Rahal Letterman Lanigan RacingPre-Race Notes
XPEL 375 – Texas Motor Speedway
Round 2 of 17 in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES
DATE: Saturday- Sunday, March 19-20, 2022
PRACTICE BROADCAST: Live on Peacock Premium on Saturday from 11 – 12 p.m. and 5 – 6 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 2 – 3 p.m. ET Saturday.
RACE BROADCAST: Live on NBC Sunday, March 20 beginning at 11:30 a.m. ET. And also on Peacock Premium, IRN, and SiriusXM 160, indycar.com, indycarradio.com and the INDYCAR Mobile app powered by NTT DATA.
TRACK LAYOUT: 1.5-mile oval
RACE LENGTH: 248 laps / 372 miles
2021 WINNER(S): Scott Dixon – Race 1 / Pato O’Ward – Race 2
2021 POLESITTER(S): Inclement weather led to the field being set by entrant points
RAHAL’S BEST TMS START / FINISH: 3rd in 2012 / 1st in 2016, 4 podiums; will be his 16th race here
RAHAL’S BEST OVAL START / FINISH: Pole (Kansas 2009) / 1st (Fontana 2015, 500-miles; Texas 2016)
RAHAL’S HIGHEST SERIES START / FINISH: Pole at St. Pete (street) 2009, Kansas (oval) 2009, Detroit (street) 2017 / 1st in St. Pete
in 2008, Fontana (oval; 500 miles) 2015, Mid-Ohio (road) 2015, Texas (oval) 2016; Detroit Race 1 (street) 2017, Detroit Race 2 (street) 2017
LUNDGAARD’S BEST START / FINISH IN TEXAS: He is making his oval debut
LUNDGAARD’S HIGHEST SERIES START / FINISH: 4th at the Indy GP (Harvest GP; road) 2021 / 11th – St Pete 2022
HARVEY’S BEST START / FINISH IN TEXAS: 5th (2021 Race 2) / 7th (2021 Race 1); will be his fourth race here
HARVEY’S BEST START / FINISH ON AN OVAL: 5th – St. Louis 2 (2020) and Texas 2 (2021) / 7th – Iowa 1, Iowa 2 (2020), Texas 1 (2021)
HARVEY’S HIGHEST SERIES START / FINISH: 2nd – Indy GP & Road America (2020), St. Pete 2021 / 3rd at the Indy GP (2019)
RLL’S TOP START / FINISH AT TMS: 1st by Scott Sharp (2007) and Takuma Sato (2019) / 1st by Graham Rahal 2016
NEWS & NOTES:
RLL AT TEXAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY
The 2022 XPEL 375 will mark the 21st event for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (RLL) at the 1.5-mile, high-banked Texas Motor Speedway (TMS) oval. The team’s highest start of pole came in 2019 with Takuma Sato and 2007 with Scott Sharp. The highest finish is Graham Rahal’s win in 2016. The team earned another front row start in 2004 when Buddy Rice qualified second. Overall the team has earned eight top-five finishes and 14, top-10’s at the track. The team has entered the No. 15 Fleet Cost & Care Honda for Graham Rahal, the No. 30 PeopleReady entry for Christian Lundgaard and the No. 45 Hy-Vee entry for Jack Harvey.
GRAHAM AIMS TO ADD FIFTH PODIUM AND SECOND WIN AT TMS IN 2022
In Graham Rahal’s 15 races here, his best start came in 2012 of third and his best finish is his win in 2016 that still stands as the closest finish is TMS history at 0.0080 of a second. In total, he has four podium finishes (1st 2016; 2nd in 2012; 3rd in 2019 & 2021), seven top-five’s and nine top-10s in his 15 races and has finished sixth or better in six of his seven races here. Last year, Rahal finished fifth in Race 1 and third in Race 2 and is looking to break a tie between TMS and Detroit as the track he has the most podiums on.
“The performance last year was pretty good. Getting my fourth podium at Texas was pretty cool but I do know that we had an opportunity to win that race. Every time I got to the front though I was getting very loose so we need to get the car a little more settled so that when we are in the front being able to lead, and being able to do it more comfortably. Last year it was kind of an interesting race with the fuel savings. Whoever was in the lead, it was a massive detriment. Dixon and I went back and forth and back and forth a long time, but I do think we’re one of the teams that are going to be very competitive there. I expect Penske to be good, I think they’ve made good improvements in the off season. Definitely, I think there are some areas that we can improve from last year but generally we were very good.”
