Iowa INDYCAR 250s – Iowa Speedway Pre-Race Notes

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing

Iowa INDYCAR 250s – Iowa Speedway Pre-Race Notes

Round 5 & 6 of 14 in the 2020 NTT INDYCAR SERIES

DATE:     July 17-18, 2020

PRACTICE BROADCASTS:     Live on INDYCAR Pass, the direct-to-consumer streaming product from NBC Sports Gold, on Friday from 2:00-3:30 p.m. ET. Also live on the INDYCAR Radio Network (IRN) and (timing & scoring + live analysis).

QUALIFYING BROADCAST:     Live on INDYCAR Pass, the IRN and (timing & scoring + live analysis) from 5:30-6:30 p.m. ET Friday. NOTE: The first timed lap of qualifying will set the starting grid for Race 1 and the second timed lap will set the starting grid for Race 2 on Saturday.

RACE BROADCAST:     Live Friday, July 17 and Saturday, July 18 beginning at 8:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, INDYCAR Pass and the IRN.  Coverage will also air on Sirius 211 and XM 205.

TRACK LAYOUT:     0.875-mile tri oval
RACE LENGTH:     250 laps / 218.75 miles 

2019 WINNER:     Josef Newgarden
2019 POLESITTER:     Simon Pagenaud (2-lap avg. speed 180.073 mph)

RAHAL’S BEST IOWA START / FINISH:     6th in 2013 / 4th in 2015; will be his 13th & 14th races here
RAHAL’S HIGHEST SERIES START / FINISH:     3 Poles – St. Pete (street) 2009, Kansas (oval) 2009, Detroit (street) 2017 / 6 Wins – St. Pete 2008, Fontana (oval; 500 miles) 2015, Mid-Ohio (road) 2015, Texas (oval) 2016; Detroit Race 1 2017, Detroit Race 2 2017

SATO’S BEST IOWA START / FINISH:     1st in with 2011 with KVRT / 3rd in 2018 with RLL; will be his 12th & 13th races here
SATO’S HIGHEST SERIES START / FINISH:     9 Poles – Iowa (oval) 2011, Edmonton (street) 2011, Houston Race 1 (street) 2013, St. Pete (street) 2014, Detroit Dual 2 (street) 2014, Detroit Dual 2 2017, Pocono (oval) 2017, Barber (road) 2019, Texas (oval) 2019 / 5 Wins – Long Beach (2013), Indianapolis 500 (2017), Portland (road) 2018, Barber 2019, Gateway (oval) 2019

RLL’S TOP START / FINISH AT IOWA:     4th by Sharp in 2007 / 3rd – 2007 by Scott Sharp, 2018 by Takuma Sato


The 2020 Iowa INDYCAR 250s will mark the 11th and 12th events for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (RLL) at Iowa Speedway.  The best finish for the team is third place (2007 by Scott Sharp, 2018 by Sato). Sharp also earned the top start for the team of fourth in 2007.  Prior to the 2020 events, the team prepared a total of 14 entries for drivers Scott Sharp (2007), Jeff Simmons (2007), Ryan Hunter-Reay (2008), Takuma Sato (2012, 2018-2019) Graham Rahal (2013-2019) and James Jakes (2013). The team has earned two podiums (3rd – Sharp 2007, Sato 2018) and eight, top-10 finishes at the track.  The team will prepare the No. 15 One Cure entry for Friday and the Hy-Vee entry for Saturday for Graham Rahal as well as the No. 30 Panasonic / Mi-Jack entry for Takuma Sato for both races.

