Rahal and Sato Return to the Team’s Home Race — the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course

Takuma Sato and Graham Rahal

Rahal Letterman Lanigan RacingHonda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio – Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course
Pre-Race Notes
Round 10 and 11 of 14 in the 2020 NTT INDYCAR SERIES

DATE:     September 12-13, 2020

PRACTICE BROADCASTS:     Live on INDYCAR Pass, the direct-to-consumer streaming product from NBC Sports Gold, on Saturday from 10:45-12 p.m. ET. Also live on the INDYCAR Radio Network (IRN) and www.indycar.com (timing & scoring + live analysis).                                                                                       
QUALIFYING BROADCAST:     Live on INDYCAR Pass, the IRN and www.indycar.com (timing & scoring + live analysis) from 2-2:30 p.m. ET Saturday and 10:15-10:45 a.m. ET on Sunday.

RACE BROADCAST:     Live Saturday, September 12 from 4:30-7:00 p.m. ET on NBC Sports and Sunday, September 13 from 1-3 p.m. ET on NBC. Both races will also air on INDYCAR Pass, IRN, Sirius 211 and XM 205.

TRACK LAYOUT:     2.258-mile, 13-turn road course
RACE LENGTH:     75 laps / 169.35 miles (reduced from 90 laps in 2019)

2019 WINNER:     Scott Dixon
2019 POLESITTER:     Will Power (1:05.1569; 124.757 mph)

RAHAL’S BEST MID-OHIO START / FINISH:     4th in 2009 (NHLR) and 2017 (RLL) / 1st in 2015 with RLL; will be his 13th and 14th Indy car 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 MID-OHIO START / FINISH:     3rd in 2010 (KVRT) & 2017 (AA) / 4th in 2011 (KVRT); will be his 11th and 12th races here
SATO’S HIGHEST SERIES START / FINISH:     10 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, Gateway (oval) 2020 – Race 2 / 6 Wins – Long Beach (2013), Indianapolis 500 (2017), Portland (road) 2018, Barber 2019, Gateway (oval) 2019, Indianapolis 500 (2020)

RLL’S BEST START / FINISH AT MID-OHIO:     Pole 1997 (Herta) / 1st 2015 (G. Rahal)


The 2020 Honda Indy 200 will mark the 23rd and 24th Indy car events for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (RLL) at Mid-Ohio Sports Car course, near the team’s Hilliard, Ohio shop. The team also competed in the Atlantic Series race in 2003 with Danica Patrick and has competed in ALMS races here in 2007 and from 2009-2012 and IMSA races since 2018.  The team has earned four podiums (1st – G. Rahal 2015; 3rd – B. Rahal 1997, 1998, G. Rahal 2017), 13 top-five’s and 19 top-10 finishes at the track and the highest start is pole (Herta 1997).  Another front row start came in 1999 (Herta; 2nd).  Prior to the 2020 event, the team prepared a total of 34 Indy car entries for drivers Bobby Rahal (1992-98), Mike Groff (1994), Raul Boesel (1995), Bryan Herta (1996-99), Max Papis (1999-2001), Jimmy Vasser (2002), Michel Jourdain Jr. (2002-03) Ryan Hunter-Reay (2007-2008), Takuma Sato (2012, 2018-19), James Jakes (2013) and Graham Rahal (2013-2019). The team will enter the No. 15 United Rentals entry for Graham Rahal for Saturday’s race and the Fifth Third Bank entry for Sunday as well as the No. 30 Panasonic / Mi-Jack entry for Takuma Sato for both races and will bring that total to 38 in 2020.

The 2020 Honda Indy 200 will mark Rahal’s 13th and 14th Indy car races here. His best start is fourth in 2009 and 2017 and his best finish is his win here in 2015.  He has finished in the top-five, four times in his past six races here. In total, he has one win (2015), two podiums (2017), four top-five and seven top-10 finishes in his 12 races here. Year-by-year recaps are available upon request. He has also competed in many other series at his “home track.” In addition to Indy car races here, at the age of 16 in 2005, Rahal became the youngest to claim the SCCA National Formula Atlantic championship at the SCCA National Championship Runoffs here by a dominant 43-seconds.  He also competed in the Star Mazda race here in 2005 (S/F 4/9) and tested a Grand Am car here in 2007.  He is looking forward to having a home race two times this season.
           “I’m excited to get back home. It’s going to be very physical. I think everybody expects that it’s going to be a tough weekend for all of us but I feel good about my physical condition. I am excited to continue on down this path and get back to racing. Clearly having a doubleheader at home is always going to be fun for me.  I’m looking forward to that challenge. I think INDYCAR is doing a great job to get these races in. From our standpoint, we’ve got to do the best that we can for all of our partners. We’re going to run the United Rentals car on Saturday and switch over night to the Fifth Third Bank car and hope we can get a good result in both races for them.”

