Rahal Letterman Laningan Racing Preps For Pocono

Graham Rahal


DATE:     August 17-18, 2019

PRACTICE BROADCASTS:     Live on INDYCAR Pass, the direct-to-consumer streaming product from NBC Sports Gold, on Saturday, August 17 from 9:30 – 10:30 a.m. ET and 4-5 p.m. ET.  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 from 12:30 – 2:00 p.m. ET on Saturday, August 17. Also live on the AAPIRN and www.indycar.com (timing & scoring + live analysis).

RACE BROADCAST:     Live Sunday, August 18 beginning at 2 p.m. ET on NBCSN, INDYCAR Pass and the AAPIRN.  Coverage will also air on Sirius 113 and XM 209.

TRACK LAYOUT:     2.5-mile triangular oval
RACE LENGTH:     200 laps / 500 miles

2018 WINNER:     Alexander Rossi
2018 POLESITTER:     Will Power (2-lap avg. speed 219.511 mph)

RAHAL’S BEST OVAL START / FINISH:     Pole (Kansas 2009) / 1st (Fontana 2015, 500-miles; Texas 2016)
RAHAL’S BEST POCONO START / FINISH:     5th in 2015 / 9th in 2017; will be his 7th race here
RAHAL’S BEST 500-MILE START / FINISH:     4th – 2009 Indy 500 / 1st -Fontana 2015

SATO’S BEST OVAL START / FINISH:     Pole (Pocono 2017) / 1st (Indy 500 2017)
SATO’S BEST POCONO START / FINISH:     1st 2017 (AA) / 6th in 2015 (A.J. Foyt); will be his 7th race here
SATO’S BEST 500-MILE START / FINISH:     1st – 2017 Pocono /1st –Indy 500 2017

RLL’S BEST START / FINISH AT POCONO:     5th in 2015 / 9th in 2017 – both by Rahal
RLL’S BEST 500-MILE START / FINISH:     1st – Buddy Rice, 2004 Indy 500 / 1st – Vasser (2002 Fontana), Rice (2004 Indy 500), G. Rahal (2015 Fontana)


NOTES & QUOTES:

RLL AT POCONO RACEWAY
The 2019 ABC Supply 500 will mark the seventh open-wheel race at Pocono Raceway since 1989 as well as the seventh for the team. The 2.5-mile oval hosted Indy car races from 1971 to 1989 and team co-owner

Bobby Rahal competed in eight races here from 1982-1989.  The team entered cars for Graham Rahal (2013-2018), James Jakes (2013) and Takuma Sato (2018) at this track and the No. 15 TOTAL entry for Rahal and No. 30 Mi-Jack / Panasonic entry for Takuma Sato will be the bring the total to 10 for the team here. 

GRAHAM AT POCONO RACEWAY

The ABC Supply 500 will be Rahal’s seventh race at Pocono Raceway. His highest start is fifth in 2015 and his highest finish is 9th in 2017 although he has run in the top-five all but two races.  In 2018, on the start as the field approached the acceleration zone, many drivers reported front runners accelerating then quickly jumping on the brakes.  This caught Rahal off guard and he hit Spencer Pigot.  Both incurred damage but the pit didn’t open for a few laps as the field was put in order. Once the pits opened, Rahal pitted for a new front nose and was leaving the pits when a five-car crash happened that involved Ryan Hunter-Reay, Robert Wickens, James Hinchcliffe, Takuma Sato and Pietro Fittipaldi.  The race was ultimately red flagged for almost two hours while the fencing was repaired.  Once restarted, he was in 16th place, and three laps down due to a two-lap penalty for the team working on the car during the red flag as well as a lost lap due to the earlier stop. He moved up to 15th when Kanaan retired and into 14th when Conor Daly brushed the wall.  He took the checkered flag in 14th place, four laps down. 

