Rahal, Vips and Lundgaard Aim to Continue Strong Road Course Competitiveness at the Firestone Grand Prix of Laguna Seca INDYCAR Season Finale

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey – WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca

Pre-Race Notes
Round 17 of 17 in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES

DATE:     September 8-10, 2023
PRACTICE BROADCAST:     Live on Peacock Premium on Friday from 5:30 – 6:45 p.m. ET, Saturday from 1:00 – 2:00 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 5:00 – 6:30 p.m. ET Saturday.
RACE BROADCAST:     Live on NBC Sunday, September 10 from 2:30 – 6:00 p.m. ET. And also on Peacock Premium, IRN and Sirius XM 160.
TRACK LAYOUT:     2.258-mile, 11-turn road course
RACE LENGTH:     95 laps / 214.51 miles
2022 WINNER:     Alex Palou
2022 POLESITTER:     Will Power (1:11.6127 / 112.505 mph) 
RAHAL’S BEST LAGUNA SECA START / FINISH:     8th in 2019 / 4th in 2021; will be his fourth INDYCAR race here
RAHAL’S HIGHEST SERIES START / FINISH:     5 Poles – St. Pete (street) 2009, Kansas (oval) 2009, Detroit (street) 2017, IMS (road) 2023, Portland (road) 2023 / 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
VIPS’S BEST START / FINISH AT LAGUNA SECA:     First race here; second in the INDYCAR SERIES
VIPS’S BEST SERIES START / FINISH:     18th / 18th – both at Portland in his debut
LUNDGAARD’S BEST START / FINISH AT LAGUNA SECA:     16th / 5th; will be his second INDYCAR race here
LUNDGAARD’S BEST SERIES START / FINISH:     2 Poles – IMS (road) May 2023, Toronto (street) 2023 / 1 Win – Toronto 2023
RLL’S HIGHEST LAGUNA INDYCAR START/FINISH:     3 Indy Car Poles – 1997-1999 (Herta) / 3 Indy Car Wins – 1998-1999 (Herta), 2001
(Papis) / 6 Indy Car Podiums
RLL’S HIGHEST LAGUNA IMSA START/FINISH:     3 IMSA Poles – 2011, ‘15, ‘19 / 3 IMSA Wins – 2015, ‘17, ‘18 / 11 IMSA Podiums
The 2023 Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey will mark the 16th Indy car event for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (RLL) at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca and third here since 12 consecutive races at the track from 1992-2003. The team has also competed in ALMS and IMSA races here from 2009-2022 as BMW M Team RLL and has earned three wins, three poles and a total of 11 podium finishes to date – including pole and a second-place finish in 2019. The Indy car team has earned three wins, three poles and a total of six podiums (1st – Herta 1998-1999; Papis 2001; 2nd – Herta 1996; 3rd: B. Rahal 1992, Papis 1999) including three straight pole positions (Herta 1997-1999).  Prior to the 2022 event, the team prepared a total of 29 Indy car entries for drivers Bobby Rahal (1992-98), Mike Groff (1994), Raul Boesel (1995), Bryan Herta (1996-99), Max Papis (1999-2001), Jimmy Vasser (2002), Michel Jourdain Jr. (2002-03), Graham Rahal (2019, 2021-22), Takuma Sato (2019, 2021), Oliver Askew (2021), Jack Harvey (2022) and Christian Lundgaard (2022). The No. 15 iPacket entry for Graham Rahal, the No. 30 Mi-Jack entry for Juri Vips and No. 45 Hy-Vee entry for Christian Lundgaard will bring the Indy car total to 32 entries in 2023.
The 2023 race will mark the fourth for Graham Rahal at the track. After earning pole for the previous two road course races, he is hoping to have the same form at WRLS and turn it into a win. In 2022, he started on primary tires from 19th place and steadily climbed his way up the field. A pivotal decision came when the team opted to take on used alternate tires on his second stop compared to Lundgaard, who took on primary tires and ultimately finished fifth. The two had been running together with Rahal ahead in seventh place initially but the two swapped positions on Lap 57/95 and he fell four positions before the team elected to stop again for primary tires on Lap 61. He ultimately finished 18th, one lap down to the leaders.  In 2021, Rahal started 12th and ran as high as fourth before his first stop on Lap 18/95. The handling of his race car was better halfway through his second stint and he gained a few spots before he made his second stop from third place on Lap 40.  