Rahal Letterman Lanigan Preps For Indy Month

Graham Rahal

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
Pre-Race Notes
INDYCAR Grand Prix – Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course
Round 5 of 17 in the 2019 IndyCar Series

DATE:     Friday – Saturday, May 10-11, 2019

PRACTICE BROADCASTS:    Live on INDYCAR Pass, the direct-to-consumer streaming product from NBC Sports Gold, on Friday from 9:10-9:55 AM and 12:30-1:15 PM.  And Saturday from 11:15-11:45 PM. 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 4:30 p.m. ET on Friday, May 10. Also live on the AAPIRN and www.indycar.com (timing & scoring + live analysis).

RACE BROADCAST:     Live Saturday May 11 beginning at 3 PM ET on NBC, INDYCAR Pass and the AAPIRN.  Coverage will also air on Sirius 113 and XM 209.

TRACK LAYOUT:     2.439-mile, 14-turn road course
RACE LENGTH:     85 laps / 207.315 miles    
2018 WINNER:     Will Power
2018 POLESITTER:     Will Power (1:09.8182; 125.761 mph)

RLL TOP START / FINISH AT IMS (ROAD):     8th by Rahal in 2015 / 2nd by Rahal in 2015; five events

RAHAL’S BEST START / FINISH AT IMS (ROAD):     8th in 2015 (qualified 3rd in 2016 but DQ’d) / 2nd in 2015; five events
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 IMS (ROAD):     11th in 2018 (RLL) / 9th in 2017 with AA; five events
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, Barber (road) 2019 / 1st in Long Beach (2013), Indianapolis 500 (2017), Portland (road), Barber (2019)

The INDYCAR Grand Prix (IGP) will mark the team’s sixth NTT IndyCar Series race on the 2.439-mile road course.  The team’s highest finish is second by Graham Rahal in 2015, which was also the year of their highest start of eighth. In addition to Rahal (2014-2018) and Sato (2018), other drivers to have competed for the team here include Spencer Pigot (2016) and Oriol Servia (2014).  For 2019, RLL has entered the No. 15 Mi-Jack Honda for Graham Rahal and the No. 30 Mi-Jack / Panasonic Honda for Takuma Sato.

The 2019 Grand Prix of Indianapolis will be Graham Rahal’s sixth Indy car race on the road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. His highest finish here is second place and his highest start is eighth although he qualified third in 2016 but his car was disqualified for being underweight.  In 2018, he started 17th and lost a few spots on the start when he was boxed in but remained 17th after a few cars made contact or fell back before a full course caution for contact between Pigot and Sato. He pit to top off on fuel during the caution and returned to the track in 16th. Once the pit cycle started, he moved up to third before he made his second stop on Lap 23. He returned to the track in 11th before he briefly cycled into the lead on Lap 43 for three laps before he made his third stop on Lap 46. He returned to the track in eighth place but lost two positions while on the black, primary Firestone tires. He moved to ninth when Newgarden made contact with Bourdais and brought out a caution when he stopped on track. Rahal and the majority of the field pitted during the caution and he was able to get back on the red alternate tires that suited his car more. During the stop, he gained a position to return to eighth place. He was able to maintain the position until the final lap where he ran out of fuel exiting the final corner and coasted across the finish in ninth. In five events, he has four top-10 finishes of second (2015), fourth (2016), sixth (2017) and ninth 2018).  Rahal is expecting another close race on one of his favorite road courses.
            “I am hopeful we should be very competitive in the Grand Prix. It seemed at the test that it will be extremely close and times will be split by hairs. We will definitely need to be on the right side of the tenths come Friday!”

Takum Sato

The 2019 IGP will be Takuma’s sixth race here.  His best start is 11th in 2018 and his best finish is ninth in 2017 with Andretti Autosport.  In 2018, he started 11th and gained multiple positions at the start but was hit by Pigot, who went airborne in Turn 6 and later received an avoidable contact penalty.  Sato immediately pitted to check for damage and top off on fuel while 20th.  He later worked his way up to 14th by Lap 16 when he passed Kimball.  He cycled up to sixth by the time the team called him to the pits for his second stop on Lap 23 and he returned to the track in 17th place.  He immediately reported that his car was “super loose” on the primary Firestone tires and steadily dropped to 23rd by the time the team called him in to change back to red, alternate tires on Lap 38.  He steadily began to make up ground by passing cars and was in 18th by Lap 58 of 85. By Lap 70 of 85 he was in 11th and passed Claman de Melo for 10th on Lap 81 and held the position until the checkered flag. He made his best start of 11th place.  Sato won the previous road course race from pole that the series held at Barber Motorsports Park and is looking forward to carrying the momentum into May.

           “The team is in a good mood for sure. We had a very successful result at the last road course (Barber) and we also had a competitive package at the street course (Long Beach) so we are definitely in a comfortable position coming here and are bringing good momentum, good morale to start the month of May. The weather didn’t completely cooperate for the road course test which was important for the INDYCAR Grand Prix because it’s a short weekend with the two-day event.  Practice and qualifying are on the first day so there is not much time to analyze and make the car different so you need to arrive as prepared as possible.  It’s always nice to be at IMS anyway plus I have great memories of the road course back in the old days too.”

At the previous race in Long Beach, Rahal looked set to earn his first podium finish of third place since the 2018 season-opener in St. Petersburg where he finished second. After the race, the series ruled that he had blocked Scott Dixon and relegated Rahal to fourth. Rahal has turned his focus to getting back in contention for the win at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

         “May is a great time for us to be at our best and we will all strive to do so. I am focused on the Grand Prix. I want to win it bad.  We’ve been close before but never gotten the trick done so hopefully this is our year. I will turn my attention to the Indy 500 the second the GP is over and we will get ready to have a great Indy 500 from there on out.”

“The challenge for this track is that we need to keep momentum (on the lap) because all of the corners are related a bit like Barber. You can physically see that a couple of corners are all together so if you don’t get the first one right, you definitely lose the speed in the others.  We have a better understanding of the car compared to last year and we definitely made improvements since then.  It’s obviously better to have a good result in the Grand Prix to start the Indy 500 preparation but technically it shouldn’t really matter because the cars are completely different. However, in terms of the mental approach it definitely helps the momentum, motivation and overall atmosphere if we have a really strong weekend in the Grand Prix before focusing on the Indy 500.”

With four races in the books, Takuma Sato is ranked fourth in series standings with 116 points to leader Josef Newgarden’s 166. Graham Rahal is ninth with 90 points.


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