#15: Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda

Rahal Letterman Lanigan RacingREV Group Grand Prix at Road America
NTT INDYCAR SERIES – Round 9 of 16
PRACTICE NOTES / QUOTES – Friday, June 18, 2021

RAHAL WAS FIFTH FASTEST IN PRACTICE FOR THE REV GROUP GRAND PRIX AT ROAD AMERICA; SATO WAS 13TH

1)         Romain Grosjean      1:47.6781 / 134.200 mph
5)         Graham Rahal           1:48.0938 / 133.684 mph
13)       Takuma Sato             1:48.4566 / 133.237 mph

GRAHAM RAHAL, No. 15 Hy-Vee Dallara/Honda/Firestone: “A brief Day 1 has come to a close here at Road America. The HyVee car rolled off competitive, we were P4 most of the session and ended up fifth due to some guys putting new tires on at the end and we did not on the HyVee machine. The boys have done an excellent job prepping this car getting this car ready to go. We feel good, we feel competitive, but the track is a major trick this weekend, already we can tell the grip is way off of what we’ve ever felt here before. The tire is supposed to be the same as last year, however the degradation is even worse than it was last year.  The deg is one lap, or one to two laps and the tires are gone so it’s going to be a huge challenge this weekend but I’m looking forward to it, and looking forward to seeing what we can do. I’m going to hang on out there and try and get this Hy-Vee car up front.”

  • FAST FACTS: The REV Group Grand Prix at Road America will be Graham Rahal’s eighth Indy car race here and 12th overall. In seven Indy car races here, his top finishes are two third place (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… 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… He is in eighth place in series point standings with a total of 209.

TAKUMA SATO, No. 30 Panasonic / Mi-Jack Dallara/Honda/Firestone: “It’s good to be back at Road America one of the most challenging tracks in the United States. I think the session was okay, it’s quite a short session and we did probably four runs, with one set of tires and it’s always difficult.  It seems like quite a big drop off (on the tire). The first outing was the best lap time, but then we gathered quite good data (for qualifying and the race) and we need to look at the balance and stability which is the most challenging for this track so hopefully tomorrow will be better.  Today was so-so.”

  • FAST FACTS: 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… Has SIX INDYCAR SERIES wins (2013 – Long Beach street course, 2017 – Indy 500 oval, 2018 – Portland road, 2019 – Barber road, Gateway oval; 2020 Indy 500 ) and 10 poles (2011 Iowa oval, Edmonton street; 2013 Houston Race 1 street; 2014 St. Pete street, Detroit Race 2 street; 2017 Detroit Race 2, Pocono oval; 2019 Barber road, Texas oval; 2020 St. Louis – Race 2).  He is 10th in series point standings with 181.

NEXT UP:  Practice 2 will take place from 10:10-10:55 a.m. CT tomorrow and qualifying will begin at 1:30. Final warm-up will conclude the day’s activities from 4:30-5:00. Sunday’s REV Group Grand Prix of Road America will take the Green Flag at 11:45 a.m. CT and coverage will begin on NBCSN at 12 noon ET.