RLLR Portland Qualifying Report

Rahal Letterman Lanigan RacingGrand Prix of Portland
QUALIFYING NOTES/QUOTES – September 11, 2021


1)         Alex Palou                  58.7701 / 120.306 mph          (Group 2, Round 3)
5)         Graham Rahal           59.0067 / 119.824 mph          (Group 1, Round 3)
9)         Oliver Askew             59.0837 / 119.668 mph          (Group 1, Round 2)
24)       Takuma Sato             57.9668 / 121.973 mph          (Group 2, Round 1)        Will start 26th

GRAHAM RAHAL, No. 15 Total Quartz Dallara/Honda/Firestone: “Qualifying is complete here in Portland and the Total Quartz machine is going to start right up towards the front in row three. We’re going to start fifth, which is our best qualifying of the year. I’m proud of the team, proud of the boys. We made some good changes here today and definitely got the car honed in a little better.  I thought we had made strides. I said at the Indy road course that we found some good stuff and I think that’s what is showing this weekend. We’ve still got to find a little bit more certainly, but I expect our race cars to be good.  We will hopefully be good on tires and hopefully be able to go to the front. It’s great to be out here; this is a beautiful area to go racing.  I’ve had a couple of bad starts here, certainly on me, but hopefully we can avoid that tomorrow and go race and have a really solid day. It’s going to be a long day. It’s pretty much a three stopper no matter what you do strategy wise. Its going to be all out so we will see what we can do.”

  • FAST FACTS: It will be the sixth overall race for Graham at PIR and fourth in the headline event.  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. 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 over James Hinchcliffe… 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)… Rahal is eighth in series point standings with a total of 319.

TAKUMA SATO, No. 30 Panasonic / Mi-Jack Dallara/Honda/Firestone: “It was a tough day.  For the first practice session – and only practice session before qualifying, we installed a new engine, and it seems like we had an issue. So basically, I had no timed lap in practice and then we had to change the engine so that was a really difficult situation because here in Portland, the field is very competitive, and tenths make a big difference. Now you have to go qualify with a complete unknown and a lot of challenging fast turns. We did try our best, but we didn’t make it through the first segment, but we were close — only two tenths down from the top which was quite encouraging. The car seems to be competitive.  At least we have one more practice session before the race so at least we can catch them up and, hopefully (have a race) like in 2018 where we had a very good race from the back of the grid. Even though I have a penalty for an engine change, I think Sunday will be very exciting.  We will try our best.”

  • FAST FACTS: Was collected in an opening lap accident in 2019 and ultimately finished 15th.  Won the 2018 race after starting 20th in his first event here at the track.  He led a total of 23 laps including the final 20 on what was largely a two-stop strategy plus an early pit to top off on fuel during an opening lap caution that took out four cars including his teammate Rahal. On the start, he avoided a 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 build 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… 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 TEN 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 279 points.

OLIVER ASKEW, No. 45 Hy-Vee Dallara/Honda/Firestone: “We are P9 with the 45 Hy-Vee car and I’m really happy with that. I think to be top-10 in INDYCAR right now in qualifying is a solid effort. So, we’ll focus on the race trim now. We  have a session this afternoon to kind of decide what the tire strategy is going to be tomorrow. I’m really happy for Graham as well. It looks like he’s getting ready to go here in the Fast Six. I think top-10 qualifying right now with how competitive it is, is really solid so I’m happy with that. A big thanks to everyone at RLL and Hy-Vee, and everyone on the 45 car.”

  • FAST FACTS: Is making his first INDYCAR start at the track as well as his first for the team… He has earned four podiums in four races here in the INDYCAR Road to Indy program. 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… This will be the third INDYCAR race for him this season after substituting for Rosenqvist at Race 2 in Detroit and for Veekay at Road America.

RAHAL LETTERMAN LANIGAN RACING AT PORTLAND … Sato brought the team its second win here in 2018 in Indy car racing’s returning to Portland International Raceway (PIR) for the first time since the 24th consecutive race was held in 2007.  The 2021 race will mark the 15th time for RLL to compete in an Indy car race here.  The team competed in CART and Champ Car-sanctioned races at PIR 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 by  Max Papis in 2001 and Sato in 2018. 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). 
NEXT UP: The Grand Prix of Portland will be televised live on NBC beginning at 3 PM ET Sunday, September 12.