Rahal Letterman Lanigan RacingAcura Grand Prix of Long Beach
Round 16 of 16 in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES
RACE NOTES/QUOTES – Sunday, September 26, 2021
SATO, RAHAL AND ASKEW FINISHED 9TH, 16TH AND 22ND IN THE ACURA GRAND PRIX OF LONG BEACH SEASON FINALE; RAHAL AND SATO FINISHED SEVENTH AND 11TH IN THE STANDINGS
GRAHAM RAHAL, No. 15 Total Quartz Dallara/Honda/Firestone: “The Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach has come to a close, and that also means the season has come to a close. So first off I want to thank all of our guys. Our team did an amazing job this year to put their heads down and to move forward frankly. I think in a lot of areas we improved this year as a team. Our performances got better, even this weekend we did not start competitive and I think we ended up with the fastest race lap. That doesn’t mean much when you finish 16th, but it shows improvement. It shows when we come back here we know what to do to move ourselves forward. All that being said, I’m super proud of our organization for all that they’ve done. Thank you to our sponsors, they are the heart and soul of this team and they keep us going. We couldn’t be more grateful to each and every one of you, United Rentals and everything we’ve done for Turns For Troops, Total Quartz our sponsor here at Long Beach, Fifth Third Bank, One Cure, Fleet Cost & Care, Hy-Vee, Code 3 and congrats to Honda on a job well done. I think Honda pretty-well dominated this championship start to finish, so I’m super proud of them as well.
“To get into the race today, the first yellow we decided to pit. Normally INDYCAR by the rules, when they open the pits, they never go green the next lap. They changed the rules today and that is what it is, we have to be prepared for that and unfortunately yet again just like the Indy GP, take one, we started 15-20 seconds behind the pack. Things were shaping up quite well actually for us to maybe even creep towards P10 until Oliver’s yellow with Conor. That pretty much put a dagger in our race. From there we were able to make up four or five spots after the restart but just not quite enough. In the end, it was certainly a strong year for us. We’re going to put our heads down and figure out how to be better as we go forward, how to improve the team, how to get more competitive in all phases, and come back strong for next year. We were P7 in the championship, congrats to Alex on the championship, and we’ll focus on being a tough challenger and competitor next year.”
- FAST FACTS: Started 19th and moved into 18th when title contender O’Ward was hit in the tight Turn 1 hairpin on the opening lap. The team elected to top off during that caution and he made his first stop on Lap 2 but the race returned to green quicker than expected and he had to hustle to catch up to the pack rather than use the restart as an opportunity to pass cars. After a caution from Laps 20-23 to later remove O’Ward’s stopped car and for Ericsson, from Laps 26-29, Rahal moved into second place from Laps 27-33 before he made his second stop on Lap 34. It had appeared that a caution might come out for rookie Ilott who spun so the team wanted to get into the pits before that. He cycled back into second by Lap 58 and was behind teammate Askew, who pit on Lap 60. Rahal was still in the lead but on his in-lap when Askew and Daly brought out the caution from Laps 62-64 after each made contact in Turn 9 so the timing was to the team’s detriment. He pit on Lap 64 when the pits opened and dropped to 20th place. For the final stint, he worked his way into a 16th place finish… Was his 14th Champ or Indy car race here and 15th overall … His top finish is second place in 2013 with RLL after starting 11th and top start is fifth in 2007 with Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing and he finished eighth after slow fuel flow pit strategy… A recap of results is available upon request… He also competed in the 2006 Champ Car Atlantic Series race here… 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). He finished the season ranked 7th in series point standings with 389 points.
TAKUMA SATO, No. 30 Panasonic / Shield Cleansers Dallara/Honda/Firestone: “It was a tough, long race and we finished 9th today so a top-10 finish. The boys did a great job. I think we had a really good start and then a couple of yellows and we were in really good shape. But I think on the third yellow we basically got caught and lost a bunch of positions. After that we tried to recover a lot. We trimmed today and obviously the car was really sketchy and all the way we fought really hard. The 30 boys did a fantastic job, thank you everyone for your support all year long.”
- FAST FACTS: Takuma started 16th and climbed into 11th by the end of the opening lap after avoiding being collected in the multi-car contact at the stop in the Turn 1 hairpin that included title contender O’Ward. He claimed 10th when Jones was penalized for avoidable contact and began to move to the front as others pit. He He took over fourth place during the caution to remove O’Ward’s car and was second during the caution for Ericsson before he made his first stop under that caution on Lap 27. On the next stint, he climbed from 17th to 13th by Lap by Lap 42 and cycled into fourth before his next stop on Lap 56. He returned to the track in 11th and moved into ninth on Lap 65 which he held until the checkered flag on Lap 85… Was his 11th race here… 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. His other top-10 start came in 2016 with Foyt (8th) and other top-10 finish was fifth in 2016, also with Foyt… 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 moved from 12th to an 11th place rank in series point standings with 324 points.
OLIVER ASKEW, No. 45 Hy-Vee Dallara/Honda/Firestone: “It was definitely a weekend to forget, but nevertheless it was an honor to be racing here for the first time and for Rahal Letterman Lanigan in the Hy-Vee No. 45. It was a great opportunity for me to race here and we got some really good showings in the races in the past but not so much this weekend. We’ll put it behind us and it was a good experience to be on this course. It’s been phenomenal working with everyone at RLL, onto the off-season now and to figure out what happens next year.
(On incident with Daly:) “I was on cold tires out of the pit lane, and I knew we were fighting for position there so I was going to be really aggressive, he was being really aggressive, and I was in the marbles all the way down the straight away and didn’t have the braking grip heading into Turn 9 there. You can always look back and probably could have done something different. I put him in a bad place, and ultimately took us both out I think, but I think it was a hard racing incident and sorry to him.”
- FAST FACTS: Was penalized in qualifying after impeding Grosjean’s lap and ultimately started 28th in the field. He gained a few spots on the start and utilized the first caution for the multi-car contact in Lap 1 to pit to top off on fuel on Lap 3 when the pits opened. He had a steady race and cycled into the lead for Laps 57-59 before his third stop but on his out lap, he and Conor Daly fought for position and both got into the marbles and lost traction and stopped on course temporarily – with Askew in the tires. Once he resumed, he pit to replace his damaged nose and ultimately finished 22nd… It was Askew’s 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.