After Competitive Runs in Recent Years, Rahal and Sato Look Forward to the REV Group Grand Prix at Road America

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
Pre-Race Notes
REV Group Grand Prix at Road America
Round 9 of 16 in the 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES

DATE:     June 18-20, 2021

PRACTICE BROADCAST:     Live on Peacock Premium on Friday from 5:00 – 5:45 p.m. ET and on Saturday from 11:10 – 11:55 a.m. and 5:30 – 6 p.m. ET.  Also live on the INDYCAR Radio Network (IRN) and (timing & scoring + live analysis).

QUALIFYING BROADCAST:     Live on Peacock Premium, the IRN and (timing & scoring + live analysis) from 2:30 – 3:45 p.m. ET Saturday. Tape delayed on NBCSN from 12-1:30 a.m. ET on Sunday.

RACE BROADCAST:     Live on NBCSN Sunday, June 20 from 12:00 – 2:45 p.m. ET. And also on Peacock Premium, IRN, Sirius 211 and XM 205

TRACK LAYOUT:     4.048-mile, 14-turn permanent road course
RACE LENGTH:     55 laps / 222.6 miles
2020 WINNER(S):     Scott Dixon (Race 1) and Felix Rosenqvist (Race 2)
2020 POLESITTER(S):     Josef Newgarden (1:45.5191 / 136.946 mph; R1), Pato O’Ward (1:44.8971 / 137.758 mph; R2)                     

RAHAL’S BEST ROAD AMERICA START / FINISH:     4th in 2007 (NHLR) and 2020 (RLL; Race 1) / 3rd in 2007 & 2016; will be his 8th Indy car race here
RAHAL’S HIGHEST SERIES START / FINISH:     3 poles – Pole at St. Pete (street) 2009, Kansas (oval) 2009, Detroit Race 1 (street) 2017 / 6 wins – 1st in St. Pete in 2008, Fontana & Mid-Ohio 2015, Texas 2016, Detroit Race 1 & Race 2 2017

SATO’S BEST ROAD AMERICA START / FINISH:     6th in 2019 / 4th in 2018 – both with RLL; will be 7th race 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)

RLL’S BEST START / FINISH AT ROAD AMERICA:     1st – Kenny Brack (2001) / 2nd – Bobby Rahal (1996); 19 races here


The 2020 REV Group Grand Prix at Road America doubleheaders will mark the 19 time for Rahal Letterman Lanigan (RLL) Racing to compete in an Indy car race here.  The team competed in CART and Champ Car-sanctioned races here from 1992-2003 and again since 2016 with a best starting position of pole by Kenny Brack in 2001 and best finish of second place by Bobby Rahal in 1996. The team has earned a total of five podium finishes here (2nd – B. Rahal 1996; 3rd – B. Rahal 1992-1993, Kenny Brack 2000, Graham Rahal 2016).

Prior to 2021, the team prepared a total of 32 Indy car 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), Jimmy Vasser (2002), Michel Jourdain (2002-2003), Graham Rahal (2016-2020; two races in ‘20) and Takuma Sato (2018-2020; two races in ‘20).  The team will enter the No. 15 Hy-Vee entry for Graham Rahal and the No. 30 Panasonic / Mi-Jack entry for Takuma Sato to bring that total to 34 in 2020.  The team has also competed in ALMS and IMSA-sanctioned races here under the name BMW Team RLL since 2009 and has three wins (2009, 2010, 2012), three poles (2009, 2011, 2014) and a total of nine podium finishes here.

The REV Group Grand Prix at Road America will be Graham Rahal’s eighth Champ or Indy car race here and 12th overall. In seven Indy car races here, he has two third place finishes (2007, 2016), a fourth place (2019), sixth (2018) and eighth (2017). Last year he matched his best start of fourth place for Race 1 and passed second place starter Harvey for third by Turn 1. He held the position and set his fastest lap of the race on Lap 8 when he passed Hunter-Reay for second. He started pursuit of leader Newgarden and closed the gap by 0.4 seconds as the pit window began to open between laps 12-14. He ran between 2.2-2.5-seconds behind Newgarden and took over the lead on Lap 13 when he pit. When he made his first of three stops on the following lap, he held a 4.3-second lead on Ferrucci. There was a problem with the fueling and the extended seconds in the pit dropped him to 11th place and 21-seconds behind the leader when he returned to the track. By the time the second pit stops started to take place, he cycled up to sixth before making his second stop on Lap 27 of 55. He settled into eighth place and moved into seventh when Harvey appeared to have a car issue that brought out the full course caution. The field made their third stops once the pits opened. Rahal held seventh through the restart and was unable to hold off a last lap charge by Ericcson, who had more Push-to-Pass, but then spun off course and Rahal took the checkered flag in seventh to keep his top-10 finish streak at the track alive. Rahal planned to realize the potential of a fast car on one of his favorite tracks in Race 2 but didn’t make it past the opening lap after qualifying fifth when he was hit by Will Power in Turn 3. The hard hit sent him off course and into two different concrete walls in Turn 3. Power had previously made contact with Hunter-Reay in Turn 1 and was penalized for “avoidable contact” and had to go to the back of the field for the restart. He is hoping to capitalize on historically strong performances at Road America. 
            “Last year we had a really strong run at Road America. In fact, we had a great chance to win it on the Saturday race and had a little bit of an issue with a pit stop, but the boys rebounded well.  Unfortunately, on Sunday we didn’t even get a chance to go race. We got taken out in the second corner and, that was kind of our day done, but our team has been excellent this year. I think even when we’ve started in the back and we haven’t quite had the qualifying pace, our boys have done a great job with strategy. The car has been fast in the race, we’ve been able to go forward and we expect the same thing in the Hy-Vee car this weekend, and we’re looking forward to it.”

