RACE PREVIEW: Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
Pre-Race Notes
Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama – Barber Motorsports Park, Leeds, Alabama
Round 4 of 17 in the 2022 NTT INDYCAR SERIES

DATE:     Friday – Sunday, April 29 – May 1, 2022
PRACTICE BROADCAST:     Live on Peacock Premium on Friday from 4 – 5 p.m. ET, Saturday from 10 – 11 a.m. ET and 5:20 – 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 1:00 – 2:15 p.m. ET Saturday.
RACE BROADCAST:     Live on NBC on Sunday, May 1 from 12 – 2 p.m. ET. And also on Peacock Premium, IRN and Sirius XM 160.
TRACK LAYOUT:     2.38-mile, 17-turn road course
RACE LENGTH:     90 laps / 207 miles 
2021 WINNER:     Alex Palou
2021 POLESITTER:     Pato O’Ward (1:05.8479; 125.744 mph)
RLL TOP START / FINISH AT BARBER:     1st by Sato in 2019 / 1st by Sato in 2019; nine events
RAHAL’S BEST START / FINISH AT BARBER:     2nd in 2019 / 2nd in 2015 and 2016 – Both with RLL; will be his 12th 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 AT BARBER:     Indy car race debut here but tested at the track on July 26, 2021
LUNDGAARD’S HIGHEST SERIES START / FINISH:     4th at the Indy GP (Harvest GP; road) 2021 / 11th – St Pete 2022
HARVEY’S BEST START / FINISH AT BARBER:     11th / 11th –  both in 2021; will be his 3rd INDYCAR race here and 7th overall
HARVEY’S HIGHEST SERIES START / FINISH:     2nd – Indy GP & Road America (2020), St. Pete 2021 / 3rd at the Indy GP (2019)
The 2022 Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama (HIGPA) will mark the 10th INDYCAR SERIES race for the team at Barber Motorsports Park (BMP).  The 2020 event was cancelled due to COVID-19 so the team had to wait another year to defend their 2019 victory from pole by Takuma Sato. Rahal qualified second to Sato in 2019 to bring the team their first 1-2 start since the September 11, 2005 Chicagoland race where Danica Patrick and Buddy Rice accomplished the feat. For 2022, RLL has entered the No. 15 Code 3 Associates Honda for Graham Rahal, the No. 30 Shield Cleansers Honda for Christian Lundgaard and the No. 45 Hy-Vee Honda for Jack Harvey which brings the total to 17 entries for RLL for this event.
Rahal’s best start at BMP is second in 2019 and his best finish is second, two times (2015-2016) in his previous 11 races here. Last year Rahal started 18th, avoided a multi car crash started by Newgarden on the opening lap and had good pace to finish in seventh place. In 2019, he comfortably held his best starting position of second place to his teammate Sato after the start and proceeded to build a two-second gap over third place Dixon while approaching his first pit stop. He reported an issue with his throttle position sensor that led to a stuck throttle and pit to address it on Lap 18 after having battled it intermittently since the third lap. The team reset the car and changed the throttle position sensor and he returned to the track in 16th place. He cycled into 12th by the time he made his second stop on Lap 34 and then returned on track in 19th.  He was in 11th place on Lap 56 when he reported that the car turned off and he stopped on track and brought out a caution to end his race. A race-by-race description of previous years, including his two, second-place finishes, is available upon request. Graham is hoping to pick up where he left off in 2019 in terms of competitiveness at the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.
            “I’m excited to go back to Alabama. Barber is always a track I’ve had a great love for and had a lot of success at so for me, I think it’s a good opportunity to go and turn our season around and be able to get a win. We as a team have been very competitive there before as well. Last year we did not qualify well. There was no pace for Takuma or myself. However, in the race we had pretty good pace and were able to go from 18th up to seventh as a finishing position, challenging with Ericsson and Bourdais most of the race so it was great to have a good result. We’re excited for the opportunity ahead of us and hopefully we can make it happen. This season could use a bit of a boost. With Barber at the beginning of May, which leads into the GMR Indy Grand Prix, which leads into the Indy 500, it’s an important time for us to get momentum going in the right direction.”
