Rahal and Sato to Start 10th and 20th, Respectively, in the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg — St. Petersburg, Florida
Round 1 of 17 in the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series 

QUALIFYING NOTES/QUOTES – Saturday, March 9, 2019


1)      Will Power              1:00.4594 / 107.179 mph      (Group 2, Round 3)
10)    Graham Rahal        1:01.0944 / 106.065 mph       (Group 2, Round 2)  
20)    Takuma Sato          1:01.1511 / 105.967 mph       (Group 2, Round 1)

GRAHAM RAHAL, No. 15 United Rentals Dallara/Honda/Firestone:  “In the first round, the United Rentals Honda was really good. I thought that with a couple of minor tweaks, we would be right there but when we went to the second round unfortunately we didn’t really get a good out lap and due to that, the rear tires never came in and it was just an absolute handful.  I almost lost it to start my lap so therefore we just never stood a chance of advancing. It’s a shame because our time in the first round was good enough to advance us to the Fast Six so it’s disappointing to not fulfill that.”

  • FAST FACTS: Set the third fastest lap (1:00.5933) in Group 2 of Round 1 and advanced to Round 2. He set the 11th fastest lap time and did not progress to Round 3… Will make his 12th Indy car start at this track in 2019.  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).  He has earned one top-five and four top-10 starts here and has two top-five and four top-10 finishes. In 2018, Rahal recovered from a spin in wet conditions in qualifying that led to a 24th place start to finish second in the 110 lap race but not without in-race drama. After he recovered from Lap 8 contact with Pigot, which put him on an alternate fuel strategy, he went on to capitalize on the timing of caution periods and fuel savings to run fourth in the closing stages of the race.  On a restart for a two-lap shoot out, Rahal was fourth but contact between race leader Robert Wickens and Alexander Rossi opened the door for third place Sebastien Bourdais and fourth place Rahal to pass them to take the white and checkered flags under caution to finish one-two.    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.  Graham is hoping to add his name to the list of repeat winners at St. Pete… Has six IndyCar Series wins (2008 – St. Pete street course; 2015 – Fontana Super Speedway, Mid-Ohio road course; 2016 – Texas Super Speedway; 2017 Detroit Race 1, Detroit Race 2) and three poles (2009 – St. Pete street course, Kansas oval; 2017 – Detroit Race 1 street) and his highest series season-ending standing is fourth place in 2015.
TAKUMA SATO, No. 30 Panasonic / Seeman Holtz Dallara/Honda/Firestone:  “I’m disappointed with qualifying obviously.  We looked good in Practice 3 so we were optimistic about qualifying.  I was in the top-five in our group so we were moving to Round 2 but I had a little moment in Turn 4 and went into the escape road which caused a yellow so INDYCAR took my fastest lap away and my second fastest was not quick enough to advance in the top-six.”
  • FAST FACTS: Set the fifth fastest time in Group 2 of Round 1 in qualifying but INDYCAR took away his fastest lap (1:00.7059) for bringing out a local yellow when he went into the Turn 4 runoff.  Will be his 10th race here.  In nine races his best start is pole in 2014 with AJ Foyt Racing (AFR) and best finish is fifth place in 2011 with KV Racing.  He started in the top-five in five of nine races and earned two, top-five and five, top-10 finishes. Last year, he started fifth and ran as high as fourth a couple of times but contact by Scott Dixon while ninth on Lap 34 of 110 forced him to pit to replace a punctured right rear tire and check for other damage which dropped him to the back of the field.  The team tried alternate pit strategy in order to get to the front but he soldiered on to finish 12th in his ninth race here…  In 2017, he started and finished fifth for Andretti Autosport and led two laps.  In 2016, he qualified 11th, started 10th after Servia replaced polesitter Power and finished sixth for AFR.  In 2015, he started fifth and finished 13th for AFR.  He won pole in 2014, led 33 laps and finished seventh and started second and finished eighth in 2013 – both with AFR.  With RLL in 2012, he qualified 15th and retired in 22nd after an electrical failure.  In 2011, he qualified 11th and finished fifth and in his first race here in 2010, he qualified 11th and retired in 22nd after contact – both races with KV.  After earning his best season-ending finish of eight place in 2017, Takuma is excited to return to St. Pete where he was optimistic of a good finish after qualifying fifth last year. In the race he was hit by Scott Dixon on Lap 34 of 110 which dropped him to the back of the field with a puncture and was only able to finish 12thHas three wins (2013 – Long Beach; 2017 Indianapolis 500; 2018 – Portland) and seven series poles (2011 – Iowa (oval); 2011 – Edmonton (street); 2013 – Houston Race 1 (street); 2014 – St. Pete (street); 2014 Detroit Race 2 (street); 2017 – Detroit Race 2; 2017 –  2017 Pocono (oval).

NEXT UP:  The morning warmup will take place tomorrow from 8:00-8:30 a.m. ET.  The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will be televised live on NBCSN beginning at 12:30 PM ET Sunday, March 10 and the Green Flag will fly at 1:37 PM ET.