Rahal changes speeds on the mound

IndyCar driver throws out first pitch, reflects on Letterman's exit

Rahal changes speeds on the mound

CHICAGO -- Graham Rahal took time out from preparation for his eighth Indianapolis 500 this weekend to throw out one of the ceremonial first pitches prior to Tuesday's contest between the White Sox and Indians at U.S. Cellular Field.

Rahal, who was the youngest driver to win a Verizon IndyCar Series race at the age of 19 years and 93 days, grew up in Columbus, Ohio, as an Indians fan, but he has no true baseball affiliation currently. The former driver for Paul Newman currently drives for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, and that Letterman just happens to be the iconic talk-show host, whose 33-year-run as a late night staple comes to an end Wednesday night.

"I've known Dave pretty much my entire life," said Rahal, who is the son of 1986 Indianapolis 500 winner Bobby Rahal. "You look at it for probably, for all of my life, pop culture icon. He is like the guy. To see that come to an end is a little bit weird for me because I haven't seen that too much in my lifetime, I would say.

Graham Rahal on his first pitch

"At the same time, I would say it's cool in the sense that he is a part owner of our team, and I think it would be good to see him in a more relaxed state. Every time I see Dave, he's always got to be on the run.

"He comes to a race, but he has to leave the second it's over, back to New York for whatever plans CBS or whoever had for him," Rahal said. "Now, hopefully, we can see him at the track more, No. 1, and No. 2, in a more relaxed sort of way where he can enjoy himself a little more.

Rahal was joined by his fiancée, Courtney Force, an NHRA Funny Car competitor and daughter of NHRA legend John Force. The duo made their way to the #SoxSocial Lounge after the first pitch, which wasn't quite as fast as the speeds Rahal will be reaching this weekend.

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.