Rahal, Sato and Ferrucci Head to the Motor City for the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix Doubleheader

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
Pre-Race Notes
Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix – The Raceway at Belle Isle Park
Round 7 and 8 of 17 in the 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES

DATE:     June 11-13, 2021

PRACTICE BROADCAST:     Live on Peacock on Friday from 5:00 – 6:15 p.m. ET. Also live on the INDYCAR Radio Network (IRN) and www.indycar.com (timing & scoring + live analysis).

QUALIFYING BROADCAST:     Live on NBCSN and Peacock from 11-12 p.m. ET Saturday and 9-10 a.m. ET on Sunday. Also on the IRN and www.indycar.com (timing & scoring + live analysis).

RACE BROADCASTS:     Live on NBC Saturday, June 12 beginning at 2 p.m. ET and live on NBC on Sunday, June 13 beginning at 12 p.m. ET. And also on Peacock, IRN, and SiriusXM 205, indycar.comindycarradio.com and the INDYCAR Mobile app.

TRACK LAYOUT:     2.35-mile, 13-turn temporary street course
RACE LENGTH:     70 laps / 164.5 miles (each race) 
2019 WINNER(S):     Josef Newgarden (Race 1) and Scott Dixon (Race 2)
2019 POLESITTER(S):     Alexander Rossi (114.018; Race 1) and Josef Newgarden (113.010; Race 2)

RAHAL’S HIGHEST SERIES START / FINISH:     Pole at St. Pete (street) 2009, Kansas (oval) 2009, Detroit (street) 2017 / 1st in St. Pete in 2008, Fontana (oval; 500 miles) 2015, Mid-Ohio (road) 2015, Texas (oval) 2016; Detroit Race 1 (street) 2017, Detroit Race 2 (street) 2017
RAHAL’S BEST DETROIT START / FINISH:     1st in 2017 in Race 1 / 1st in Race 1 and Race 2 in 2017; will be his 16th & 17th races here

SATO’S BEST START / FINISH AT DETROIT:     1st in 2014 & 2017 (both Race 2) with AA & Foyt / 2nd in 2015 (Race 2) with Foyt, 3rd in 2019 with RLL; will be his 16th and 17th 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, St. Louis (oval; Race 2) 2020 / 6 Wins – Long Beach (2013), Indianapolis 500 (2017), Portland (2018), Barber (2019), St. Louis (2019), Indianapolis 500 (2020)

FERRUCCI’S BEST START / FINISH AT DETROIT:     13th in 2018 (Race 2) / 10th in 2019 (Race 2) – both with DCR; will be his 5th and 6th races here
FERRUCCI’S HIGHEST SERIES START / FINISH:     2nd at Mid-Ohio (Race 2) 2020 / 4th place, four times (most recently the 2020 Indy 500)

RLL’S BEST START / FINISH AT DETROIT:     1st – Graham Rahal (2017, Race 1) / 3 wins: Bobby Rahal (1992 inaugural Belle Isle event), Graham Rahal (2017, Race 1 & Race 2)


The 2021 Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix will mark the NTT INDYCAR SERIES’ 11th visit to Detroit, and it’s ninth since 2008. The Motor City hosted Indy car racing from 1989-91 in Downtown Detroit. The race moved to Belle Isle Park from 1992-2001 and 2007-2008 and returned in 2012.  The 2021 event will mark the 21st year for Rahal Letterman Lanigan (RLL) Racing to compete at the Raceway at Belle Isle Park and the team’s 28th and 29th races here. 

The team’s highest start of pole came in 2017 with Graham Rahal earning his first pole since 2009 in Race 1Bobby and Graham Rahal have earned a combined total of three wins for the team here. Bobby won the inaugural race in 1992 and Graham is the only driver to have won both races on the same weekend, which he did in 2017. In total, the team has earned eight podiums (2nd – G. Rahal 2014, Jakes 2013 & Max Papis 2000), (3rd – G. Rahal 2015, Takuma Sato 2019) nine top-five finishes and 19 top-10’s here (chart available). Prior to 2021, the team prepared a total of 35 entries for drivers such as Bobby Rahal (1992-1998), Mike Groff (1993-94), Raul Boesel (1995), Bryan Herta (1996-99), Max Papis (1999-2001), Kenny Brack (2000-01), Ryan Hunter-Reay (2007-08) Takuma Sato (2012, 2018-2019), Graham Rahal (2013-2019), James Jakes (2013) and Oriol Servia (2017).  The No. 15 Fifth Third Bank / United Rentals Honda entry for Graham Rahal, the No. 30 Panasonic / Mi-Jack Honda for Takuma Sato and the No. 45 Hy-Vee Honda will bring that total to 41 in 2021.  Rahal will compete in Fifth Third Bank livery for Race 1 and a United Rentals livery for Race 2.

