Rahal Letterman Lanigan RacingPre-Race Notes
Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg – Streets of St. Petersburg, Florida
Round 1 of 17 in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES
DATE: Friday – Sunday, February 25-27, 2022
PRACTICE BROADCAST: Live on Peacock Premium on Friday from 3:40–4:25 p.m. ET, Saturday from 9:00–9:45 a.m. ET and Sunday from 8:45–9:15 a.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 12:30 – 1:45 p.m. ET Saturday.
RACE BROADCAST: Live on NBC Sunday, February 27 from 12-3 p.m. ET. And also on Peacock Premium, IRN and Sirius XM 160.
TRACK LAYOUT: 1.8-mile, 14-turn street course
RACE LENGTH: 100 laps / 181 miles
2021 WINNER: Colton Herta
2021 POLESITTER: Colton Herta (1:00.3210; 107.425 mph)
RLL’S TOP START/FINISH AT ST. PETE: 5th by Sato in 2018 / 2nd by Rahal in 2018; will be team’s 15th event here
RAHAL’S BEST START/FINISH IN ST. PETE: 1st in 2009 / 1st in 2008 – both with Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing; will be his 15th race here
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
LUNDGAARD’S BEST START/FINISH IN ST. PETE: He is making his St. Pete debut; will be his 2nd INDYCAR race overall
LUNDGAARD’S HIGHEST SERIES START/FINISH: 4th at the Indy GP (Harvest GP; road) 2021 / 12th – Indy GP 2021
HARVEY’S BEST START/FINISH IN ST. PETE: 2nd in 2021 / 4th in 2021
HARVEY’S HIGHEST SERIES START/FINISH: 2nd – Indy GP & Road America (2020), St. Pete 2021 / 3rd at the Indy GP (2019)
NEWS & NOTES:
RAHAL LETTERMAN LANIGAN RACING AT ST. PETE
The 2022 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will mark the 15th INDYCAR SERIES race for Rahal Letterman Lanigan (RLL) Racing in St. Petersburg. The team has entered the No. 15 United Rentals Honda for Graham Rahal, the No. 30 Shield Cleansers Honda for Christian Lundgaard and the No. 45 Hy-Vee Honda for Jack Harvey. The team led 11 laps with Takuma Sato in 2012 and four laps with Hunter-Reay in 2008 (G. Rahal won w/NHLR that year) and has earned six top-10 finishes. The highest starting position by the team is fifth place by Takuma Sato and highest finish is second by Graham Rahal – both in 2018.
GRAHAM’S HISTORY-MAKING APPEARANCES IN ST. PETE
In 2021, Graham will make his 15th Indy car start at this track. His best start here is pole in 2009 and best finish is a win in 2008 in his INDYCAR SERIES debut – both history-making moments at the time as he became the youngest race winner in series history (2008), and youngest pole winner in series history (2009). Both records were eclipsed in 2019 by Colton Herta but he held them for 10 and 11 years, respectively. Overall, he has earned one top-five and seven top-10 starts here and has two top-five and five top-10 finishes. Year-by-year details are available upon request. Last year, he ran as high as fourth after qualifying ninth but was hit by Rossi, who came out of the pits on cold tires ahead of him as Rahal was passing and the two made contact. He would have been able to continue but Rossi had a punctured tire and couldn’t make the left-hander and drove both cars into the tire barrier.
CHRISTIAN’S ST. PETE DEBUT
Danish racer Christian Lundgaard, 20, will make his debut as a fulltime INDYCAR SERIES driver at St. Petersburg. In his lone race in the series in 2021 with RLL, he surprised many when he qualified on the second row in fourth place and went on to finish 12th despite a condensed event schedule. He will encounter many new experiences this season, including oval racing, and he has only been on track in an Indy car at Barber Motorsports Park (July 26), the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, road course (Aug. 13-14) and Sebring International Raceway (Jan. 10 & Feb. 14).
JACK MAKES THE MOVE TO RLL
British driver, Jack Harvey, will make his 50th start in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES in St. Pete with RLL. His first 49 came with Meyer Shank Racing (MSR), MSR with Arrow SPM or MSR with Andretti Autosport, where he earned a top start of second place three times – including at St. Pete last year – and top finish of third at the Indy GP in 2019. He has settled in with the team and has spent much of his off-season at the race shop. He will make his fifth appearance in the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Pete in 2022. To date, he has started in the top-five two of four races and has two, top-10 finishes with his best being fourth place last year.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING ABOUT…
OFF SEASON PREPARATION
GRAHAM RAHAL: “Off season prep has been really good. As a team, we got a little bit of a late start getting the staff together that we needed going from two to three cars, but I think our guys did a tremendous job. We were very fortunate to not only hire very good people, but people that fit in really well in our system, people that fit in really well with all of the other engineers and the mechanics. I think one of the things were fortunate about at RLL right now is that the team itself has a great reputation and is attracting a lot of young, good talent and so we’ve been able to add that this winter and are excited to go racing.”