Although it will be his first race at Barber Motorsports Park, it will be the second time for rookie Christian Lundgaard to drive at BMP. His first time in an Indy car occurred at BMP during a test on July 26 and he hopes that experience will accelerate his performance at the event.
           “Testing at Barber is obviously the first time I ever drove an Indy car and it was well exciting. I had the opportunity to do it and it’s the reason why I’m here today so I’m sure going back there will bring back some memories and I’m sure we’ll have a good weekend. I have more experience at that track than I have at any other track that we are racing on this year so I’m going to give it everything. I’m looking forward (to it) and hoping we can enjoy it.
            “I don’t have expectations at all actually. For me, it’s more personally about improving the package we have and keep delivering. We haven’t quite done that so far so I’m sure coming to a track that I know, our total package can already be better from the get-go so I think its building from where we left off last year, which was pretty decent, I would say, considering it was the first time I was in the car. Alabama, here we go!”
The Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama will mark Harvey’s third INDYCAR race at the track and seventh overall.  He competed in Indy car races here in 2019 and 2021 with a best start and finish of 11th in 2021. He also competed in two doubleheader Indy Lights events here in 2014 and 2015 where he started second twice and earned three podiums in four races with his top finish being second place in Race 1 and 2 in 2015. The Honda Indy marks the first road course race of the season and Harvey is looking forward to it.  
            “I enjoy everything about Barber. It’s a really fun track to drive. I think my favorite sequence is probably Turns 7, 8, and 9, where you get by the museum. Through that whole section you have to ride the curbs quite aggressively but it’s obviously quite quick on the way in. I really enjoy the whole track honestly. I’m entering the event with hopeful optimism. The season hasn’t exactly gotten off the way we all hoped it might. That being said, going to a road course is my bread and butter coming from Europe. We ‘ve had good success there from Indy Lights to INDYCAR. At this point, we just want to get our season on the path that we want to and Barber is a good weekend to do that. Honestly right now I think we’re going there with positivity and optimism that we’re going to have a great weekend.”
“I know the results haven’t been what we collectively hoped they might. To be honest, it’s just a matter of time before those results come together. That having been said, I’m really enjoying my time with everybody at RLL and with Hy-Vee. We did one day of practice at Sebring before we got the season started. Once you are in the thick of the season, you just go, go, go. You don’t really have time to try little bits and bobs so I’m really encouraged about where we can go. Obviously now the hard work is making sure we get ourselves on the right path again and head the way we want to and get the end results.
            “I think that the way everyone is working together is a good one, we’ve just got to find those few bits that are missing and put them together and have a successful weekend. I’m really proud of everybody for how they are digging deep and still trying to get the results. In reality, it’s three races. We’re not 10 races in, still struggling. The first three are very tough tracks to go to so I think that’s why everybody is encouraged to go to Barber. It’s a track we’ve all been to, we’ve all had good success there and really it is a good time for us to unite and get a good result.”
“Alabama is a very high-speed track in many areas,” said Rahal. “I feel like Turns 8 and 9 are always kind of blind and challenging on the corner entry there but clearly at the end of the backstraight — Turns 12, 13, 14, 15 and 16 — that area takes a lot of guts and courage to get through it and push yourself hard. Our race pace was good last year but we need to qualify up front to be able to get a win and we’re certainly going to try to do so.”
            “My favorite corners of the track will probably be the fast left-right because I love elevation,” added Lundgaard.  “I’m now new to this oval thing we do here in America with the banked corners and I think this is a bit the same sensation you get, just on a road course, with the elevation going down, going up with the compression at the bottom. We’ve got that at one track in Europe which is Spa and that’s just the best corner in Europe so we’ve got one here and I think that’s my favorite corner in Alabama.”