The event will mark Graham Rahal’s 16th and 17th races here. Last year, he earned two seventh place finishes. Rahal’s most successful race weekend came in Detroit in 2017. In Dual 1 in 2017, Rahal earned his first pole since Kansas 2009 and led a dominating 55 of 70 laps en route to his fifth series victory and first ever from pole.  He handily held the lead with the exception of pit cycles and built a gap of more than 13 seconds at one point before he ultimately won by a six-second margin over Scott Dixon.  For Dual 2, Rahal set the second fastest time in his qualifying group 2 to Sato to start third.  In the race, he passed Hunter-Reay on Lap 8 and closed the gap to pole sitter and leader Sato but could not pass. Sato pit one lap earlier than Rahal, who took the lead on Lap 23 before he made his first of two stops on Lap 24 and returned to the track behind Newgarden who was on a three-stop strategy. Once Newgarden pit on Lap 29, Rahal took over the lead and steadily built his gap to second place to 16 seconds over Sato before his second and final stop on Lap 47.  He then proceeded to build an 18 second gap over second place before he caught traffic.  That reduced his lead to new second place runner Newgarden to 5.5 seconds before a red flag came out for the car of Pigot, who experienced a smoky end. All race cars were stopped in pit lane for approximately 10 minutes while the track was cleared and an attempt to remove marbles was made.  The race resumed with a two-lap shootout and Rahal utilized his 57 seconds of Push to Pass over Newgarden’s 36 to keep the lead on the restart before he was able to pull a slight gap before the checkered flag to become the first winner of both races in Detroit.  In total, he led 41 of 70 laps.  His other podiums in the race came in 2014 with second place in Dual 1 and third place in Dual 2 in 2015.  Overall, he has two wins, four podiums and one pole in 15 races here. He is looking to move on after a disappointing ending at the Indy 500 and create some momentum in the next string of races at tracks he has fared well at — Detroit, Road America and Mid-Ohio – and regain a top-five rank in the standings.
            “I think it’s great to turn the page now, move forward to a race that I’ve loved so much. I’ve had some success there. I love the challenge that Detroit gives you. We’re excited to get a chance to turn the page from Indy, move on, and hopefully have a great weekend. The depth of the field is incredible right now. It’s very hard for somebody to get an advantage. That (2017) weekend, we were first or second in every single practice, every single qualifying, then obviously swept the race. To do that again, I think it’s a big challenge.  It was a big challenge then, but I think if you look top to bottom at the quality of the field now, there’s not really many guys that are going to go miss. What I got very fortunate with in 2017 was we started up front in both of those races. There was nothing abnormal. There was the red flag with two to go in the one race. The races were pretty green. I think it’s harder to do today.
           “I do think it’s going to be an exceptionally physical weekend. It looks hot, upper 80s and sunny. Detroit does not have any long straightaways really. I do think it’s going to be a pretty physical weekend. I think we’ll just go at it and try to make sure that you get rested up on Saturday night if you have a full day on Saturday because Sunday is going to be another bruiser.”

The 2021 races will be Takuma’s 16th and 17th here.  In 15 races, his best start is two poles (2014 with A.J. Foyt Racing, 2017 with Andretti Autosport), best finish is second in 2015 with AFR and third in 2019 with RLL and he has led a total of 44 laps in three races.  He started in the top-five in four of 15 races and earned four, top-five and six, top-10 finishes. In 2019, he started ninth and finished third in Race 1. In Race 2, he started 16th and finished 13th. After a competitive race on the streets of St. Petersburg, Sato is optimistic about a strong weekend in Detroit.
            “I’m very excited to be back to Detroit because it’s a fantastic race usually, with lots of history for the INDYCAR SERES, and usually back-to-back after the Indy 500 so it’s quite contrasting because it’s one of the bumpiest tracks in the series as a street course. Last year unfortunately we weren’t able to race there due to the pandemic, but 2019 we had very strong results, I got on the podium for the first race and the second race was also very close to the podium, but we unfortunately had a puncture. The specification of tires, and of course the cars now have aero screens and the conditions will be very different so I can’t say we can repeat easily that performance but usually the team has a very strong performance at Detroit. Looking at this year’s St. Pete race which was also a street course and was quite a competitive race for us. I believe we will be strong. The team has done lots of preparation and I can’t wait to be back at the Detroit double header. It will be very, very exciting.”

After a strong result of sixth place in the Indy 500, Ferrucci joins the team for the doubleheader in Detroit and will pilot the No. 45 Hy-Vee entry. He competed with Dale Coyne Racing here in 2018 and 2019 with a best start of 13th place in Race 2 in 2018 and best finish of 10th in Race 2 in 2019. He’s looking forward to returning to the streets of Belle Isle with the team.
           “It’s incredible that Detroit is back on the NTT INDYCAR SERIES calendar. I think it’s a fantastic venue and I love racing on the streets of Belle Isle. It also means that the world is definitely going back to normal and it’s incredible to carry momentum of fans from the Indy 500 onto Detroit. My last couple of races in Detroit have been really good. We just never have been very lucky but always quick. I’m hoping that we can capitalize this weekend in the Hy-Vee, Frito-Lay Honda.
With Detroit being an incredibly difficult track and now with limited practice, it’s hard to set expectations for this weekend but the minimum I would say is two top 10’s assuming we have a smooth three-day event. This race is hard physically and mentally since it’s two full race distances, but in 2020 we did quite a few doubleheaders so I feel really prepared.
            “Since we haven’t seen the track in almost two years, the team will be preparing based on their previous street course events and how they feel the direction of the car needs to improve. Working with them and doing debriefs, we already have a good baseline of where we’re starting. The track walk on Thursday will be crucial to see what changes they’ve made as street courses never go together the same way year after year.”

Graham Rahal is ranked eighth after Round 6 of 17 with a total of 148 points and is -43 behind fifth place Rinus Veekay. Takuma Sato is ranked 11th with 131 points. Leader Alex Palou has 248 points.