LUNDGAARD RETURNS FOR HIS OVAL DEBUT AFTER TESTING HERE ON FEBRUARY 2
“My expectations for Texas are kind of neutral to be fair. I think it’s going to be an interesting weekend for my first oval race and I’m looking forward to it. At the test, you got to a point where you got comfortable with the car, comfortable with driving around at high speeds and turning left. But I think the preparation up to it has been quite extreme. Obviously for me its all new so I want to have as much information as possible. During the test it was a big beneficial factor in that and I’m just looking forward to getting out there and racing around and be around the other 25 cars on track. Its going to be exciting. We were six cars at the test and running in traffic in the afternoon went well and I think that’s where I gained the most confidence really. So now having to go out there and hopefully win the thing — that’s the plan at least — it would be awesome to come and kind of lay your mark on the ovals. I know it’s so different to whatever I’m used to but I’m looking forward to it and super excited. Texas here we come!”
PEOPLEREADY FORCE FOR GOOD CHALLENGE
The Texas race will mark the first time for Lundgaard to compete in the PeopleReady livery that he will run three times in the 2022 season, including the Indy 500 and the season-finale at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. Industrial staffing giant PeopleReady created the PeopleReady Force for Good Challenge as part of a new partnership between with INDYCAR. The driver and race team seeing the checkered flag first on all three types of circuits in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES can win $1 million in the 2022 season for themselves and a charity through the new program.
JACK HARVEY’S BEST OVAL START AND FINISH CAME AT TMS
Of Jack Harvey’s 12 previous oval races in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, three have taken place at Texas Motor Speedway. His best oval start is fifth place, which he earned at WWT Raceway in 2020 and at TMS in Race 2 in 2021. His best finish on an oval to date it seventh place, which he has accomplished three times (Iowa 1 & 2 in 2020, TMS Race 1 in 2021). He is looking forward to adding to the momentum he feels he has created at TMS.
“This will be my 13th oval start. Honestly, at this point I’m just excited to get back on one. Throughout my time in INDYCAR and Indy Lights, I’ve really enjoyed racing on ovals. There’s definitely a lot of things I’ve had to really work on but I think last year was a big breakthrough for me in general, also was 2020 in general so I feel like we have some really good momentum right now on oval racing. I feel like I’ve got good momentum right now. I’m just excited that it’s another opportunity to go out and have a great weekend.
“The demands at Texas are quite simple: it’s the ability to be comfortable going into Turn 1 where it always feels like the rear isn’t underneath you. You turn into the corner, and you blend in and the car just kind of goes light for a second and it doesn’t feel like there is any feedback from the steering or anything like that. The first time I went, I wasn’t super comfortable with it. Throughout the two races we did last year, I became really comfortable with it and ended up making two great starts, a great first race and in Race 2 we were running third at the time and, unfortunately, we had a mechanical which took us out of the race. Certainly, I feel like we had a podium opportunity. I think oval racing in general is working through it in a methodical way but also then taking that little bit of brain out of it and just understanding that you’ve got to go fast. I know that’s a simple, silly thing to say but oval racing is so much about commitment and confidence and making sure that we have all those things in a good place.”
GRAHAM AND JACK ON ACCLIMITIZING TO THE FIRST OVAL RACE IN SEVEN MONTHS
The XPEL 375 at TMS will mark the first of five oval races this season. The previous INDYCAR SERIES oval race was seven months ago on August 21, 2022 at World Wide Technology Raceway so drivers will take a few laps to reacclimatize themselves to the higher speeds of racing on an oval.
“To get back to an oval I think it takes a little bit of time to adjust but at the same time, truthfully, for myself and guys like (Scott Dixon) Dixie, people that have been around a long time, you jump in and within a few laps you got a feel for where you’re at. At Texas we don’t have a lot of time, there is not a lot of practice, you go right into qualifying and then go right into the race so you better be ready to compete. I feel good, I’m excited. I know Christian had a good rookie test there so I feel like there is good potential for our team to be fast there. Fingers crossed, we’ve had a lot of success at Texas in the past and hopefully we can make it happen again.”