In 2017, he started seventh, was running fourth near the halfway point of the 200-lap race and later restarted the race in second place on Lap 118 and swapped the lead with Kanaan repeatedly the rest of the stint although he was only credited with nine laps led due to leading many laps in the back of the track but giving up the spot before the start/finish line. After his fifth stop on Lap 151 he returned to the track behind Kanaan and Andretti, who passed him in the pits.  Right after that, he ran three-wide with Munoz and Castroneves but backed out to avoid contact.  After that, a group of cars was able to carry momentum around him and he ran 13th.  He climbed back up to ninth place, which he held for the final 10 laps.  

In 2016, he started 11th, ran as high as fourth and finished 11th. 

In 2015, he entered the race second in the point standings and started fifth.  He ran in the top-eight until a fueling problem on his second pit stop dropped him to 20th place. On Lap 66 of 200, he was in 16th place on a restart and got a run on Justin Wilson and pulled inside him on track. They were two-wide until Tristan Vautier dove low inside the two, partially on the track, and made it three-wide. Vautier made contact with Rahal and spun the two into the wall. The DNF in 20th place hindered his title bid after having entered the penultimate race in second place and only 9 points behind leader Montoya who finished third and increased his lead to 34 points entering the double-points season-finale in Sonoma. 

In 2014, he started 14th and moved into 11th on the opening lap but his helmet pad on the right side of the cockpit flew out of the car and he gradually dropped to 19th. The helmet pad helps the drivers head stay upright while sustaining high G-Forces for 200 laps and he was unable to see as well. Once he made his first stop and the team replaced the helmet pad, he steadily climbed back up the field and ran 12th midway through the race and held the fastest lap of the race through his third stint. He was in 11th place when a problem surfaced on Lap 158/200. The car appeared to abruptly change and Rahal spun. The side of the car made contact with the Turn 2 wall and he ultimately retired in 19th place. 

In 2013 he qualified 17th, started 16th due to a grid penalty ahead and finished 18th. Graham is looking forward to the race after having competitive runs on ovals this season.

“I always look forward to the challenge of racing at Pocono. I think we have had some great runs in the past there but haven’t been able to fulfill and complete the task. Two or three years ago, Kanaan and I changed the lead every lap for about 40 laps so it can certainly be an exciting race.  This year we showed at Indianapolis that we have great pace and had a really good result at Texas Motor Speedway. I think we found a lot of good setup information on ovals and I expect us to be competitive. Last year at Pocono I made a mistake on the start and hit Spencer but once the race got going, we were actually right in line and running with Rossi.  We stayed with him for all 500 miles which was a good sign that at least our car was competitive. We were a couple of laps down due to the penalty, but we were in the hunt.”

TAKUMA LOOKS TO CONTINUE 2019 COMPETITIVENESS ON OVALS AT POCONO – SITE OF HIS 2017 POLE

This will be Takuma’s seventh race here. In his six previous races, his best start is pole in 2017 with Andretti Autosport and his best finish is sixth in 2015 after he led three laps with A.J. Foyt Racing.   In 2018, he started the race from 10th place and passed Bourdais for 9th but on a restart from a caution involving Rahal and Pigot, cars two rows ahead made contact which set off a multi-car accident and he had nowhere to go and was collected. He was checked in the medical center and cleared to race. He ultimately retired in 21st place. He retired with electrical failure in 2014 and contact in 2013 and 2016 while with A.J. Foyt Racing. Takuma is looking for his second win and pole of the season.

“We were in pretty good shape last year despite no testing before the race and very little running time on the race weekend due to weather. My race ended very early but Graham had a strong pace during the race so we should have a good baseline. On top of that, we have been very strong on ovals this season so we are expecting to have a competitive package in Pocono too.”