The Honda Indy 200 will mark Takuma’s 11th and 12th races here. In his 10 previous races, his best start is third – in 2010 with KVRT and in 2017 with Andretti Autosport.  He has two, top-five finishes and three top-10’s. His best finish is fourth in 2011 with KVRT.  He is looking forward to returning to the team’s home track and has earned the prestigious “pit out” location based on his pole-winning effort for the previous race at World Wide Technology Raceway (WWTR) near St. Louis.
           “A doubleheader at Mid-Ohio will be more physical than (having a doubleheader at) Road America for sure. Mid-Ohio doesn’t have several long straights like Road America and has constantly continuous corners with a relatively short lap so it’s difficult to get any rest during a lap. However, I think the doubleheader is a good thing for the sport for this season under the circumstances. It’s certainly more challenging for a doubleheader weekend because naturally you lose a session for practice and it becomes a very compressed time schedule so engineers won’t have a enough time to analyze the data.”

Three races have been held on road courses this season and Rahal has been competitive in all of them. He led 18 laps and looked likely to win at the GMR Grand Prix at IMS before the timing of a caution contributed to a second-place finish. At the doubleheader at Road America, he led two laps and pit from the lead in Race 1 but had a fueling issue and finished seventh.  He hoped to maximize the potential in Race 2 but was taken out on the opening lap and dropped from fifth to eighth in the standings. He’s hoping to return to competitive form in the doubleheader at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
           “We have been competitive pretty much everywhere with the exception of the short ovals, where we struggled. I’m pleased with what I’ve seen on road courses. I think the guys have done an amazing job but we’ve just got to keep our heads down and keep pushing to try to improve a little bit further. We were competitive at the GMR Grand Prix at Indianapolis and at Road America.  We didn’t maximize that but I feel like there is a lot of positive thoughts and beliefs to carry forward.  We know that we can right in the hunt at Mid-Ohio so I fully anticipate us doing that. From a strategy point, 75 laps is probably going to be a two-stop race, no problem. It is going to be still physically tiring. The pit stops are going to be critical obviously as will not putting a wheel wrong on track. Typically, the weather is hot and steamy this time of year which does breed more and more mistakes.”

Takuma returns to Mid-Ohio on the momentum of his second Indianapolis 500 win on August 23 and a second-place finish in Race 1 at WWTR oval by a mere 0.14 seconds.  He finished ninth in Race 2 there after starting from pole. He is hoping to carry the momentum over to the final five road course races. He earned three, top-10 finishes in the road courses races previously held this season with a best finish of eighth place in Race 2 at Road America. He hopes to show the same competitive form on the road courses.
           “The track’s characteristics are different (than the other road courses) but we believe we can carry good knowledge from the road course races at Indianapolis and Road America. (On lap reduction from 90 to 75:) It will affect the strategy for sure. We have to make sure everyone is healthy, strong and focused but other than that it will be the same as a usual race weekend.”

Takuma Sato is ranked fourth in series point standings with a total of 274. He is -142 behind leader Dixon (416), -46 behind second place Newgarden (320) and -23 behind O’Ward (297) with five races to go in the season.  Graham Rahal is ranked seventh with 236 and is only -14 behind fifth place Herta (250).
           “We just try hard to have a strong race for each weekend and produce a best possible result,” said Sato. “It’s extremely important to have strong finishes for the standings. Mathematically I think it’s (championship) still possible but I think Scott (Dixon) is on the way to win. Still we achieved a big win at Indy and another podium at St. Louis and want to end the season strong. We’re doing everything we can.”
           “We’ve got some opportunities ahead of us with five races on tracks we should be good at,” said Rahal. “We feel like we’ve been better than a lot of the guys ahead of us or around us in points and we’re going to try to make this our best season yet.”