Rahal Letterman Lanigan Preps For Barber Motorsports Park

Graham Rahal


Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama — Barber Motorsports Park, Birmingham, Alabama
Round 3 of 17 in the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series

DATE:     Friday – Sunday, April 5-7, 2019

PRACTICE BROADCASTS:     Live on INDYCAR Pass, the direct-to-consumer streaming product from NBC Sports Gold, on Friday from 12:15-1:00 p.m. and 3:50-4:35 p.m., and on Saturday from 11:45-12:30 p.m. All times Eastern. Also live on the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network (AAPIRN) and www.indycar.com (timing & scoring + live analysis).
QUALIFYING BROADCAST:     Live on NBCSN and INDYCAR Pass beginning at 4 p.m. ET on Saturday, April 6. Also live on the AAPIRN and www.indycar.com (timing & scoring + live analysis).
RACE BROADCAST:     Live Sunday, April 7 beginning at 4 p.m. ET on NBCSN, INDYCAR Pass and the AAPIRN.  Coverage will also air on Sirius 113 and XM 209.
TRACK LAYOUT:     2.38-mile, 17-turn road course
RACE LENGTH:     90 laps / 207 miles 
2018 WINNER:     Josef Newgarden
2018 POLESITTER:     Josef Newgarden (1:07.4413; 122.773 mph)
RLL TOP START / FINISH AT BARBER:     6th by Rahal in 2016 / 2nd by Rahal in 2015 and 2016; seven events
RAHAL’S BEST START / FINISH AT BARBER:     6th in 2016 / 2nd in 2015 and 2016 – Both with RLL; will be his 10th race here

RAHAL’S HIGHEST SERIES START / FINISH:     Pole at St. Pete (street) 2009, Kansas (oval) 2009, Detroit Race 1 (street) 2017 / 1st in St. Pete in 2008, Fontana (Super Speedway) & Mid-Ohio (road) 2015, Texas 2016 (oval), Detroit 1 & 2 (street)
SATO’S BEST START / FINISH AT BARBER:     6th in 2010 with KVRT / 8th in 2018 with RLL; will be his 10th race here

