Sato and Rahal Ready to Return to ISM Raceway After Setting the Fastest Time in All Four Open Test Sessions
Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
Desert Diamond West Valley Casino Phoenix Grand Prix
ISM Raceway — Avondale, Arizona
Round 2 of 17 in the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series
DATE: Friday – Saturday, April 6-7, 2018
PRACTICE BROADCASTS: Live on www.Indycar.com with analysis from the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio
Network (AAPIRN) and on the INDYCAR YouTube channel
(www.youtube.com/indycar) on Friday beginning at 5 p.m. and 11 p.m. ET. Also on the INDYCAR 18 app.
QUALIFYING BROADCAST: Live on NBCSN, Friday, April 6 beginning at 8 p.m. ET. Live on the AAPIRN,
the INDYCAR18 app and www.indycar.com (timing & scoring + live analysis)
RACE BROADCAST: Live on NBC Sports Network beginning at 9:00 p.m. ET on Saturday, April 7 and on the
INDYCAR18 app. The race will also air live on the AAPIRN, Sirius 214, XM 209 and www.indycar.com
TRACK LAYOUT: 1.022-mile oval
RACE LENGTH: 250 laps / 255.5 miles
2017 WINNER: Simon Pagenaud
2017 POLESITTER: Helio Castroneves (194.905 mph average)
RLL TOP START/ FINISH AT PHOENIX: 2nd by Bobby Rahal in 1992 / 1st by Bobby Rahal in 1992 (led all 200); will be 10th event for the team and third since 2005 here
RAHAL’S BEST START/ FINISH IN PHOENIX: 17th / 5th; will be the third race
RAHAL’S HIGHEST SERIES START/FINISH: Pole at St. Pete (street) 2009 & Kansas (oval) 2009 / 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 IN PHOENIX: 18th in 2017 with Andretti Autosport / 15th in 2016 with AJ. Foyt Enterprises; will be the third race
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)
NEWS & NOTES:
RAHAL LETTERMAN LANIGAN RACING AT ISM RACEWAY
The 2018 Desert Diamond West Valley Casino Phoenix Grand Prix at ISM Raceway will mark the 10th Indy car race for Rahal Letterman Lanigan (RLL) Racing here, and third since 2005. In only the second race for the team, then named Rahal Hogan Racing, Bobby Rahal led all 200 laps en route to victory with a margin of 22.35-seconds over Eddie Cheever and third place Emerson Fittipaldi in 1992. Over the years, the team has prepared a total of 13 cars for races here: Bobby Rahal (1992-1995), Mike Groff (1994), Raul Boesel (1995), Kenny Brack (2003), Buddy Rice (2004-2005), Vitor Meira (2005), Danica Patrick (2005) and Graham Rahal (2016-2017). The team has entered the No. 15 One Cure Honda for Graham Rahal and the No. 30 Mi-Jack / Panasonic Honda for Takuma Sato in this year’s race.
SATO AND RAHAL SET THE FASTEST TIMES IN ALL FOUR OPEN TEST SESSIONS
The IndyCar Series participated in an Open Test at ISM Raceway February 9-10. Takuma was fastest in the first of four sessions for veterans, Rahal was fastest in the second session and Sato was fastest in the third and fourth as well as set the fastest time overall for the two days. Both drivers are looking forward to their return to the track and hope to have a competitive weekend.
GRAHAM ON THE DEBUT OF THE NEW AERO KIT AT ISM RACEWAY AND HIS PAST RESULTS
The 2016 race marked Graham Rahal’s debut at the track. He started 19th and moved into the top 10 near the halfway point of the 250-lap race and was on his “in laps” of his second and third stops when a caution period came out but was able to continue on low fuel each time until the pits opened. He ran as high as third, which is the position he was running in when he entered his pit for his third and final stop but lost a spot to Simon Pagenaud. He was passed by Tony Kanaan on Lap 223 of 250 and was in fifth place when the final caution came out for debris with a few laps to go and the race ended under yellow. In 2017, he qualified 17th but was collected in a multi-car crash due to Aleshin’s Lap 1, Turn 1 spin and retired in 21st place. After setting the fastest time in the first of four sessions for veterans in the Open Test here in February, he is cautiously optimistic of a competitive weekend.
“I believe we should be very competitive, but always keeping in mind that others will improve too. There is no doubt about that. I think we needed to focus on chassis balance a bit as we approach the weekend but I am confident Tom (German) and the engineering group will get it right. The new universal aero kit will make it a much more competitive race. Everyone knows the struggles of the past, and somewhat of a split grid. That won’t be the case this time. I think you (as a driver) are in for a long night and a very competitive race weekend.”
SATO LOOKING FOR A STRONG FINISH AFTER SETTING THE FASTEST OVERALL TIME IN TESTING HERE
Takuma Sato is hoping that the strong performance at the Open Test in February translates into a strong finish in Phoenix and brings him his best finish at the track to date. In 2016, he qualified 20th and finished 15th for A.J. Foyt Enterprises and in 2017, he qualified 18th and completed 135 of 250 laps when his race ended due to contact in Turn 4 while driving for Andretti Autosport.
“We had quite a successful open test in February. Obviously, the temperatures and conditions will be different but it gave us a very good indication of the new aero kit on the track there and we had a very productive test. The test was something I was looking forward to for a long time. I felt the car was very fun to drive and we looked strong in testing. Phoenix is an exciting track. The sensation of speed and G-forces are impressive. Hopefully we have a good night and hopefully, we will be competitive.”
TAKUMA ON RACING ON AN OVAL FOR THE FIRST TIME WITH THE NEW AERO KIT
“As we expected for St. Pete, the reduction of downforce affected the racing a lot. At Phoenix, it is now difficult to go flat (on the accelerator). In fact, no one has gone flat there yet. Imagine you now have to race with the qualifying level (of downforce) that we had last year. The tire management is going to be even more important. At the end of every stint, stint-by-stint, is going to come down to who can manage their tires better because there will be big tire degradation for sure due to the lack of downforce. I’m sure that will make the racing very exciting. In St. Pete we weren’t fortunate in the race but I think we showed a good competitiveness so hopefully, we will be very strong again in Phoenix.”
GRAHAM ON STRONG START TO THE SEASON & CARRYING MOMENTUM TO PHOENIX
Rahal capitalized on strategy, a fast car and a never-give-up attitude to bounce back from a qualifying issue on a wet track that saw him start last in the St. Pete opener. Despite having top-six, season-ending finishes the past three years, it is the first time Graham has started his season so strong since he won the St. Pete race in 2008.
“I am very pleased with how the season began. I would have liked to finish one spot better of course, but I won’t get too greedy! We got lucky there with some stuff, and overcame a lot with strategy, having speed when needed and keeping our heads down throughout that race. I definitely think Phoenix should be good for us. We need to focus hard on areas we were weak at during the test and find a way to make some magic happen for the One Cure team!”
RAHAL’S ENTRY TO FEATURE TWO NEW TEAM SPONSORS IN PHOENIX AND LONG BEACH
“It’s huge for our team to have brought new primary sponsors in this season. I am very proud to be associated with both One Cure and Total and think we are going to help them grow their fan base, customer base and get more support away from the racetrack. I am proud to be running the One Cure car at Phoenix and Total at Long Beach. It will be awesome!”