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Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing

Pre-Race Notes

Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg – Streets of St. Petersburg, Florida 

Round 1 of 16 in the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series  

DATE: Friday – Sunday, March 11-13, 2016

QUALIFYING BROADCAST: Live on the INDYCAR Radio Network and www.indycar.com (timing & scoring + commentating)

RACE BROADCAST: Live on ABC, Sunday, March 13 at 12:30 p.m. ET

RADIO BROADCAST: The race will air on the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network, Sirius 212, XM 209 and www.indycar.com

TRACK LAYOUT: 1.8-mile, 14-turn street course

RACE LENGTH: 110 laps / 198 miles

2015 WINNER: Juan Pablo Montoya

2015 POLESITTER: Will Power (1:00.6931; 106.767 mph)

RLLR TOP START/ FINISH AT ST. PETE: 6th by Hunter-Reay in 2008 (led 4) / 5th by Meira in 2005; will be 9th event

RAHAL’S BEST START/ FINISH IN ST. PETE: 1st in 2009 / 1st in 2008; will be his ninth race here

RAHAL’S HIGHEST SERIES START/FINISH: Pole at St. Pete (street) 2009 & Kansas (oval) 2009 / 1st in St. Pete in 2008, Fontana 2015, Mid-Ohio 2015

PIGOT’S BEST START/ FINISH IN ST. PETE:  1st in 2011 (Race 1), 2012 (Race 1), 2014 (Race 1 / 1st in 2011 (Race 1), 2012 (Races 1 & 2), 2014 (Races 1 & 2) – 3 poles and 5 wins in 10 races

PIGOT’S HIGHEST SERIES START/FINISH: Will be his series debut

NEWS & NOTES:

RAHAL LETTERMAN LANIGAN RACING AT ST. PETE

The 2016 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will mark the ninth IndyCar Series race for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (RLL) in St. Petersburg. RLL has entered the No. 15 Steak ‘n Shake entry for Graham Rahal and the No. 16 RLL / Andersen Promotions entry for rookie Spencer Pigot.  The team prepared Indy cars for Danica Patrick (2005, 2006), Buddy Rice (2005, 2006), Vitor Meira (2005), Jeff Simmons (2007), Scott Sharp (2007), Ryan Hunter-Reay (2008), Takuma Sato (2012), Graham Rahal (2013-2015) and James Jakes (2013) prior to this year. The team led 11 laps with Takuma Sato in 2012 and four laps with Hunter-Reay in 2008 (G. Rahal won w/NHLR) and has earned three top-10 finishes with the best being fifth by Meira in 2005.  The highest starting position by the team is sixth place by Hunter-Reay in 2008.

GRAHAM AND HIS HISTORY-MAKING APPEARANCES IN ST. PETE

In 2016, Graham will make his ninth Indy car start at this track.  His best start here is pole in 2009 and best finish is a win in 2008 in his IndyCar Series debut – both history-making moments (more info below).  Last year, he started 15th and gained three spots on the first lap and ran as high as fifth place midway through the race but was penalized for “avoidable contact” after he made contact while trying to pass the damaged car of Charlie Kimball. He dropped to the back of the field and ultimately finished 11th.  In 2014, the start of qualifying was delayed over three hours after an afternoon storm. Rahal was in Group 1 that ran on a wet track on rain tires. Conditions improved as each of the three rounds took place and teams switched to “slick” tires. Rahal lost control of the car on the slick course and made contact with a tire barrier which brought out a red flag. His two fastest laps were omitted, one of which was sixth fastest and would have allowed him to progress to Round 2 and start in the top-12.  On the opening lap, Rahal charged from his 21st place starting spot to 12th and was in 14th when he made his first pit stop. Different pit strategies played out in a race that saw only 10 caution laps of 110 total. In the closing laps of the race, Rahal was 13th but lost a position to Bourdais with two laps to go and finished 14th. He qualified 15th in 2013 for RLL and was in ninth place when the team discovered an electrical issue on Lap 22 under caution that shut the engine off intermittently 6-7 times and dropped him to 21st place. He soldiered on to finish 13th.  He qualified 11th in 2012 and finished 12th and qualified 12th in 2011 and finished 17th – both for Service Central Chip Ganassi Racing (SCCGR).  He qualified 16th and finished 9th for Sarah Fisher Racing in 2010.  While with Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing, he won pole in 2009 and finished seventh and in 2008 he qualified ninth, led 19 laps and won in his series debut at the age of 19 years, 93 days old.  He is looking forward to the opportunity to carry over the competitiveness of 2015 that started with a strong run on the streets of St. Pete last year.

“Last year did set a tone for our competitiveness. I felt like we had a great car in the race but we just got a little unlucky with the penalty. I think this year we should be even better.  We should be able to qualify right up towards the front and hopefully get our season started off in the right direction.”

SPENCER PIGOT IN ST. PETE – AN INDYCAR ROOKIE WITH A 50% WIN AVERAGE AT THIS TRACK

The 2016 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will be Spencer Pigot’s Indy car debut and 11th race here.  In his previous 10 races in the Mazda Road to Indy ladder series system, the 22-year old has won five races, started from pole three times and from the front row five times and finished on the podium eight times.  In 2015, he competed in two races in the Indy Lights Series with Juncos Racing where he started fifth and finished third in both.  In 2014, he won both Pro Mazda races from pole with Juncos Racing, led all laps and set the fastest race laps in each.  In 2013, he started and finished fourth in the Pro Mazda series Race 1 and started sixth and finished fourth in Race 2 with Team Pelfrey.  In 2012, he won the USF2000 Race 1 from pole (qualifying record still stands) and won Race 2 from a second place start and led all laps in both races. In 2011, he won Race 1 of the USF2000 event from pole and finished second in Race 2 after starting second.  He is looking forward to his IndyCar Series debut and has realistic expectations despite his 50 percent win average here.