The 2021 REV Group Grand Prix will be Takuma Sato’s seventh race at the four-mile, 14-turn course. His best start here of sixth place came in 2019 with RLL and his best finish of fourth came in 2018 – also with RLL.  In six races, he has two top-10 starts and four top-10 finishes, all coming since 2018.  Last year, Sato started 15th and on the harder primary tires. He was pushed off course by Veach on the start and dropped to 22nd but regained a few spots as Andretti and Rossi had to pit. On Lap 9, the team elected to pit him for the faster alternate tires so he could make up some ground. He was up to 15th by his second stop and then 12th for his third stop when the field pit under caution for Harvey. He restarted in 11th place and moved into 10th when O’Ward and Pagenaud made contact and the latter dropped back. Then he moved into ninth when Ericsson went off course on the last lap.  In Race 2, he started 12th and had to take evasive action on the opening lap from the contact ahead and lost positions to Newgarden, Veach, Kimball, Andretti, Ericsson and VeeKay.  He ran 14th until others began to make stops and cycled up to fourth before he made his first stop on Lap 16 of 55. He returned to run 14th until the next cycle began and he moved up to fourth again before his second stop on Lap 28. A few cars pit and he later passed Power for ninth place on Lap 37. He was up to eighth place when he made his final stop and returned to the track in the same position. He had to stretch his fuel which enabled ninth place runner Newgarden to close a two-second gap to 0.4 by the final lap but Sato held him off to finish eighth. Sato believes the
            “Last year and the year before, we were relatively very competitive. And after Barber this year for the road course and two street courses — St Petersburg and Detroit — both felt very competitive. The construction of tires and philosophy is different from street course to road course, but I think we have a good package. This year after last year’s study I think we have an even more competitive package. After Detroit it’s going to be back-to-back, so it’s going to be quite busy for the boys to prepare the car but we are all looking forward to going back to Elkhart Lake with very enthusiastic fans.  We are very, very excited so we are looking forward to the weekend.”

“When I look at this season, we’ve had tons of top five’s and a seventh (place) at Barber.  Unfortunately, we have a big miss at St. Pete where we were, again, running in the top five and the Indy 500 where we were running right at the front. Those two races have really hurt us in our championship chase. But, when you look at on the average, what you need to do to be a champion in the INDYCAR SERIES, we’ve done that. It’s just our misses have been bad so we need to keep our heads down, we need to get a win and we feel like Road America is a great spot to do it.  We’re excited to be in the Hy-Vee car this weekend. From a family perspective, Road America has always been a great place to go and race. And we’re excited to get back up there.”

“My favorite part of Road America is probably the carousel,” said Rahal. “Turn one is awesome too, just the high speed cornering, really on the edge of your seat, pushing the car as hard as you can, that’s really cool. My least favorite, honestly it sounds ridiculous, but it’s probably just leaving there at the end of the weekend. I love Road America, everything about that place, the environment that it has, the fans that it brings, and the special aspect it has for my family. This is a weekend I look forward to every single year. And when we leave there it’s always a bummer to think its one more year until we get to come back and try again.”
           “Road America is one of the fastest and most challenging racetracks, and a fan favorite in the United States because there is so much history, it’s quite classic, has long straights, heavy braking, high-speed sweeping corners, and it’s a beautiful track,” added Sato. “In order to go fast over there you need to have a relatively low downforce road course package but that’s always against for the braking stability where you really need it. And it shortens the braking, you’re not going to have it with low downforce. Having a good balance is always important and I think we have a very good package.”

Hy-Vee first joined the team as the primary sponsor of Graham Rahal’s entry for Race 2 at the Iowa Speedway in 2020 where he finished third. They returned to the team this season as the primary sponsor of Rahal’s entry for races at Road America and World Wide Technology Raceway (August 21) as well as a full season associate sponsor. Rahal is looking forward to running their red and white corporate colors at one of his favorite races of the season.
            “I am extremely proud to be associated with Hy-Vee. Sponsorship is great and it’s what allows us to race but to do what Hy-Vee has done with Lukas and Abbey, coming to the 500 and the smile that it put on Lukas’s face, it’s something I’ll never forget. But then their promotional aspect is great as well. If you look at what they’ve done in all their stores with the signs absolutely everywhere, the race day grill packages and everything else that they’ve given to their customers as options is awesome. They have just completely hit it out of the park with their activation. We’re excited by the energy that they’ve supplied the team and their enthusiasm for what we’re doing. We’re looking forward to this weekend. It’s my first time this year being in the Hy-Vee car and, I hope it’s the first of many, many more to come in the future.”

“I’m looking forward to getting up there. Obviously it’s my first Father’s Day, and being at Road America for it is pretty cool. It’s also my wife’s birthday so I’ve got a double header going on there.  But for me it brings back a lot of memories of my grandfather and my father, going up there as a kid myself and now I’ve got my own daughter. It’s (being a father) a whole different world. I tell people this all the time, every day is a new evolution. But I’m looking forward to going to a very special place for the Rahal family, Father’s Day weekend and to have my daughter Harlan with me.”

Heading into Round 9 at the REV Group Grand Prix, Rahal has a total of 209 points and is ranked eighth overall. He trails leader Pato O’Ward by 90 (299) and fifth place Reenus VeeKay by 34 (243). Takuma Sato is 10th with 181.