CHRISTIAN LUNDGAARD: “My offseason has been quite short. As some people know my season last year ended in the beginning of December and obviously, we were already testing in the beginning of January. It’s been quite rushed, but it’s been good to come over here and been working hard with the engineers and crack on from Day 1. It’s been going well. I think now that we are three drivers, we’ve been working together to sort out the best combination in pretty much every aspect and, so far, so good.”
JACK HARVEY: “The off-season preparation has been really good, probably as good as what I could have hoped for moving to a new team. Honestly, I feel like I’ve bonded really well with everybody from all of the mechanics, the engineers to Graham and Christian. Just having that opportunity to spend time with them before we even went to do our first test, I thought was really valuable actually because when we got to the test it was harmonious. Everything just kind of flowed really well, it was super easy. I feel like I’m already becoming friends with these guys as well as competitors with but also teammates and that’s something I haven’t had before. Off season prep has been really, really good, I think.”
THE MINDSET HEADING INTO THE SEASON
GRAHAM RAHAL: “My mindset as I’ve gotten older is shifting. Every year is highly important to me, every year it’s really critical that we go out and we make the most of it. We try to take advantage of every opportunity that comes our way and try to perform well, whether it be on a test day or on a race day. We want to be up front, and we want to be competitive. I felt that last year we ended our season really, really well and I think it sets us up nicely as we go into this season and try to carry on that momentum. The guys were doing an amazing job in the pits, we were racing extremely well and so we just want to keep that going into St. Pete. We’re excited; we feel that we are one of the cars to beat and feel like we’re going to be up front consistently and hopefully get some wins early in the season and carry that momentum throughout the whole year.”
CHRISTIAN LUNDGAARD: “My mindset for this season overall is pretty straightforward. I know that I’m new here but at the same time, I want to lay my mark down. I’m here to stay; I’m here to win so that’s definitely the mindset I’m coming in with.”
JACK HARVEY: “The mindset for the season is super clear, were here to win. We’re here to go out and deliver the best results we can for RLL and everybody at Hy-Vee. The direction the team is going is one of intent. The team clearly is looking to push all areas whether it’s our on-track performance, the driver lineup, the new facility that’s in the process of being built. These are not small projects that we’re a part of and they don’t come with little goals. I came to this team because of the drive, the ambition; something I want to be part of. The goal for the year is to try and be competitive week in and week out and obviously get our first win going and try and get several of them if we can. The mindset is just to take each race at a time. Our biggest focus is St. Pete and after that Texas and move through the season in that way but we’re going out with maximum attack.”
EXPECTATIONS AND GOALS
GRAHAM RAHAL: “My expectations and goals are the same as every year, just with a little more intensity. We want to win, and we want to win right away. St. Pete here we come. I definitely think we are a championship contender; we should have been last year. Obviously, the double points race at Indy (500) really, really hurt us but we’re just going to make sure we don’t have those mishaps again. I expect us to be in the championship contention.”
CHRISTIAN LUNDGAARD: “The optimal season for me would probably be to win but other than that, to beat my own expectations. And then the question will probably be ‘What are your expectations?’ That is to lay down my mark to be recognized as a quick driver, a guy that can get it done and be there consistently.”
THEIR BIGGEST MOTIVATOR
GRAHAM RAHAL: “My biggest motivator is my family at this stage. I think when you’re younger, you’re trying to prove yourself to everybody. As I’ve gotten older, I don’t really care what anybody thinks about me. I know the way that I feel in the car, I know that I’m competitive and that we can win. For me, my biggest motivator is to try to make my family proud, try to win races for them and for the team. We’ve got a lot of men and women that put a lot of effort in behind the scenes, so I just try to go out there and win for them.”
CHRISTIAN LUNDGAARD: “My biggest motivation is waking up in the morning and being five percent better than I was the day before.”
JACK HARVEY: “My biggest motivator is honestly just the things I want to achieve for myself so that in a few years I can look back and be really proud of myself and what we’ve achieved. My biggest motivator right now is trying to repay the faith and belief that Bobby and Mike have put in me to bring me into this team and go out and get results. Hy-Vee have been incredible supporters of the team and they have really expanded and grown, not just with RLL but also with the INDYCAR SERIES. I want to repay that faith and belief that they’ve also shown towards me. I remember I was watching Matthew McConaughey from the Oscars one year. He said the thing that really motivated him was thinking ‘How do I want to look at myself in five years’ time, in 10 years’ time?’ And in 10 years, I want to look back and be proud of what I’ve achieved, the person I and right now the biggest motivator is to try to do all those things.”