“St. Pete has always been a great track for me.  I’ve won there five times now and never finished worse than fourth so I’m hoping to keep the run of good finishes going. I think if I were able to finish in the top 10 this weekend that would be a good result.”

RAHAL ON RACING IN ST. PETE AND ITS CHALLENGES

“St. Petersburg is a great track for me.  It’s definitely one of my favorites of the entire season. Obviously with starting my career off and getting my first win and my first pole position there, it holds a special place in my heart. The atmosphere and the fans make it such an enjoyable weekend and such an enjoyable place to go race. I just can’t wait to get back and get the season started.  I think the track is just very demanding; it leaves very little margin for error and I feel like one of my strengths is driving a race without making too many mistakes. I really enjoy the mix of high-speed and low-speed corners and that makes it fun and makes and entertaining to drive. I think the race will be extremely entertaining this year. With St. Petersburg always being the first race of the season, there is a lot of action, a lot of drivers that are eager to get out and show how much work and how much effort they put into the off-season. Everybody wants a great result and everybody wants to start the season off in the right direction.”

PIGOT ON HIS FIRST ASPIRATIONS OF BEING AN INDYCAR DRIVER

Spencer Pigot is the most successful driver since the formation of the Mazda Road to Indy in 2010 with 24 race wins to his credit in USF2000, Pro Mazda and Indy Lights. He was the 15th driver to graduate from the Mazda Road to Indy into the Verizon IndyCar Series since 2010.  He has won no fewer than four scholarship prizes from Mazda to maintain his career’s momentum to get to the IndyCar Series.  He set his sights on an Indy car career early in life.

“Since I was six or seven, I have been watching IndyCar races and when I started karting a few years later I haven’t wanted to do anything else but be an IndyCar driver. IndyCar became a serious goal when I started racing cars at 16 and I’ve been working towards it ever since.  The first race in St. Pete that I went to was in 2009 and ever since then I have wanted to be driving an IndyCar in that event. I thought Indy Lights was going to be a two year program and that hopefully I would be racing in the 2017 Grand Prix of St. Petersburg but we were able to win the championship in our first year so I’m here a year earlier than I expected.”

RAHAL ON A NEW SEASON, THE AERO PACKAGE AND HARD WORK BY HONDA

The 2016 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg marks the second year of aerodynamic bodywork kits designed, manufactured and supplied by Chevrolet and Honda.  After Rahal was the highest finishing Honda-powered driver in the 2015 standings at fourth place he is looking forward to the possibility of leading the pack for Honda again.

“The aero kits have definitely made the entire season interesting. I think we all have questions going forward on how they’re going to race this year, how reliable they’re going to be, and ultimately will we, as a Honda team, be able to get as many wins and podiums as we did last season.  Honda certainly put in a lot of work throughout the off-season. It’s hard for us to tell exactly where we stand heading into this year but I definitely think the work that they put in will pay off and that we as a team will do everything we can to make them proud and lead the charge for Honda all season long.”

PIGOT ON THE CHALLENGES OF THE ST. PETE COURSE

“I think the toughest part of the track is Turns 4-8. You can gain or lose a lot of time in that section. All of the corners are in the shadow of buildings and trees so it can be tough to get a good view of the walls and how close you’re getting to them. The race itself is going to be a big challenge. Indy Lights races are much shorter and have no pit stops so that will be new to me and I’ll have to do a lot of learning throughout the race.”

CHANGES FROM 2015 TO 2016

Heading into the 2015 season, RLL brought in Mike Talbott to lead the vehicle dynamics program and Martin Pare to lead the vehicle ride control development program.  In addition, Derek Davidson took over as crew chief and Eddie Jones became Rahal’s race engineer.  Longtime employee and team manager Ricardo Nault called Rahal’s race.  Those changes, coupled with a strong crew headed by chief mechanic Donny Stewart, provided a strong foundation for Rahal’s competitiveness that led to him entering the double-points-paying season finale in Sonoma second in the standings and a title contender.  Rahal is looking forward to carrying over that consistency to the 2016 season.

“Really we have not changed very much since last year. I think one of the main things that we needed this season was consistency, and I think that’s what we focused on through the off-season and kept the exact same people in place going into 2016. We added one new crew guy in Kyle Sagan but everybody else remains the same. The guys work so well together so there is no reason to fix what’s not broken.”

PIGOT ON THE DIFFERENCES OF AN INDY LIGHTS CAR AND INDYCAR AND BEING A DRIVER OF EACH

“On track the cars are very different. The Indy car is much bigger, more powerful and has a lot more downforce than the Indy Lights car. The races are twice as long with pit stops, different tire compounds and strategies so there will be a lot for me to learn in my first race at St. Pete. Off track, there is a lot more to do with the media being an IndyCar driver. You definitely don’t have as much time to relax and prepare for the race because you are constantly doing something.”

RAHAL ON THE MOMENTUM OF THE INDYCAR SERIES

“I think there is a lot of momentum behind IndyCar this season. We have seen a great amount of success with sponsors in the off-season, and I think that will only continue to grow. I’m really eager to get the 2016 season underway and continue to do the best we possibly can and make all of our sponsors and team partners proud this season.”

PIGOT ON POSSIBLE NERVOUSNESS HEADING INTO HIS INDYCAR DEBUT

“Sometimes I get a little nervous before a race, maybe a three or four on a 1-10 scale. It might be a little higher at St. Pete because it’s my first race but the nerves always go away as soon as we take off for the formation laps.”