Big Machine Spiked Coolers GP at IMS Up Next for Rahal, Sato and Lundgaard

Rahal Letterman Lanigan RacingPre-Race Notes
Big Machine Spiked Coolers Grand Prix – Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course
Round 12 of 16 in the 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES
DATE:     Friday – Saturday, August 13-14, 2021

PRACTICE BROADCAST:     Live on Peacock Premium on Friday from 3:00 – 4:00 p.m. and Saturday from 8:45 – 9:15 a.m. ET.  Also live on the INDYCAR Radio Network (IRN) and (timing & scoring + live analysis). 
QUALIFYING BROADCAST:     Live on NBCSN, Peacock Premium, the IRN and (timing & scoring + live analysis) from 7:00 – 8:00 p.m. ET Friday.
RACE BROADCAST:     Live on NBCSN on Sunday, August 14 from 12:30 – 3:30 p.m. ET. And on Peacock Premium, IRN, Sirius 211 and XM 205

TRACK LAYOUT:     2.439-mile, 14-turn road course
RACE LENGTH:     85 laps / 207.35 miles
2021 WINNER:     Markus Ericsson (May 15)
2021 POLESITTER:     Romain Grosjean (1:09.4396 / 126.447 mph; May 14)

RLL TOP START / FINISH AT IMS (ROAD):     4th by Rahal in 2020 / 2nd by Rahal in 2015 and 2020; 10 events

RAHAL’S BEST START / FINISH AT IMS (ROAD):     4th in 2020 / 2nd in 2015 and 2020; 10 events
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 START / FINISH AT IMS (ROAD):     11th in 2018-2019 (RLL) / 9th in 2017 with AA; 10 events
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)

LUNDGAARD’S BEST SERIES START / FINISH:     INDYCAR debut for the current F2 driver


The Big Machine Spiked Coolers Grand Prix will mark the team’s 11th NTT INDYCAR SERIES race on the 2.439-mile road course.  The team’s highest finish is second by Graham Rahal in 2015 and 2020 and he also brought RLL their highest start of fourth in July 2020. In addition to Rahal (2014-2021) and Sato (2018-2021), other drivers that have competed for the team here include Spencer Pigot (2016, 2020) and Oriol Servia (2014).  RLL has entered the No. 15 One Cure Honda for Graham Rahal, the No. 30 Panasonic / Mi-Jack Honda for Takuma Sato and the No. 45 Mi-Jack Honda for Christian Lundgaard.

After a second-place finish on the road course at IMS in 2015 and 2020, Graham hopes to build on the knowledge gained from a fifth-place finish here at the 2021 GMR Grand Prix at IMS in May and finish on the top step of the podium.
           “We’re excited for this weekend; we expect to be extremely strong in Indy GP take two.  The first time around we were also very good but we got stuck in a big fuel-saving strategy. We happened to finish fifth somehow, miraculously considering all of that. I do think that gives us an opportunity this weekend as well since we know what we need to do to finish up front. We also know we were pretty quick in the race compared to a lot of guys, even with the big fuel save, we were still able to get there. I feel really good about where we stand.
            “I would like to qualify up front. Obviously last time we were competitive but we’d like to be even further forward to try and get ourselves a win this year. For us to come out of Nashville with another top five was huge. Certainly, as I look at our averages this year and what we’ve done as a team to finish in the top five as consistently as we have has been great, but we need to win a race. That’s what we’re missing at this stage. At the Indy Grand Prix, I’ve been close many, many times before and hopefully we can get it done this time around with One Cure.”

IMS is obviously a special place for Takuma Sato. He is the only active, fulltime, two-time Indy 500 Champion in the series after he backed up his 2017 win with one on August 23, 2020.  His best INDYCAR start on the road course is 11th in 2018 and his best finish is ninth in 2017 with Andretti Autosport.  He is looking forward to returning to the track to build upon the experience gained with the series raced on the road course in May and have strong results in the first of three remaining road course races this season.
           “We are coming back to IMS road course, which is the first of the three remaining road courses.  The Indy Grand Prix is always exciting. Of course, because it’s at IMS, but also because of the long straight, heavy braking into Turn one, lots of action and even in the infield you can have lots of action there too. We have been competitive, not exactly what we’ve wanted but we’ve been relatively competitive on road courses in the past and we are getting better all the time. I know at IMS, because we had so many races last year as well, everyone is getting quite competitive but we made good progress in the last Indy GP race.  And this time it will be very hot but hopefully that’s a favor on us. Also, we are running three cars which is an extra bonus that we can share lots of data together with very limited time, and hopefully we will be very competitive. Plus, all the fans, we will have a NASCAR double header, so I think everyone will be extremely enjoying the weekend.”

FIA Formula 2 Championship driver Christian Lundgaard, 20, will make his INDYCAR debut with the team this weekend. The Danish driver tested an Indy car for the first time with the team at Barber Motorsports Park on July 26 and is a member of the Alpine Academy, a program originally created by Renault F1 in 2002 to support young racing drivers through their careers. The Dane will have plenty of new elements to adjust to during a compressed, two-day event schedule but has set realistic expectations for himself.
           “The expectations for myself, or expectations for the weekend I think are pretty similar. I’ll never say I race to finish last, but for me it’s also quite difficult to put a target on the table because I haven’t raced in this car. I’ve done a day of testing and I’ve done plenty of laps but I haven’t seen the red tires, I’ve only driven on the blacks. I think the whole racing culture over here is fairly different than what I’m used to, but for me it’s going out there and enjoying what I’m doing. Driving and racing against new people, I would say I can use that for benefit that they don’t know me and I don’t know them either. At least I’ve had the extra help of watching the race at Nashville and the previous races this year. I’m looking forward to get on track, but I’m always here to do my best.
           “New challenges in INDYCAR I think will be tires, I’m fairly used to pitstops with F2 but we don’t do refueling though so I think to get used to that will maybe take some time even though it’s done during changing tires so I don’t think it will make the biggest difference. The rolling start will definitely be something new as well.  I think it’s a nice car to drive. It has the characteristics of a F2 and an F1 car at the same time. I’ve driven some pretty fast and cool cars and this is definitely one of them. I think the car in general is very close to an F2 car. I think the power and the weight is fairly close to each other, so that made it easier for me to just jump in the car when the tires are so different. It’s definitely something to get used to, but it will come.”

“The guys have done a phenomenal job, both with the strategy and pit stops.  The boys are ranked fourth overall right now in the pit stop year-long competition and I couldn’t be more proud of them. Since the Indy 500 they’ve been in the top three at every single race with pit stop averages, which is amazing. I’m super proud of our guys, they put their heads down and worked really hard this year to get to the position that we’re in and certainly it’s been a huge, huge step forward. They take a lot of pride in it, I take a lot of pride in seeing them perform their craft as well as they have so we are certainly thankful for that.”

“This weekend it is a big weekend because last year obviously we did race with NASCAR but there were no fans. So this year to be able to have everybody come back and be a part of the Brickyard weekend — obviously I’d like to think that the main show is on Saturday with the INDYCAR race — but to have Cup and Xfinity, it’s a great weekend of racing for the people here in central Indiana, as well as those coming in from out of state. We’re excited to have everybody here and we are looking forward to putting on a good show.” ​

Graham Rahal is ranked sixth in NTT INDYCAR SERIES point standings with 286 while Takuma Sato is 10th with a total of 231.