SATO’S HIGHEST SERIES START / FINISH:     Pole at Iowa (oval) 2011, Edmonton (street) 2011, Houston Race 1 (street) 2013, St. Pete (street) 2014, Detroit Race 2 (street) 2014, Detroit Race 2 2017, Pocono (oval) 2017 / 1st in Long Beach (2013), Indianapolis 500 (2017), Portland (2018)
The 2019 Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama will mark the eighth IndyCar Series race for the team at Barber Motorsports Park (BMP).  The best finishes for the team came in 2015 and 2016 where RLL and Graham Rahal played a major role in the most exciting races of those seasons and earned second place finishes each year (more details below). In addition to Rahal, other drivers to have competed for the team here include Takuma Sato (2012, 2018) James Jakes (2013) and Oriol Servia (2014).  For 2019, RLL has entered the No. 15 One Cure Honda for Graham Rahal and theNo. 30 Mi-Jack / Panasonic Honda for Takuma Sato which brings the total to 12 entries for RLL for this event.
Rahal’s best start at BMP is sixth in 2016 and his best finish is second, two times (2015-2016) in his previous nine starts. In 2018, on Sunday, Rahal started 15th and was in 11th when the red flag came out for track conditions. Once the race was restarted 37 minutes later, he spun under caution and lost two positions before the red flag was brought out again.  The race was postponed until Monday after 26 laps due to heavy rain and limited visibility.  On Monday, the race resumed and would run to a two-hour time limit.   Rahal was passed by rookie Claman De Melo, who was two laps down and that opened the door for Pagenaud to pass and drop him to 14th.  He gained a spot when Pigot had a problem on Lap 29, and another when Jones pit on Lap 36. When he made his first stop for fuel and tires on Lap 52, he had cycled up to seventh. He moved to 11th by Lap 58 as the team monitored the increased probability of rain. He took over 10th when Rossi pit.  As light rain began to fall around Lap 66, some elected to pit for rain tires and Rahal ran seventh on Lap 71. He was able to hold out until Lap 74 before being in one of the last groups to pit for rain tires from eighth place.  He moved up when Rossi and Pigot spun on separate laps and held seventh place until the checkered flag  In 2017, he qualified 21st and alternate strategy didn’t pay off so he was only able to gain eight positions to finish 13th. Rahal played a major factor in the most exciting races of the 2015 and 2016 seasons as he challenged for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama win but finished second  both times.  In 2016, Rahal started sixth and moved into fourth when Bourdais and Dixon made contact on the first lap. He stretched his fuel the farthest and cycled into the lead by the time he made his first of three pits stops and returned to the track in fourth.  He cycled into second place before his second stop on Lap 43 and returned to the track in third place and reclaimed second place on Lap 65 by passing Power.  On Lap 81, Rahal attempted to pass Pagenaud but the Frenchman made an evasive move and the two made contact sending Pagenaud off course and he returned second to Rahal.  Later the pass was deemed a racing incident. On Lap 85 of 90, Rahal was behind traffic which enabled Pagenaud to close. Sixteenth placed Hawksworth allowed Rahal to pass but the two made contact which allowed Pagenaud to take the lead. Rahal’s already compromised front wing (mechanical failure on a portion since approx. Lap 50) took a fatal blow and he struggled to hold on to second place until the checkered flag.  The 2015 race at BMP kicked off a strong run of races for Rahal that largely continued for the rest of the season. He started eighth and passed Kanaan on the opening lap. He later lost a position to Filippi but passed Dixon for 7th. He pitted and ran ninth place but moved to third as others made their stops. He held off charges from fourth place Hinchcliffe on several restarts and later built a gap on him while leading Laps 35-46. He pitted from the lead for his second stop, dropped to 15th but cycled back into the lead for Laps 65-69. He made his final stop on Lap 71 and returned to the track in sixth place, approx.. 20 seconds behind the leader. With new tires and more fuel than others, he consistently turned lap times that were one-to-two seconds quicker than those in front of him and eventually passed Power, Hunter-Reay and Castroneves before he was able to close the gap on second-place Dixon in the closing laps. With less than two laps to go, he passed Dixon but ran out of time to catch eventual race winner Newgarden and finished second. In 2014, Rahal started 18th on a wet track, ran as high as 10th, dropped four places after being hit by two cars and ultimately finished 17th.  In 2013, Rahal set a lap time fast enough to progress to Round 2 and qualify in the top-12 if he had been in Group 2 but he was in Group 1 and ultimately qualified 21st.  He had to pit for a new nose on the opening lap after the field checked up and he hit Servia. He moved up to 12th place but ran out of fuel on the final lap due to a malfunction in the fueling system and dropped to 21st.  He started 8th, led one lap and finished fourth here in 2012for Service Central Chip Ganassi Racing (SCCGR). He started 10th and finished 18th in 2011 for SCCGR and started 15th and finished 17th for Sarah Fisher Racing in 2010.  Graham likes the challenges the course provides and believes the team can build upon previous success at BMP.
           “There are super-fast sections, and crazy-slow ones.  It has it all and will challenge us every lap we make. Last year we were just okay at Barber.  This year I expect a lot more. “I think we are well-prepared to show up and have the One Cure Honda be a pretty competitive car.  While we didn’t test at Barber like some teams did, I think we have a good baseline to work from. With Allen (McDonald), Eddie (Jones) and the gang, I really think we will be able to quickly adjust and get ourselves in a good position to challenge right up front in Barber. We have had a lot of success there before.” 
Takuma Sato

