Rahal, Sato and Askew Look Forward to INDYCAR’s Return to the Pacific Northwest for the Grand Prix of Portland

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
Pre-Race Notes
Grand Prix of Portland – Portland International Raceway
Round 14 of 16 in the 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES

DATE: September 11-12, 2021

PRACTICE BROADCAST: Live on Peacock Premium on Saturday from 12:00 – 1:15 p.m. ET and 6:15 – 6:45 p.m. ET. Also live on the INDYCAR Radio Network (IRN) and www.indycar.com (timing & scoring + live analysis).

QUALIFYING BROADCAST: Live on Peacock Premium, the IRN and www.indycar.com (timing & scoring + live analysis) from 3:15 – 4:30 p.m. ET Saturday.

RACE BROADCAST: Live on NBC Sunday, September 12 from 3:00 – 6:00 p.m. ET. And also on Peacock Premium, IRN, Sirius 211 and XM 205

TRACK LAYOUT: 1.964-mile, 12-turn permanent road course
RACE LENGTH: 110 laps / 216.04 miles (5 laps longer than the previous race)
2019 WINNER: Will Power
2019 POLESITTER: Colton Herta (57.8111 / 122.302 mph)

RAHAL’S BEST PORTLAND START / FINISH: 8th in 2007 / 9th in 2007 – both with NHLR; will be his 4th Indy car race here & 6th overall
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 PORTLAND START / FINISH: 17th in 2019 with RLL / 1st with RLL in 2018 – 3rd 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, Gateway (oval) 2020 – Race 2 / 6 Wins – Long Beach (2013), Indianapolis 500 (2017), Portland (road) 2018, Barber 2019, Gateway (oval) 2019, Indianapolis 500 (2020)

ASKEW’S BEST PORTLAND START / FINISH: First INDYCAR race at the track. Has four podiums in the past four races he has run at Portland. Won the 2018 Indy Pro 2000 series (Race 1), finished 2nd (Race 1) and 3rd (Race 2) in Indy Lights in 2019, and also finished 3rd in the Indy Pro 2000 (Race 2) in 2018
ASKEW’S HIGHEST SERIES START / FINISH: 5th at the Indianapolis GP (road) 2020 / 3rd at Iowa Speedway (Race 1) 2020

RLL’S BEST START / FINISH AT PORTLAND: 1st – Bryan Herta (1998) & Max Papis (2001) / 1st – Papis (2001) & Takuma Sato (2018); 15th race here


Indy car racing returned to Portland International Raceway (PIR) for the first time since the 24th consecutive race was held in 2007. It will mark the 15th time for Rahal Letterman Lanigan (RLL) Racing to compete in an Indy car race here and first since 2019 after the 2020 race was cancelled due to the pandemic. The team competed in CART and Champ Car-sanctioned races here from 1992-2003 with a best starting position of pole by Bryan Herta in 1998 and Max Papis in 2001 and best finish of first place in 2018 by Takuma Sato and in 2001 by Max Papis. RLL has earned a total of four podium finishes (3rd – B. Rahal 1995, Herta 1998) and has led a total of 114 laps here (1998: Herta, 20; 2001 Papis, 69; Sato, 25). In addition, the team competed in the Toyota Atlantic races here in 2003 (Danica Patrick, Jon Fogerty) and 2004 (Patrick and Chris Festa).

Prior to 2021, the team prepared a total of 26 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 (2018-19) and Takuma Sato (2018-19). The No. 15 Total Honda entry for Graham Rahal, the No. 30 Panasonic / Mi-Jack Honda entry for Takuma Sato and the No. 45 Hy-Vee Honda entry for Oliver Askew will bring that total to 29 in 2021.

It will be the sixth overall race for Graham at PIR and fourth in the main event. In 2019, he started 15th and misjudged the braking point into the first turn on the opening lap which resulted in a multi-car crash. His race car was placed outside the track and the team could not attempt to repair it and he retired in 23rd place. In 2018, he started 10th and had gotten through Turns 1 and 2, which was expected to be action-packed at the start, and after getting through Turn 2 Zach Veach squeezed James Hinchcliffe and the two made contact which set off a multi-car crash that collected Hinchcliffe, Marco Andretti, Rahal, points-leader Scott Dixon and his then teammate Ed Jones. Rahal’s car was too damaged to continue so it was towed back to the paddock and after more than one hour he returned to the track to complete a handful of laps to collect two championship points, which was the maximum possible. This move helped him at season’s end. Prior to that, he competed in the 2007 Champ Car World Series race where he started eighth and finished ninth in his rookie season for Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing. He started from pole in the Atlantics race here in 2006 but was hit by Simon Pagenaud on Lap 1 and finished 27th. In 2005, he earned his first professional win at PIR in the Star Mazda race after starting fourth and winning by a margin of 0.0317 seconds.
“I’m excited to be back at Portland and really excited to be in the Total car. As most people know, our Total livery is a throwback to the ’86 Indy 500 winner so it’s all red and will look beautiful. Total has been a great partner and they’ve stuck with us through COVID, which was a tough year for them and they’ve been able to bounce back really well this year. I’m excited to represent Total Quartz there. Portland has not necessarily been the best place for me. We’ve actually always been relatively quick there however, I’ve not maximized qualifying or race days. I think in Indy car races as of late, I don’t know that I’ve actually completed a lap two years in a row. I’m excited to get back out there and start fresh, have a great result. I expect us to be very competitive. We found a lot of things at the Indy Grand Prix with the setup that we feel are going to work very well at Portland so we are excited to get out there and give it a shot and try to get the Total car up front.”