RAHAL ON INCREASED COMPETITIVENESS ON OVALS IN 2019 AND RECENT SIM TESTS

“The engineering staff has done a great job identifying how we need to be better on ovals. We have worked hard on tracks like Indianapolis that can also benefit Pocono. The attention to detail by our mechanics is unparalleled too, and there is no doubt that helps us a lot! I feel this is likely our best chance yet for success at Pocono, but we need to be smart and race well. The SIM test should be beneficial. Honda has provided us with a great tool to use and I think we found some great stuff. Having said that, we always need to be smart and diagnose what really worked and what didn’t. So we will put our heads down and find a way to be at our best.”

THIRD AT INDY, TEXAS POLE & TOP STARTING HONDA AT IOWA HAVE SATO OPTIMISTIC

 Takuma Sato has been consistently competitive on ovals this season. Had he not gone one lap down due to an issue on his first pit stop at the Indy 500, he might have been in a position to challenge for the win rather than settle for third place.  In Texas, he won pole and handily led the first 60 laps before his first stop when he was penalized for hitting a crewman and finished 15th. In Iowa, he was the highest qualified Honda-powered driver with fourth place and had just pit from third place when he was hit from behind by Karam and retired in 20th. The 2017 Pocono pole winner is hoping to turn that competitiveness into his second 500-mile victory.

“It is very encouraging that we have been competitive on all type of ovals.  We have learned a lot through last season as well as the engineers have come up with a new philosophy over the winter so we have a great chance to recover good points for the rest the season. The race will be very long and 500 miles so it’s difficult to predict but equally we have a lot of chance to deliver a good result.”

RAHAL ON HIS OUTLOOK ON THE REMAINDER OF THE SEASON

With four races remaining, Rahal has set his sights on a top-five finish in the standings.  If the team can turn the previous competitive runs into top finishes, Rahal believes this is possible.

“People are used to us qualifying average and racing extremely well and actually this year we have qualified quite well at a lot of places. Look at Barber. Nobody was going to touch either of our two cars but we had a battery explode and I don’t think anyone had ever heard of that in our series. We were also really good on race day in Indianapolis and had a good race at Texas. There have been a lot of places where we have had great potential but it just hasn’t come together. We’ve had some bad luck and missed some opportunities. Toronto was a huge opportunity. Our car on race day was amazing. We got ourselves back into the top-nine to finish but after the contact (on L1 from Power) but I’ve never had a day where literally I could catch a car and pass it on the next straightaway and that’s how Toronto was. Everyone has worked hard within our organization and we continue to evolve.  We have made a big step from last year and have been in the hunt a lot but just haven’t been able to close the deal. It will turn around soon. I want to get into the top-five of the standings by season’s end. We should be able to, just need some good results. We really need a win; we can do it.”

Takuma Sato

TAKUMA ON REVERSING THE END RESULT AFTER STRONG RUNS THE PAST FIVE RACES

After winning Round 3 at Barber Motorsports Park from pole, Sato was ranked third in series standings. He was still within sight of the frontrunners through the next few rounds but dropped back after challenges from Round 9 in Texas-on.  At Road America, he was forced off track by Hinchcliffe on Lap 3 and dropped to a sixth-place rank after he finished 10th. He was running fifth in Toronto when his car caught fire, was hit by Karam in Iowa after pitting from third and suffered damage to the fueling apparatus after an opening lap jockey for position at Mid-Ohio that led to extra pit stops.  He is looking forward to getting back to work after two weekends off and reversing his fortune.

“It was a tough five races we had. Some was very unfortunate but the positive side is we were competitive every weekend so we will continue to work hard to achieve a strong finish of the season. We believe the SIM will help us have a good baseline for Pocono. We have tried several test items that show good potential. Pocono is quite a unique oval and closing the balance between Turn 1 and Turn 3 is very important as well as challenging and we think we have improved our 2019 set-up. We will see how the performance is on track.”

THE POINT STANDINGS

The four remaining races in 2019 include two ovals and two road courses, including the double-points race at Weathertech Raceway Laguna Seca.  Sato is ranked seventh in series point standings with 322 and Rahal is ranked eighth with a total of 312. Fifth place Will Power has 356.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.