“The speeds are definitely higher,” added Harvey. “Any day you are going over 200 mph, obviously it takes a little bit of an adjustment (to get used to) but, to be honest, throughout the off season, we’ve done a little bit of simulator work so I think getting reacclimatized shouldn’t take too long. Obviously Christian just tested there and everything went really well. I’m excited to get going at Texas. Last year was a big breakthrough weekend for me compared to 2020. We just want to build on that momentum that we generated at that track. Obviously, it’s my first outing with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing on an oval so we’re just looking to have a smooth weekend and be as aggressive as we can but obviously conscious of the fact that no one wins the race in the first corner but we don’t want to lose it that way either. I’m ready and excited to get back to Texas.”
GRAHAM AND JACK ON THE DIFFERENT CONDITIONS IN MARCH VS. JUNE & AERO OPTIONS
“With people testing there versus those that didn’t, obviously, you would like to test there but we had our opportunity with Christian and it was a beautiful day. I was there and did a few laps right away — four or five — to get the car settled for him but I thought it was a perfect day to be down there, 70 degrees and barely any wind. I know some of the Chevy guys tested there recently but for us, I think we’ve got to rest on what we learned from Christian. We’ve been very competitive at Texas in the past. There are some changes with the aerodynamics with the barge boards, and trim sidewalls and strakes and things that we can use that are to add downforce. And the thing with adding downforce is to make the racing better for the fans. But also the time of year (is a consideration). Racing in March is so different than June, temperature-wise. In June, we were used to high temps and lots of wind. It will be interesting to see what we get in March. But that is somewhat of an equalizer so we’ll see what we get next weekend. I’m excited to go racing. As I said, it’s a place I’ve had great memories, good success with coming off a strong year last year at the doubleheader getting a fifth and a third there so hopefully it will be a good way for us to kick off this next wave of races.”
“The Texas races, honestly, have been so different from the last 10 years,” added Harvey. “I remember watching Graham win and they were running two cars wide the whole lap and that’s not been my experience when I’ve raced at Texas. It’s very much been one lane and just capitalizing on someone else’s mistake ahead of you. I don’t really know what to expect this year. INDYCAR have brought out some different downforce options which perhaps will make the racing a little bit more side-by-side or certainly be able to use more than one lane. Some of the best INDYCAR races on ovals I’ve ever seen have been at Texas so I guess we’re all just optimistic that whatever happens, its going to be a great race regardless.
GRAHAM & JACK ON WHAT IS NEEDED FROM THE CAR TO HAVE A GOOD RACE
“The main thing with an oval setup is to have the car as neutral as you can handle and what that means is as little steering as possible,” said Rahal. “The difficulty of that is it’s a very fine line with being neutral and too loose. And if you’re too loose, you’re going to lose it and obviously on an oval that results in a big impact. So we’re always dancing that fine line for us to be strong and to be able to run up front. Of the weight jacker, anti-roll bars and all the tools that we have to adjust, the weight jacker is the most powerful. In essence, what the weight jacker does is it transfers weight from the left front to the right front by utilizing the rear shock absorber. So, if you add pressure, it adds weight to that left front. When you do that, the car is going to turn way more aggressively so maybe when you’re in traffic you’re doing that a lot but when you get out in the lead, you need to be pushing it toward the right side a lot to create stability because you suddenly have a lot more downforce. So, there is a lot of stuff that we chase in the car that we’re trying to utilize to be better.”
“I don’t think, right now, that I’m attached to any particular setup other than trying to find that balance between being comfortable and fast,” added Harvey. “If you’re too comfortable, typically you’re not going to be that fast. And if you’re not comfortable, its just not a fun day so I think at Texas it’s going to be really important to make sure the front is working really, really well, working well in traffic and what comes with that is that feeling I mentioned earlier on where the rear kind of gets light into Turn 1 and just being able to drive through some of that problem so I’m not super-tied to anything (setup wise) other than trying to win the race on Sunday. I don’t mind what we have to do with the car to get there, I’m going to be as adaptable as I can to change my driving, my technique to be able to do it as well. The only thing I’m tied to at Texas is trying to win.”