Rahal Returns to the “Bullring” for the Iowa Corn 300

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
Iowa Corn 300 – Iowa Speedway
Pre-Race Notes
Round 11 of 17 in the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series

DATE: July 8-9, 2017

PRACTICE BROADCASTS: Live on Saturday, July 8 at 11 a.m. ET and 7:15 p.m. ET on Indycar.com, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.

QUALIFYING BROADCAST: NBCSN will air coverage live on Saturday, July 8 at 3 p.m. ET as will the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network (AAPIRN), the INDYCAR 17 app and www.indycar.com (timing & scoring + live analysis).

RACE BROADCAST: Live on NBCSN beginning at 5 p.m. ET Sunday, July 9, the INDYCAR 17 app and www.indycar.com (timing & scoring + live analysis).

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

TRACK LAYOUT: 0.894-mile oval
RACE LENGTH: 300 laps / 268.2 miles
2016 WINNER: Josef Newgarden
2016 POLESITTER: Simon Pagenaud (2-lap avg. speed 185.855 mph)

RAHAL’S BEST OVAL START/FINISH: Pole (Kansas 2009) / 1st (Fontana 2015, Texas 2016)
RAHAL’S BEST START/FINISH AT IOWA: 6th in 2013 / 4th in 2015

RLLR’S TOP START/FINISH AT IOWA: 4th / 3rd – both in 2007 by Scott Sharp


The Iowa Corn Indy 300 will mark the eighth event for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (RLLR) at Iowa Speedway. The best finish for the team is third in 2007 by Scott Sharp who also earned the top start for the team of fourth the same year. Prior to the 2017 event, the team prepared a total of nine entries for drivers Scott Sharp (2007), Jeff Simmons (2007), Ryan Hunter-Reay (2008), Takuma Sato (2012) Graham Rahal (2013-2016) and James Jakes (2013). The team has earned one podium (3rd, Sharp 2007) and five, top-10 finishes at the track. The No. 15 GEHL entry for Graham Rahal will bring the total number of cars entered in the race to 10 in 2017.

The 2017 Iowa Corn Indy 300 will be Graham Rahal’s 10th race here. He has earned six top-10 finishes in 9 starts with his best being fourth in 2015. In 2016, he started 12th and was up to fifth during the pit cycle before his first pit stop on Lap 58/300. After his stop, he maintained a position around 11th place. He was a lap down but got waved around during the caution period for Hunter-Reay (L109-127) and made a stop at the end of that caution and gained four spots to run eighth. He had previously reported a vibration before that stop and repeated the assessment around Lap 168. The problem kept appearing mid-stint and until the end of the race which forced the team to pit earlier than expected on the remaining stops and Rahal ultimately finished 16th. It was his ninth race here… Rahal earned his best finish at Iowa Speedway of fourth place in 2015 despite dropping a total of three laps down during the race. He started 17th and was 10th when he had to pit early due to his right rear tire deflating and went two laps down to the leader. Later he got back on the lead lap and reported a shifting issue on Lap 98/300 that slowed his return to the track from his second pit stop after having to reboot and he dropped a lap down again. Later in the race, the team took advantage of a caution period to pit for fuel and new tires which would enable them to go further than the leaders on the next stint and possibly pick up a yellow that would put them back on the lead lap. While leading and with five laps to go before they were forced to pit for their last stop, Sato brought out a caution period and the team stopped for fuel and tires. Due to the reoccurring shifting issue, he had to leave the pits in sixth gear rather than first and returned to the track in eight place, and on the lead lap. The race restarted with 23 laps to go and Rahal moved from eighth place into fourth by Lap 294/300. He held his position and finished fourth but he and the team felt like they had earned a victory of sorts… In 2014, he started 15th and stayed on the lead lap with the help of the timing of the caution periods. He made his sixth stop on a late race caution period for Montoya and returned to the track in 10th place. Once the race was restarted with six laps to go he moved up to eighth place and passed Castroneves on the final lap for seventh. He set the 19th fastest lap time in single-car qualifying in 2013 to determine that he would be in Heat Race 2. He drove to victory in Heat Race 2 after starting seventh and progressed to Heat Race 3 where he also started seventh. Contact with Ed Carpenter on Lap 16 of 50 damaged his front wing and he held on to finish ninth of 10 cars to match his best start at Iowa of ninth. He started sixth after engine penalties were served and charged from 10th to second on his second stint. He challenged for the win and led Lap 160 until the last 20 laps where he dropped to fourth while navigating traffic and then fifth on the final lap. In 2012 he qualified 10th, started 20th (penalty for unapproved engine change) and finished ninth with Service Central Chip Ganassi Racing (SCCGR). In 2011 he qualified 20th and finished 15th with SCCGR. In 2010, he qualified 17th with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, led 11 laps and finished ninth. In 2009 he qualified ninth and finished 11th with Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing (NHLR) and in 2008 he qualified 16th and finished 10th with NHLR.
“Iowa has been fairly good to me, results wise, in the past,” said Rahal. “The 2015 race was a huge race for us. We finished fourth even with the issues that we had. As we go into it this year, I think we should be looking pretty good. Hopefully we can get a good, stable, consistent car over the long run. It’s key for us to have a good result with where we are in the points now, and everything else considered. It’s crucial that we go there and have a really strong points weekend. We certainly cannot let ourselves down and not qualify towards the front and race there too. Hopefully we can make it all happen.”

“Iowa is difficult because it is so fast – it’s a little bullring. But it also has quite a lot of bumps, particularly over the tunnel in Turn 1. And Turns 3 and 4 now are pretty much solid bumps throughout. With these cars and how low we run them and how fast the cornering speeds are, it makes it extremely tricky for us and provides many, many opportunities for mistakes. Hopefully we can overcome that and have an issue-free, solid race. The test last week went well for us but unfortunately we had some issues at the end so we didn’t get to run through all of the things we had planned. Overall I think we learned some good things though. We didn’t get to run the 2017 Firestone tires so coming into the race weekend there will be a little more to learn there but we’ll just have to see how it all plays out.”

With seven races yet to be run — and eight races worth of points available — this season, Rahal is ranked seventh in series point standings with a total of 307. He is 72 points behind leader Scott Dixon (379), 38 behind second place Simon Pagenaud (345), 35 behind third place Helio Castroneves (342), 16 behind fourth place Takuma Sato (323), 11 points behind fifth place Josef Newgarden (318) and 9 points behind sixth place Will Power (316).
“We’re 38 points out of second place and I believe we are going into some races that we can be very strong. Penske is always good on the bumps at Iowa but I fully anticipate that we will be one of the guys to beat throughout the remainder of the season. Hopefully we can get the job done starting this weekend in the GEHL Honda.”