He pit from second place for his third stop on Lap 67 and was able to leapfrog O’Ward by staying out longer. He held third place for 11 laps before Grosjean, whose tires had six less laps on them, passed him on Lap 84/95 and he held on to finish fourth.  In 2019, he started eighth and lost two positions on the start to Hunter-Reay and Ferrucci. He dropped to 11th on Lap 5 when Rosenqvist passed him and cycled as high as fifth place before his second pit stop on Lap 39. He ran 10th for the majority of his next stint before his third and final stop and came out 11th. He later lost a position to Hunter-Reay on Lap 68 of 90 and ultimately took the checkered flag 12th. He has earned two poles in the past two road races and two poles of the last three races overall. He hopes to carry that momentum to a track that the team has had the most success on over the years.  
              “I’m excited for Laguna. I think our road course pace as of recent should continue there. Obviously, the place has been completely resurfaced so it’s going to be quite different from what we’ve had there before. I would imagine tire degradation will be improved compared to what we’ve had in the past. It will also be interesting to see what tire we are running there and how that will play out. It’s good to go back. With it being the last race of the year, hopefully we can keep up our road course form as of late and be competitive and put a solid finish together in the iPacket car.”
Juri Vips will make his second INDYCAR SERIES start at Laguna Seca and second race start since the Formula 2 event at Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi on November 20, 2022. In his Portland debut, he started and finished 18th and is optimistic that the experience gained there can only help him at his second series race this weekend.
           “I’m really looking forward to Laguna Seca. The track has amazing history and I’m really excited to drive there. As we saw last weekend, there were flashes of amazing speed from our package, with Christian being quickest in practice and Graham getting pole so I’m looking forward to it now that I’m more comfortable with the car, extracting that performance also. For Laguna Seca, I did a day in the Honda simulator and also watched a bunch of videos and reviewed data from previous years. Laguna will be a lot easier since, before Portland, I hadn’t raced at all this year so now having the next race straight after, I will know much more what to expect.”
In his first race at WRLS last year, Lundgaard clinched the Rookie of the Year title over David Malukas with a fifth-place finish after starting 16th. In the race, he steadily moved up the field after starting on primary tires while the majority of the field started on alternates, which turned out to be the best strategy. After setting the fastest time in Practice 1 in Portland and second fastest in Practice 2, the team was unable to maximize the potential there last weekend but plan to do that in the season finale.
           “Having the rookie title go all the way to the season finale at Laguna Seca will always be a fond memory for me. The track has been resurfaced so I think everyone will come there with a new mindset of perhaps what we showed up at Road America with, setup wise. We were competitive there so we will likely also be at Laguna Seca. We know we have a strong road course car although it didn’t work out for us at Portland but we will see what we can do in Laguna. We want to stay at least eighth in the championship so that is the main target.”
Bobby Rahal captured his first major race win at Laguna Seca in the Can Am series in 1979 so it’s only fitting that the track has become the most successful for RLL overall as a team. After that Can Am win, Rahal went on to become the only driver to win four straight Indy car wins at the track from 1984-1987, the 1985 win coming from pole. A third place in 1992 brought him his fifth podium finish at the track. In terms of Indy car history at Laguna Seca, in 22 races from 1983-2004, the most wins other drivers have is two (Danny Sullivan 1988, 1990), Michael Andretti (1991-92), Paul Tracy (1993-94), Bryan Herta with RLL (1998-99), Patrick Carpentier (2003-04).
Heading into the season-finale, Lundgaard is in eighth place in the series standings with a total of 362 points and Rahal is 14th with 271.