Rahal, Sato and Askew Aim to End the 2021 INDYCAR Season on a High in the Season-Finale Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
Pre-Race Notes
Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach – Streets of Long Beach, California
Round 16 of 16 in the 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES

DATE: Friday – Sunday, September 24-26, 2021

PRACTICE BROADCAST: Live on Peacock Premium on Friday from 6:00 – 6:45 p.m. ET, Saturday from 12:00 – 12:45 p.m. ET and Sunday from 12:00 – 12:30 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 3:00 – 4:30 p.m. ET Saturday.

RACE BROADCAST: Live on NBC Sports on Sunday, September 26 from 3:00 – 6:00 p.m. ET. And also on Peacock Premium, IRN, Sirius 211 and XM 205

TRACK LAYOUT: 1.968-mile, 11-turn street course
RACE LENGTH: 85 laps / 167.28 miles
2019 WINNER: Alexander Rossi
2019 POLESITTER: Alexander Rossi (1:06.4811 / 106.569 mph)

RLL’S BEST START / FINISH AT LONG BEACH: 3 poles (Herta 1998, Vasser 2002, Jourdain, Jr. 2003) / 2nd – four times (B. Rahal 1992-1993, Vasser 2002, G. Rahal 2013)

RAHAL’S BEST START / FINISH AT LONG BEACH: 5th in 2007 / 2nd in 2013; will be his 14th Indy car race here and 15th 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 START / FINISH AT LONG BEACH: 4th / 1st — both in 2013 with A.J. Foyt Enterprises; will be his 11th 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 LONG BEACH START / FINISH: First INDYCAR race at the track as well as his first race of any kind here.
ASKEW’S HIGHEST SERIES START / FINISH: 5th (Indy GP 2020, 5th Laguna Seca 2021) / 3rd at Iowa Speedway (Race 1) 2020


The 2021 Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach (AGPLB) marks the 21st time for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (RLL) to compete in the event. Although the team didn’t compete in Indy car races here from 2004-2011 while they fielded a fulltime entry in the Indy Racing League (2004-2008), they did compete in the 2003 and 2004 Atlantic races with Danica Patrick and in the 2007 American Le Mans Series (ALMS) race. From 2009-2019, the team competed on the streets of Long Beach in the GTLM class of the ALMS/IMSA with BMW Team RLL and as finished on the podium each year but 2016-2019 although they started from pole in 2016 and led all three of those races. The venue is still the most successful for the team on the current IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship schedule with wins in 2011, 2013 and 2015, eight podium finishes and five poles in 11 years.

In the RLL’s 20 previous Indy car races in Long Beach, the team entered 34 cars for drivers such as Bobby Rahal (1992-1998), Mike Groff (1994), Raul Boesel (1995), Bryan Herta (1996-1999), Max Papis (1999-2001), Kenny Brack (2000-2001), Jimmy Vasser (2002), Michel Jourdain (2002-2003), Takuma Sato (2012, 2018-2019), Graham Rahal (2013-2019), James Jakes (2013), Mike Conway (2013) and Oriol Servia (2014). In total, the team won three poles (Herta 1998, Vasser 2002, Jourdain, Jr. 2003); made five front row starts including an all-Team Rahal front row in 1998 (2nd – Rahal 1998, Brack 2001); earned their best finish of second place four times (Rahal 1992-1993, Vasser 2002, G. Rahal 2013) and earned six podiums (2nd – Rahal 1992-1993, Vasser 2002 & G. Rahal 2013; 3rd – Herta 1998-1999). The team has entered the No. 15 Total Quartz Honda for Graham Rahal, the No. 30 Panasonic / Shield Cleansers Honda for Takuma Sato and the No 45 Hy-Vee Honda for Oliver Askew in this year’s race.

