, Courtney Force, in 2015. So racing extends throughout every part of Rahal’s family.

The 33-year-old currently drives for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. The team is co-owned by his father and another famous celebrity who happens to hail from Indiana. During the podcast, Graham talks about racing for co-owner and former late night host David Letterman. Of course, with the Indy 500 coming up in a few days, he dived into much more about the big race.

Graham Rahal talks about how winning at the Brickyard can change a driver’s life. He shares his thoughts on NASCAR legend Jimmie Johnson racing in this year’s Indy 500. Plus, the racer discusses the famous tradition of drinking milk after winning the Indy 500 and if drivers get to choose what kind to drink. Spoiler alert: chocolate milk isn’t an option. We’ve got that and much more on the newest episode of The Marty Smith Podcast presented by Outsider.

‘The Marty Smith Podcast’ Hosts Ask Graham Rahal to Encapsulate the Indy 500

As the guys get to talking about this weekend’s race, host Marty Smith shared that he thinks “there are five American sporting institutions that transcend their sport.” Smith shared that those include the Super Bowl, Kentucky Derby, Masters Tournament, Daytona 500, and the Indy 500. Since Graham Rahal has been around it his whole life, there’s no one better to explain what the Indy 500 is like. Smith asked Rahal to encapsulate and share his view on the famous race.

“I think that day it’s a special day in the sense that, well, it’s the world’s largest single-day sporting event. This year we’re going to see over 300,000 [fans] show up,” Graham Rahal said on The Marty Smith Podcast. “Ticket sales – grandstand ticket sales – are up around 30,000 tickets. Think about that number. When you think about the size of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, you go, ‘Oh, 30,000’s not that much.’ That’s bigger than any NHL stadium. Even a lot of NFL stadiums, that’s probably half capacity.”

Like every other sport, the IndyCar Series held events without fans in the stands or reduced the capacity because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Rahal is happy to have things back to normal in 2022 as they expect hundreds of thousands of fans this weekend.

“We’re excited to have everybody back, I think post-Covid too,” Rahal shared. “Sure last year we had some – 135,000 supposedly, it looked a lot more than that to me. But this year to have everybody back, the whole theme has been ‘Back Home Again in Indiana’ and I think it’s shaping up well, man.”

The IndyCar Driver Shares What It’s Like to Race for David Letterman

As mentioned, Graham Rahal already works for one famous individual in his father. However, former late night host David Letterman takes the cake when it comes to celebrity owners in the IndyCar Series. The Marty Smith Podcast co-host Wes Blankenship asked Rahal about what it’s like to work for the famous comedian. During his decades-long run on the Late Show, Letterman was known for goofing off as one of late night’s resident funny men. But how is he as an owner of an IndyCar team?

The driver shared that as funny as Letterman is, he takes IndyCar racing very seriously. As a kid who grew up in Indianapolis, Letterman is living his childhood dream. The comedian is extremely involved with their team’s operation and lays claim to two Indy 500 wins as an owner. Rahal said he’ll see him this weekend as Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing looks to take the checkered flag.

“Really this is a passion project for [David Letterman],” Rahal said of his team’s famous co-owner. “He grew up in Indianapolis, started as a weatherman here, went to Broad Ripple High School right down the street here. To be an owner in the Indy 500 and have the chance to win the Indy 500, which he’s done twice as an owner now. You know, that’s all a kid from Broad Ripple could dream of, and here he is.”

“We hear from him, we’ll see him this weekend – clearly. But we hear from him often,” the driver said of Letterman’s involvement. “Throughout the practices and qualifying and all that sort of stuff, I mean Dave is in touch. He’s not transparent, he’s not a ghost here. He’s involved, heavily involved. [Letterman’s] a guy that to have the opportunity to own a team and to be able to be here competing is something he always dreamed of as well.”

Graham Rahal Talks the Indy 500’s Longtime Tradition of Drinking Milk on Victory Lane

For those that didn’t realize, the Indy 500 has a longstanding tradition that doesn’t exactly sound refreshing. After racing and competing in a hot IndyCar for 500 miles, winners take to Victory Lane to celebrate the huge occasion. Since 1956, part of those celebrations include winners partaking in the ceremonial chugging of milk.

The Marty Smith Podcast hosts had to know more about the unique tradition. Is it a standard type of milk that everyone drinks? Do drivers get to choose their milk? Are different kinds of the dairy products used, such as almond, soy, or rice milks? They’re questions every race fan has thought of, and thankfully Graham Rahal has us covered.

“No, you can apply. Whatever you want except chocolate milk is not an option. They’re not up for that,” Rahal explained. “But you can get butter milk, 2%, whatever you want, whole, you can get it all.”

“And of course they film it and everything else,” he added. “But yea, you fill out [a sheet with your milk preference] and sign it at the bottom saying you approve of your choice. And then it’s there and ready for you.”

The guys talk about that and much more with IndyCar driver Graham Rahal on the newest episode of The Marty Smith Podcast. Make sure to check out their entire conversation below, or listen to the full interview on Spotify, Apple, or wherever else you listen to your favorite podcasts.