The 2019 race will mark the 10th here for Takuma Sato.  His highest start here is sixth in 2010 with KVRT and highest finish is eighth last year with RLL. In total, he has one top-10 start and two, top-10 finishes.  It will be his third time to compete with RLL here.  Last year, he started 18th for his ninth race here and moved up to eighth before the red flag came out for track conditions after 19 laps.  The race was restarted after 37 minutes and he maintained eighth place until the red flag came out again and the race was ultimately postponed until Monday after 26 laps due to heavy rain and limited visibility. Once the race resumed on Monday, he held eighth place on a one-stop strategy in the race that would run to the two-hour limit until Dixon passed him on Lap 42.  He maintained his position while dealing with lapped cars. He cycled into fourth before his stop on Lap 53 for fuel and tires and returned to the track in 12th place and tried to maintain his position while saving fuel. As rain began to fall around Lap 66, the team strategized on the best time to pit for rain tires if necessary and he made his stop on Lap 72 with approx. 12 minutes left in the race. He pitted from ninth place and returned to the track in 14th but moved up as others stopped for rain tires. He moved into eight when Pigot spun and held the position until the checkered flag to earn his highest finish at the track.  BMP is special for Sato for multiple reasons.
           “I like Barber.  This is the place my first official IndyCar Series test was done 9 years ago!  It’s a good race track and beautiful place. The museum is very impressive and I am sure the race fans really enjoy the weekends. The track is very challenging as it has a good level of elevation change with unsighted bends and lot of flowing high speed corners. The field will be very competitive.  I’m looking forward to having a strong weekend. We haven’t done any testing at Barber for the first time in a long time in the off-season. We thought our value to go testing at Sebring, particularly in winter time, and prepare for a fundamental understanding of this year’s development was best. Unlike recent years of the pre-season open test, which had been held on ovals, this year it was at COTA’s road course so we had an opportunity to test on that particular configuration so I think the impact of not testing at Barber is lower than other years.”
Graham and Takuma both earned their best finishes of the two races so far this season on the Circuit of the Americas road course in Austin of fourth and seventh, respectively. They feel the team is making progress and hope to continue that on the 2.38-mile road course at BMP this weekend.
           “I think we are off to a great start and Austin was huge for us,” said Rahal. “Not only the good result, but all weekend we were competitive. As we look forward, we need to continue to push and improve, but all signs point to us heading in the right direction and closing the gap to the rest!”
           “We have had several unfortunate circumstances at the first two events but it was decent result,” added Sato. “I am pleased with the team’s progress over the winter which shows that we are more competitive this year however we need to work really hard to catch the front. We will be more comfortable in Barber. We know the circuit better and I believe our set up will be more suited for that. I am expecting to be at a high competitiveness this coming weekend.”

With the exception of the Indy Grand Prix, the series did not have 30-minute race day warmup sessions in 2018 as has happened traditionally. For the race at Circuit of the Americas, the pre-race warmup took place on Friday afternoon. For the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, it is back in its traditional spot on race day. Both drivers applaud the return.
           “It’s great,” said Rahal. “I pushed for race day warm ups and it will be great for us to have a platform to work off of and be more prepared for the race.” 
           “I prefer to have warmup on race day,” added Sato. “It gave us time and opportunity to improve the car after qualifying and it’s always good practice for boys too for prep for pit stops on the race day.”

On Friday from 4:30-5:00 p.m. CT, One Cure is hosting a “Meet & Greet” with Graham and Arrow, he and wife Courtney’s malamute, at the team transporter in the paddock.  One Cure, a project led by CSU’s Flint Animal Cancer Center, utilizes research from innovative cancer treatments for pets involved in clinical trials to benefit people. The center sees more than 1,500 new animal cancer patients every year, with approximately 130 patients enrolling in these carefully monitored clinical trials. These canine and feline patients help to pioneer cancer research, moving treatments out of the laboratory and into clinical practice, ultimately providing hope to the next generation of animal and human cancer patients.
           “I am extremely excited to represent One Cure again and have them as our primary for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama,” said Rahal. “It will also be the first race that Courtney and I bring Arrow too and we are super excited to have his meet and greet. I know fans of ours and his will love him just as much as we do. Together, we can all make a huge difference in cancer research.  I couldn’t be more proud to be associated with One Cure.” 
With two races in the books, Graham Rahal is fifth in series standings with 50 points and Takuma Sato is 14th with 37.


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