In May, Graham Rahal sat weeping on the sidepod of his car shortly after being bumped from the 2023 Indianapolis 500 field.
Just 82 days later, the Ohio native was full of elation after earning his first IndyCar Series pole in six years ahead of Saturday's Gallagher Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
Back in May, the entire Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team were questioning everything.
After putting three cars in the top eight positions of the IMS road course race earlier that month, the team qualified 30th, 31st, 33rd and 34th for a race featuring 33 cars. Just under 12 weeks later, the team was back where everything fell apart.
Rahal set the pace in the Friday morning practice session. Team-mate Christian Lundgaard was third-fastest while Jack Harvey was 12th in the other team car.
Moving to qualifying in the afternoon, Lundgaard and Rahal were first and second in their first round qualifying group and reversed their placings in the second round.
With six minutes of track time for the Firestone Fast Six, Rahal timed his final run where he would set the final lap of the session.
With Harvey already eliminated in the second round and Lundgaard on provisional pole, Rahal sat fourth, looking to claim pole position for the first time since June of 2017 at Detroit.
The #15 Honda responded and Rahal put his car on pole by just over a tenth of a second, guaranteeing the team their first front row sweep since Barber Motorsports Park in April 2018.
As Rahal pulled onto pit road, the cheers were loud and piercing. The crowd gathered as photographers recorded a memorable achievement taking place at the same venue where agonising torture occurred two-and-a-half months earlier.
“I don't know what it is about Indy, but we all talk about it as a living being, that it kind of writes its own story,” Rahal said in the post-qualifying press conference.
“I say it every year: in this large book that's gone on a hundred-plus years now, a lot of people have had the chance to have their chapter. Some people like Helio have several in the book. You just hope it's your time.
“Clearly this weekend is very different than the 500, but it doesn't mean that it doesn't carry a lot of significance and importance to our team and to me personally.
“I've seen plenty of the hate, plenty of the can't do it, can't compete with the kids, can't whatever. To be able to silence some of that, and I thought we did a bit at Mid-Ohio, but it's nice to see a good step forward finally in the car the way I want it to drive. It's starting to come together.”
After May, the team underwent several personnel changes. Some engineers were either dismissed from the team or were reassigned to new areas of responsibilities. Rahal did not blame them for what happened, but he and the team all knew something had to change.
That change came with a large evolution in the team's damper program in an effort to catch up to the top teams in IndyCar's only truly open area of technical development.
“Compared to what we know some other teams are doing, I think we were way, way off-target,” Rahal said.
“Those things have been accelerated recently. Not only that, but I think truly utilising the technology we had more, whether it's simulation technology, whether it's all the people together to do data analytics, stuff we were only scratching the surface of that we're doing much deeper now. I think those things are all just starting to show, which is a positive.”
The team needed May to happen as it did. It allowed the Zionsville, Indiana-based organisation to reflect on what took place and remind itself of one of racing's truest maxims: You can't bullshit the stopwatch.
On Friday afternoon, Rahal beat the stopwatch. On Saturday afternoon, he'll have 85 laps to beat 26 other competitors.