Takuma was looking to earn a strong finish in 2019 after winning in INDYCAR’s return to Portland in 2018 but he was collected in the aftermath of a multi-car crash on the opening lap after starting 17th. He had to pit to repair damage to his right rear tow link and bodywork and ultimately went two laps down. He took the checkered flag 15th. His 2018 win was his third INDYCAR SERIES race win overall and first with RLL after starting 20th. He led a total of 23 laps including the final 20 on what was largely a two-stop strategy plus an early pit stop to top off on fuel during an opening lap caution that took out four cars including his teammate Rahal. On the start, he avoided the multi-car crash and once the pits opened during the caution, he pit to top off his fuel and returned to the track in 16th place. Topping off on fuel enabled him to cycle as high as second when he made his second stop for tires and fuel on Lap 39. He returned to the track in 17th place and maintained a good pace to those on two and three-stop strategies. He moved up to 10th on Lap 45 when drivers ahead took advantage of the caution for Will Power and pit. He passed Chaves for 9th on Lap 47 and held the position until three-stoppers began to pit. He was in seventh place when a caution came out for Veach. As the front runners pit during the caution, he stayed on track and cycled to second place. When the race went green on Lap 60/105, he held second place behind Ryan Hunter-Reay for a total of 14 laps before Hunter-Reay have to make another stop. He took over the lead on Lap 71 and held it until he made his final stop on Lap 76. He returned to the track in second place to Max Chilton, who still had to pit. A caution came out for Ferrucci. The race went green on Lap 81 and Chilton pit for fuel on Lap 85. Sato had a 0.74-second lead over Hunter-Reay which he built to one second by Lap 100 of 105. He held off Hunter-Reay and took the checkered flag 0.6084 ahead of him to win. He is looking forward to returning to Portland and having another chance at victory.
“We are going back to Portland, which is just fantastic ews. Certainly, it’s a special place for me because it was my first win with Rahal Letterman Lanigan back in 2018, and first race win on a road course too which was just a special day. Portland is a great city, lots of great food and restaurants. We just never go wrong over there so we love that. But mostly the fans are so enthusiastic, it’s just fantastic the support I’ve gotten and that we’ve got. We really, really missed (not going) last year, so we can’t wait to be back in Portland after 2020 we missed the race. Certainly, there is a great Japanese community on the west coast and that’s a part of my fans that is great support and I always feel very loyal. I think we are very up for it, our road course performance is getting better all the time, and as I said it’s a special place, Portland, and it’s great to be back there so can’t wait to be back in Portland very soon.”

A good test at Barber Motorsports Park on July 26 led to Oliver Askew piloting the No. 45 Hy-Vee Honda at the final three races of the season in Portland, Monterey and Long Beach. Although it will be the first time he will race an Indy car at the Grand Prix of Portland, he has four races under his belt at the track in the INDYCAR ladder series and four podiums. He won the Indy Pro 2000 series event (Race 1) in 2018, finished second (Race 1) and third (Race 2) in Indy Lights in 2019, and also finished third in the Indy Pro 2000 (Race 2) in 2018. He parlayed a good test into a three-race program and is excited to start off the experience on a track he feels comfortable on.
“The test went really well at Barber Motorsports Park. The car was very enjoyable to drive and I’m looking forward to putting it in a competitive environment in the last three races. I’ve done a couple of races this year in INDYCAR, filling in for a couple of drivers, both in Detroit and Road America. I’ve also been racing in the LMP3 series with Jarett Andretti this year full time in IMSA and staying in the gym as much as I can, cycling, (but) there’s no substitute for being in a car, so thankfully I’ve been active this year. I have a lot of great memories at Portland but my favorite memory was the first time there in the Indy Pro 2000 car where we won at that track, and ultimately finished third in the championship. That was the final round of that championship. And then the following year I secured a double podium in Indy Lights which ultimately propelled us to winning the championship a couple weeks later in Laguna Seca. It’s been a good track for me, I feel comfortable there. And I also had my first INDYCAR experience at Portland International Raceway at a test in the No. 9 Chip Ganassi Racing car. I know I’m ready for these last three races. I believe that this car is very capable, and I felt that at the test in Barber. It’s very enjoyable to drive and I think we can do some great things.”

“It’s (Portland) also going to be exciting as we have another new driver with Oliver coming in on the third car. I’m looking forward to seeing how he does and how he adapts to the team. He’s got a lot of experience in INDYCAR with Schmidt but also this year driving for Carpenter. He’s been around it a while. He’s still a young kid but I expect him to do a good job. I’m looking forward to seeing how all that pans out for him and how we can work as a team because with him doing the last three races, it’s going to be critical that we’re on top of it and that we work together to make sure our cars are improving week in and week out.”

“It’s good to be back in Portland. I know with COVID and obviously missing out (on the 2020 race), it’s good to be back and get back to racing there and bring some smiles and light to that region of the world – they could use it for sure. As I said it’s great to be back in the Total car, a company that’s stuck with us – is having a great year this year worldwide, and we’re excited to add some further momentum to the rest of their year.”

“Portland is a flat track and possibly shorter to medium length of the road courses, but it is quite challenging because it has got a quite fast chicane before the last corner where I think most of the drivers find it’s very tough to get it right. We need to carry a lot of speed through this and braking into the last corner while the car is still leaning on it so the car never gets super straight. Good straight line and heavy braking into turn 1 which is always a great passing point and go to the basically the sector 2 is kind of a complex section where you have double apex corners and it’s a fun track – it’s challenging. I like it.”

Heading into Round 14 in Portland, Rahal has a total of 319 points and is ranked eighth overall. He trails fifth place Marcus Ericsson by 56 (375). Takuma Sato is 10th with 279.