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Rahal, Andretti happy to talk up rivalry pre-Indy

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POSTED May 21, 2012 10:30 p.m.

NEW YORK (AP) — Marco Andretti fist-bumped Graham Rahal on his way out of an Indianapolis 500 promotional event, a much friendlier encounter than their bump on the track at Long Beach last month.

The two young drivers with the famous racing names don't want to be too civil, though. They know their rivalry is good for a sport craving attention and they are happy to talk it up.

"I've got the ultimate respect for him, and I'd say it goes both ways," Rahal said Monday. "Of course, we clashed at Long Beach, and I can guarantee it's not going to be the last time. There's always going to be two sides to the story. I still don't agree with what happened, but that's the way these things go.

"But at least people are paying attention to it, if nothing else. In this case I come out looking like the bad guy, which is cool. Someone's got to be the bad guy. It will go full circle. It gets people writing about it and gets it out there. To a certain extent, that's what we need. Really the case is there's no bad publicity."

This is the first IndyCar season in several years without Danica Patrick, who while only mildly successful was one of the series' most popular drivers.

On April 15, Andretti's car launched briefly into the air and spun into a tire barrier after hitting Rahal from behind. IndyCar officials ruled Rahal was guilty of blocking and initiating avoidable contact and placed him on probation for six races. Defending himself in Long Beach before the punishment came down, Rahal implied that Andretti doesn't take responsibility for mistakes.

"What's Marco's last name?" Rahal asked. "I've said enough."

That led to Mario Andretti challenging Rahal on Twitter over the comments about his grandson. The racing great wrote: "That insult includes me. You insulted me to the world & I responded."

The two cleared the air over the phone the next day, but that won't stop the occasional jab between the two families.

"There is that inner competition that you have with the other names. ... My dad and his dad used to beat the crap out of each other, and we're going to do the same," Marco Andretti said Monday.

Bobby Rahal won the 1986 Indianapolis 500, three years before his son was born. The Andretti family has been chasing its second title ever since Mario took the checkered flag in 1969, with near-misses by both Marco and his father, Michael.

Andretti qualified fourth for Indy this year, Rahal 12th.

"It's good to have rivalries and we've got definitely some characters capable of holding both ends of the roles required for that," said Andretti's teammate, James Hinchcliffe, who was at Texas Motor Speedway on Monday as IndyCar drivers fanned out across the country to promote Sunday's race.

"I think it's phenomenal to have two American racing families, iconic racing families, competing against each other today just like they were back in the '80s," Hinchcliffe added.

Just in the 1980s, there was no Twitter to exchange zingers between races.

"You can always have a difference in opinions," Marco Andretti said. "You can have anything to say about each other as long as you have that mutual respect for each other. That's a good old-fashioned rivalry."

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