TEAMWORK AND MOTIVATING THE TEAM
GRAHAM RAHAL: “The driver is really critical in motivating the team. You try to be a leader. In football everybody looks at the head coach or the quarterback. In many ways, in racing the driver is the quarterback and the driver needs to keep everybody going. The driver needs to motivate his guys to keep competitive in the pit stops. Obviously, the guys are always focused on the build quality of the car and keeping me safe. But I think too, with my name being on the side of the building even though I don’t own any of the team, it’s even more important for me to be a leader within the organization, to be a voice of reason for them and be a voice for them at times. I try to work personally very closely with the 30 and 45 guys too. It’s all one team and we’ve got to keep everybody excited.”
CHRISTIAN LUNDGAARD: “What a driver can do to motivate the whole team in general is pretty clear and pretty easy: to win. But to win is difficult. We come as a package. We win together, we lose together. I like to try to know a lot about my fellow mechanics, my fellow friends, to understand in various situations we can do to help each other, which we’re still working on.”
JACK HARVEY: “I’ve been trying to show the team how committed to the program I am, how much I want to win and how present that I want to be and just truly being an integral part of this team. I think it’s pretty fair to say that the team have recognized the qualifying performances that we’ve had and clearly that’s something that we really want to bring with us from last year into this coming season and so on. The thing that I was excited about with the team is that their race pace has been outstanding so I think we are all really excited as a group that if we can cherry pick the best that we all know can and just put them together I one weekend then I really feel like we’re going into St. Pete, we do have a good opportunity to try and go qualify on pole and go in the race. Certainly, for the 45 Hy-Vee team, that’s the goal. I want to motivate the guys and want them to know how much we want to win and believe that together, we can get that done.”
GRAHAM RAHAL: “The pre-season test at Sebring was actually really good for us. We were very competitive there which was abnormal, which kind of makes me nervous I suppose because normally we’re not good there but we go to St. Pete and we’re competitive so I expect us to be able to take what we learned there, which was kind of an extension of what we started at the end of 2021, and I expect us to go to St. Pete and be very strong. Last year at St. Pete we were right up front but didn’t finish that way after the contact with Rossi when he came out of the pits, but that’s life and we moved on, but I think we’ll be pretty strong.”
CHRISTIAN LUNDGAARD: “Both tests were pretty decent from my own perspective. I wasn’t too worried about lap times even though I know what we were doing on my car from the first day of testing to the second day of testing. The first day was only me. I was getting used to the car, learning the mechanics and engineers on the car. Overall, the second test went well. We learned a lot about the car; I did especially. The more track time I can have, the better. For me, it was kind of an evaluation process for myself just to understand what changes do to the car; this car in particular, and then crack on with the engineering team. I think that’s what we can get the most benefit from. Driving the car is something I’m used to. I proved that I can be quick last year so I’m not too worried about the pace in general but it’s about being consistently quick and that’s where the engineering group comes into play.”
JACK HARVEY: “It’s been great. Christian and I had a similar setup for the morning. I don’t think either of us super-loved it, which is fine because that’s what testing is about. But the thing that was great was having three cars and three drivers that we were able to divide and conquer. Graham went a different route, which we knew was going to be the case before the test. At lunch time we shifted to where he was and then together as a group of three, then tried to move that car and evolve it a little bit, which I thought we were able to do. One of the really productive things from conversations we’ve had after, a lot of the setup work we all did, we had similar reads on and the best thing about that is we can even divide and conquer even more now because we know that we drive the car a similar way, we’re looking for similar things from the car to be fast. Would it have been nice to have an extra tenth (of a second) of pace? Sure. Do I feel as if we were lacking just a tiny bit? Maybe. However, I left feeling super excited and really encouraged about what we can do and the direction we’re going. I felt the test went about as good as you could have hoped the first test could have gone.”
HOW TO TURN BEING IN CONTENTION INTO VICTORY
GRAHAM RAHAL: “It’s critical for our team to learn how to win again and I say that because we have been up there (in contention) a lot. We have been in a place to win a lot. We have not been able to get the luck on our side so I’m certainly hopeful that in 2022 things change and we can get those bounces. If you look back at Portland, we were dominant. No one was going to beat us that day without that yellow and that’s what happens. You look back at the Indy Grand Prix two years ago, it was the exact same thing. We were dominant and a yellow ruined our day. We’ve just got to put our heads down. We made the most of a lot of situations last year like the first Indy Grand Prix where we basically started 25 seconds behind the field and ended up fifth on a completely crazy strategy. We can make the most of the race day, we just need to get the bounces and our guys are well prepared for that.”
NEW THINGS AND THE TRANSITION TO THE TEAM
GRAHAM RAHAL: “I’ve got a new chief mechanic in Joshua (Junge) this year but Donny (Stewart; former chief mechanic), whose been with me for 20 years, stepped up a level (to crew chief) and he’ll still be looking over us. Brad has come on board as a new front end mechanic for us but generally there are very few changes and we’re set to have a great season.”
