Graham Rahal slouched atop a stool nestled inside a local coffee shop.
The 24-year-old IndyCar driver planted his elbows firmly on the small table in front of him.
But no crowd rumbled. No checkered flag flapped.
The loudest noise in the shop was the feverish tapping of Rahal’s right foot.
Again and again, he pounded his heel against the metal seat. It was as if he was hammering the gas pedal of a car flying at 225 miles per hour.
Five people claimed seats at the coffee shop, not the 400,000 expected at Sunday’s 97th Indianapolis 500.
The wait is killing the driver, who has a lengthy list of Chicago-area ties. The same driver who became the youngest winner in IndyCar Series history when he glided to victory in his debut at the ripe age of 19 years, 93 days.
But don’t be mistaken, there was nothing youthful about Rahal's stare.
The glow in his eyes looked more like that of a prizefighter poised to enter the ring than a driver sitting amongst the smell of coffee grounds and baked goods with race day still five days away.
“The adrenaline in that place on race day doesn’t compare to anything else,” Rahal said. “That’s really all you can say. It’s all I can think about. The Indy 500 is the Super Bowl, the World Series and the Stanley Cup all rolled into one.”
Well, maybe not quite.
Rahal admits he’s a little biased in his description of the famed race. But any event that remotely fits that bill comes with its fair dose of pressure.
And Rahal is no stranger to pressure.
Graham Rahal is the son of Bobby Rahal. Know him?
If you’re a racing fan, you would.
Bobby Rahal won three championships and 24 races in the CART open-wheel series, including the 1986 Indianapolis 500.
The elder Rahal raced in seven Indy 500s. The worst he finished was seventh place.
In short, he’s kind of a big deal.