The 2020 Iowa INDYCAR 250s will be Graham Rahal’s 13th and 14th races here. He has earned nine top-10 finishes in 12 starts with his best being fourth in 2015. Last year, rain pushed the race back from its scheduled start of 6:15 p.m. CT and it finally got underway at 10:45 p.m.  Rahal started seventh and dropped back to 13th but utilized the caution for Karam to pit for changes to his car and service on Lap 19 which only cost him two positions. He briefly dropped to 16th when eventual fifth place finisher Pigot passed him but was back in 15th 10 laps later. He was running in 13th when light rain began to fall and a caution came out on Lap 51 of 300. A red flag was brought out a few laps later for approx. 28 minutes before race cars rolled onto the track again. Once the pits opened, the field came in for service. The green flag came out on Lap 65 and he dropped three positions to run 15th. He passed Daly for 14th on Lap 91 and eventual second place finisher Dixon for 12th on Lap 119 as drivers began pitting. He went a lap down to the leader on Lap 131 and cycled up to 9th before his next stop on Lap 139 and then settled into the pace in 11th by Lap 147. He took over 10th when Sato pit on Lap 177 and later got back on the lead lap after Karam hit Sato from behind and brought out a caution period from Lap 187-198 to clear debris. He pit during the caution from 10th place and a quick stop gained him two positions to run eighth which he held until Lap 247 when he was passed by Veach. He made his final stop on Lap 249 and temporarily went a lap down until the field completed their stops. Once most stops were complete, he was running ninth behind Rossi on Lap 256, which he had been since approx. Lap 197. He moved into eight on Lap 262 after Power served a pit penalty and into seventh after sixth place runner Carpenter crashed and brought out a caution from Lap 264-274. The team discussed pitting for new tires but had been monitoring a possible problem for the final stint and elected not to pit.  Third place Dixon, who had yet to pit, was able to stop during the caution for fuel and tires as did sixth place Rossi, eighth place Herta and ninth place Veach.  When the race restarted, Dixon, Rossi and Veach were able to utilize their new tires to pass Rahal, who was also down on power due to an issue that was first noticed in the final third of the race. He took the checkered flag in eighth place and closed the points gap to those immediately ahead of him in the points. After competitive runs at Texas Motor Speedway, Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s (IMS) road course and a doubleheader at Road America, Rahal is hoping to carry over that competitiveness and finish one place higher than his second place at IMS. He is one of two drivers – Scott Dixon being the other — to have won both races of a doubleheader weekend (Detroit 2017).
           “It is a very hot forecast and will be very physical. I think that is what will be the most challenging for us at this time. Iowa is a different breed. It’s mentally taxing, but also physically taxing which most ovals are not. We will all be in for a hard, long weekend. I am excited to have One Cure on the car for Friday, then the overnight shift to the Hy-Vee car on Saturday which will be very cool to see. In general, the Iowa and Texas ovals are so different than each other but I do believe some of the philosophy we used for the setup at Texas can carry over. We have always been solid at Iowa and I hope that continues this weekend. I expect to be competitive. I believe all the hard work in the offseason is showing. The guys did a tremendous job thinking outside of the box and so far we’ve made good gains. I hope that some of these ideas can continue this weekend, although it’s very different than what we’ve raced at so far. It will be hard to manage the tires, but I am looking forward to trying to figure it out. I am excited for Iowa and the challenge it will present for us.”

In his previous 10 races at Iowa Speedway, Takuma’s best start is pole in 2011 with KV Racing where he also led seven laps and his best finish is third in 2018 with RLL after he qualified 10th.  He was the highest qualified Honda-powered driver last year in fourth and hoped to return to Winner’s Circle at the track after a third-place finish the year before but his race ended early when he was hit. Once the race started under caution in 2019 and the green flag flew on Lap 3, Sato jumped into second place ahead of polesitter and eventual winner Newgarden. He held the position for eight laps before being passed by Pagenaud to run third. He was passed by Newgarden on Lap 15 and when Karam spun and brought out a caution on Lap 16, the team contemplated pitting as others did but stayed out. He held fourth place through a 28-minute red flag stop for light rain that arrived on Lap 55 of 300. Once the race resumed under caution, the field pit for service and Rossi beat Sato out. Once the race returned to green on Lap 64, he passed Rossi for fourth and easily held the position through the stint. Near the end of his stint, tire wear led him to drop from fourth to 12th from Lap 100-118 and he pit on Lap 119. He returned to the track in 20th place. Once he settled into position and the tires came up to temperature, he steadily started carving through the field on newer tires and was ultimately 12 mph faster than his competitors and moved up to 10th during the pit cycle, got back on the lead lap by Lap 142 and climbed into second place by Lap 144. Power passed him on Lap 148 but he was able to maintain third place, on older tires, until his next stop on Lap 177.  He returned to the track in 19th place and settled in to do the same again on this stint but was hit from behind by Karam in Turn 4, which caused him to spin. He did not hit the wall but the caution flag was brought out to clear debris from the contact. He continued despite damage and ran as high as 17th but the loss of downforce due to the damage was too much to continue at a racing pace so he pitted on Lap 216 and retired in 20th place. Takuma is hoping to run at the front again this year. 
           “I feel positive about the two races at Iowa Speedway. Looking at our history on the short ovals as well as how we ran in Texas for practice and how well Graham ran in the race, I’m quite excited and optimistic that we will be competitive in Iowa. Ten seconds out of 19 is four-G (G-Force) cornering so you can imagine the Aeroscreen’s effect is massive, particularly on the outside front tire so how we manage the tire will be key and probably different from previous years. It will be challenging but everyone is in the same boat. Our strong engineers will find a good plan as they have in the past.” 

“Just one race alone is a mentally draining race at Iowa, and we have two. The challenge is that there is so little practice and we will go straight into the race, meaning that we cannot change the car a lot. So when the team has a good day, its two good days, or if It’s a difficult day, its two difficult days. That’s how it can go for a doubleheader like this. We have to look at the fact that we were good last year and have positive material to work from.”

RLL has been competitive at all three race tracks so far this season and team partner Honda has won all four races, two of which the team was a clear contender for – at a minimum.On the strength of four consecutive race wins to open the season, Honda has a 92-point lead in the 2020 NTT INDYCAR SERIES Manufacturers’ Championship, with 362 points to 270 for Chevrolet. Rahal is looking forward to continuing that this weekend.
           “I think Honda has focused hard on power levels and its showing. I felt on Saturday that we were very good at Road America, and I think that at Iowa it will show this weekend as well. Fuel mileage has been great, but that’s always been the case with Honda and we’re very fortunate for that!”

Heading into Rounds 5 and 6 of 14, Graham Rahal is tied for eighth place in series point standings with 88, only 31 points out of second place (Herta, 119).  Takuma Sato is ranked 16th with 69.