CHRISTIAN LUNDGAARD: “Everything is new for me this year. Coming into a new team in general, coming into a new country and moving over here. But to work with the team has been fairly easy. The people are great people, easy to work with, very friendly and polite so it’s just been kind of smooth from Day 1 and I was used to the same thing in Europe. To come over here, its probably more the culture that I prefer. In the end, we’ve just gone with the flow, and it’s been going in the right direction in my opinion. What’s new to me for this year will probably be the longer races, more pit stops, harder racing, physicality. It is pretty close to what I’m used to in a qualy session but obviously the race is longer and more physical so that is something I have been working hard on to improve. Just to be in a static place where I can feel comfortable, so I will say that is probably the biggest change.”
JACK HARVEY: “There are a lot of new elements moving into this coming season. I think the biggest thing for me was being able to have the choice of where I wanted to compete. When the opportunity came up with Bobby and Mike, and Piers, and they said they wanted me to come and drive here, that was new for me. Having my destiny in my control for a change. I kind of feel like I’ve been a member of RLL for a hot second now, although we’ve only done one test together and we’re getting ready for St. Pete. I’m here to perform, do the job and hope that this is my home for the next 10 years.”
ST. PETE PREP AND OUTLOOKCHRISTIAN LUNDGAARD: “My experience of street courses in general has been quite easy. I’ve been in Europe on smooth street circuits, they resurface the track pretty much every year. Some of them I’ve been good on, some of them I’ve been less good even in different years. I raced in Monaco twice and I also raced in Pau in France and Macau, which is probably the most American-like (street) track I’ve raced on. I think it’s good to have done (tested) Sebring to prepare for bumpy tracks, I know they are very bumpy over here. I’ve been working with the engineers to look at all of the St. Pete data, looking at onboards and so on to prepare myself as best as possible.
“I think what plays the biggest part in getting the best package itself is the engineering group, how the drivers work together with the engineers. A car can be as quick as it can be but if the driver doesn’t understand how to drive the car, it doesn’t really work. So, it will be important for me, Jack and Graham to work hard with the engineers to understand, if one setup is quicker than the other, why and then put it all together into one package once it counts for qualifying.
“I’m looking forward to getting started. Everyone is hungry now. Everyone has been working hard preparing this off season, working on their weaknesses from their previous years. Obviously, I’m a rookie at the track. I’ve never been there so it’s going to be difficult for me. That’s why it’s good that I can lean on Jack and Graham, who have been there before. Jack has done very well there, and I know Graham won his rookie year so it’s good that I’ve got some teammates that can help me in the right direction. I want to go in there and learn but at the same time, prove what I’m worth.”
JACK HARVEY: “St. Pete has been really kind to me honestly. Even from my Indy Lights days having never not finished on the podium there and it’s probably even one of my better tracks in INDYCAR. I’ve always just flowed well with the track. I love it, it’s great. It’s a very fast street circuit actually and not as bumpy as Detroit but it’s also not completely smooth either. Last year we had a great qualifying with second place. In the race, we had a little bit too high of front tire degradation on red tires so in the off season, I’ve really spent a lot of time thinking about what my part in that was and how I can try and limit that but also was it a car problem, was it a me problem. Ultimately, I think it was a little bit of both. Bringing my experience from what was a really successful weekend into the team this year is why I feel like we can go and try and compete for pole position and to win in St. Pete. I know what I did that was good, I know what I did that I need to work on that wasn’t great. All we’re trying to do is me drive a bit better but also push the team and that’s what’s so great about having three competitive teammates. No doubt one of us on one lap is going to be quicker than another guy in a certain corner so really qualifying is going to come down to who just did the best that the car can do on the one lap. It’s a phrase that we’ve coined a lot, but someone is going to win in St. Pete, so why not the 45 Hy-Vee Honda?
“We’ve qualified really well there. Last year we were super close on pole. It’s a super tight track; the lap times are always within hundredths of a second so it’s no different than a lot of other tracks really. To go and win in St. Pete is going to take a nearly perfect weekend. We’re going to have to find a good balance for red tires, find a really good balance for black tires and I’m going to have to drive really, really well. Obviously, a street circuit is a bit more high risk, high reward. We just need to find that balance of being able to push the car to the limit whilst not putting it in the wall. I feel like there are so many small bits at St. Pete that really can accumulate so that’s why in our preparation we’ve been very detail oriented. But also, the thing that’s tough about INDYCAR testing right now, we still learning, we’re still learning engineers and things like that. I would say our mindset heading into St. Pete is one of total confidence and belief that we can go and achieve something great but also open-mindedness that the track is going to evolve, we’re going to evolve and we just want to keep rolling with the flow of the weekend but I don’t see any reason why we can’t go to St. Pete and shoot to win.”