The 2021 Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach will be Graham’s 14th Champ/Indy car race here and 15th overall. His best IndyCar start here is fifth in 2007 and best finish is second place in 2013. In 2019, he started sixth in the 85-lap race and got by Pagenaud on the start for fifth place. He was the highest ranked driver that opted to start the race on the primary tires. He cycled up to third as the first pit stops started before he made his stop on Lap 28. He reclaimed fifth place but moved into fourth on Lap 34 when Power had an issue and fell back. He held fourth until his second stop on Lap 55 and climbed up to third on Lap 58 after previous third place runner had a fuel issue on his stop. He held third for the next 28 laps and in the closing stages of the race, Dixon passed Hunter-Reay for fourth on Lap 82 of 85 and closed on Rahal on the final lap but was unable to pass. After the race, the series ruled that Rahal had blocked him and he had to give up the position so he was scored in fourth. Rahal is looking forward to returning to Southern California.
“I’m excited to get back to Long Beach. I think it’s one of the most iconic venues we go to and one of the crown jewel’s of our sport. It’s always great to go back there. With Courtney being from Southern California too, there are a lot of hometown friends and family, and fans that come out. It’s always a lot of fun to have them there and see that support. We’d like to get back on the podium and get a win here before the end of the year. We’re pushing really hard to make that possible. We’ve definitely got some momentum going here. The team has done a great job at the end of the season to ourselves into a much better position. For us for the final race, we’re just going to try to go win. Hopefully we’ll be able to get it done with Total and all of our partners. To be able to push hard, and be able to start and finish up toward the front has been great but I do also expect that we need to continue to improve our street course package. Long Beach is a good opportunity for us to finish the season on a high note, start 2022 and get some momentum going there as well. We’re looking forward to that.”

The 2021 race will mark the 11th here for Takuma Sato. His highest start and finish here came in 2013 with A.J. Foyt Enterprises when he led 50 laps and won from a fourth-place start. The race prior to that was with RLL in 2012 and he led 16 laps and was third when he was hit by Hunter-Reay on the final lap and finished eighth after starting eighth. Other top-10 starts came in 2016 with Foyt (8th) and another top-10 finish was fifth in 2016, also with Foyt. He started and finished 8th in his previous race here in 2019 with RLL. Like everyone, Sato is looking forward to returning to Long Beach after not competing here in 2020.
“Going back to Long Beach is fantastic news. We are all looking forward to it, not just because it’s a fantastic venue but I have always had a special memory because of my first INDYCAR win there back in 2013. Long Beach is just beautiful, a challenging track, and a great atmosphere. We have been very competitive in street courses relatively. We always find good pace so definitely the Acura Long Beach Grand Prix is one of our favorites. We missed it last year but hopefully we have an opportunity to show our speed, so I am definitely looking forward to it.
“Well, nevertheless if its spring or autumn, I think Long Beach will be beautiful. We just kept the best one for the end maybe. Obviously during the pandemic everyone had a challenging time, but I appreciate the entire organization for making the Long Beach Grand Prix happen. It’s going to be a fantastic venue and fantastic race, and now we are carrying great momentum in the last few races. As a team, we’ve finished very high so it is definitely going to be a highlight of 2021.”

Oliver Askew will make his racing debut on the street of Long Beach in his third start with the team. He qualified ninth at Portland but was involved in a Lap 1 incident and was later hit from behind and retired from the event. He went on to match his best INDYCAR start of fifth place for the Firestone Grand Prix of Laguna Seca. In the race, he was passed on the opening lap by four cars and ran 9th. He battled with Grosjean and others before he regained fifth place and made his first of three stops on Lap 15. He lost some spots after a problem on the inside front and returned to the track in 18th place. He recovered a bit and cycled into fifth place before his second stop on Lap 41. He returned to the track in 13th place and steadily climbed up the order ahead of McLaughlin and others to fourth before his third stop on Lap 69. He ran in eighth place the majority on the final stint but was passed by Newgarden and took the checkered flag ninth, for a top-10 finish. He is looking forward to making his racing debut at the iconic event.
“Happy Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach week! I hope everyone is looking forward to this weekend as much as I am. I’ve never actually raced at this street course before, so I’m very excited to get there and experience it. I’ve been to the race as a fan so it’s an absolute honor to be competing in this event this weekend – it’s one of the most iconic street races in the world and we’ve built up some momentum over the last couple of weekends with the Rahal Letterman Lanigan crew on the No. 45 car with Hy-Vee. I think we can have another strong weekend here in Long Beach so I’m looking forward to it.”

“The series is on a high and headed in the right direction. If you look at next year’s calendar, you’ve got 17 races and 14 of those are on NBC’s main channel. That’s great stuff. It’s been great to have new sponsors like Hy-Vee join us and continue to expand their program and I think there is a lot more interest. The series has good momentum.”

Heading into the season finale, Rahal is ranked seventh in series point standings with a total of 374. He trails sixth place Colton Herta by 28 (402) and is 21 ahead of seventh place Simon Pagenaud (353). Takuma Sato is 12th with 302. He is 35 points out of ninth place Will Power (337) and 16 ahead of 13th place Scott McLaughlin.
“The season’s been good,” said Rahal. “I think we’ve been very consistent, very strong this year overall but we haven’t been able to get a win so I know our focus is solely on that right now. In points we’re seventh and we aren’t able to go forward much and can’t fall too far back so we want to just try to get a win and push for that at this stage.”