Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey
NTT INDYCAR SERIES
QUALIFYING NOTES/QUOTES – September 9, 2023
LUNDGAARD, VIPS AND RAHAL QUALIFIED THIRD, SEVENTH AND 14TH FOR THE FIRESTONE GRAND PRIX OF MONTEREY; LUNDGAARD SET A NEW TRACK RECORD IN QUALIFYING
1) Felix Rosenqvist 1:06.6416 / 120.897 mph (Group 1, Round 3)
3) Christian Lundgaard 1:06.7478 / 120.705 mph (Group 2, Round 3)
7) Juri Vips 1:06.8300 / 120.557 mph (Group 1, Round 2; will serve a 6-grid penalty)
14) Graham Rahal 1:07.2323 / 119.835 mph (Group 1, Round 1)
GRAHAM RAHAL, No. 15 iPacket Dallara/Honda/Firestone: “On my best lap, Sting Ray went off right in front of me in Turn 3 and brought a ton of dirt back on so you couldn’t attack the corner exit with power down. We lost just over one-tenth in that sector, which we’ve been strong in all weekend, so I’m really frustrated. Unfortunately, we got stuck behind him and that’s the way the cards fall sometimes but it certainly hurt us. I’ve had a little harder time getting rotation than my teammates this weekend. In Turn 2, the car just didn’t turn at all and lost a tenth-and-a-half (of a second) there. The combination of those two corners really killed us today. Hopefully we’ll have a good day in the iPacket machine tomorrow. It’s going to be a tough race physically for sure. It will be the hardest race of the year for sure and it’s not even hot outside. I feel like our car is strong but I just knew we would have to be flawless. This wasn’t like Portland or the Indy GP where I felt super confident. I knew that today we were on the border and unfortunately, I think Newgarden beat us by a few hundredths (of a second) and that’s the way life goes. Our (qualifying) group was absolutely stacked bottom to top. We’re going to have to battle hard tomorrow.”
- FAST FACTS: Was 7th fastest in his group and failed to progress to Round 2 by less than 1/10th of a second. Three cars ahead of Rahal will serve a grid penalty so he will start 11th. The 2023 race will mark the fourth for Graham Rahal at the track. He earned pole for the previous two road course races and 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. 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 FIVE poles (2009 – St. Pete street course, Kansas oval; 2017 – Detroit Race 1 street; 2023 – IMS road/August, Portland road)… He is 14th in series point standings with a total of 271.
JURI VIPS, 30 Mi-Jack Dallara/Honda/Firestone: “I knew it was going to be easier coming into this weekend (than Portland). I didn’t race anything all year so it was going to be a steep learning curve in Portland. But I think we managed that well and I got in the car in Laguna and it was pretty comfortable. It’s just a shame to miss out (transferring to Round 3) by such a small margin. I felt like the lap was pretty good. I made one small mistake but I think what happened to us most was Grosjean backed off (ahead) and impeded my first lap. So, then I started my push lap pretty close to him. I think that’s why we missed out because all of the RLL cars have been really quick this whole weekend so far so I’m happy to at least see Christian up there. It’s super tough, it’s super physical and the grip is awesome.”
- FAST FACTS: He qualified seventh but must serve a six-grid penalty for an unapproved engine change that took place Friday afternoon and will start 12th, based on grid penalties of Ferrucci and Canapino. He is a three-time Formula 2 race winner and a part of the Red Bull Junior Team between 2018-2022, where he also served as a Formula One test and reserve driver from 2020-22. He drove an Indy car for the first time on October 12, 2022, at Sebring International Raceway in a test for the team and again at Barber Motorsports Park on March 13, 2023, and made his INDYCAR SERIES debut at Portland where he started and finished 18th. He has also performed static simulator testing for the team during the season. His most recent win came at the F2 sprint race in Monza on September 10, 2022, and his most recent race overall took place at Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi on November 20, 2022.
CHRISTIAN LUNDGAARD, No. 45 Hy-Vee Dallara/Honda/Firestone: “It’s frustrating. Obviously seeing the optimal lap time afterwards being a 66.1 it hurts. It hurts right now but I’m happy for Felix to get the pole leaving McLaren for MSR next season. To finish like that is pretty cool for him. It’s tough for us. We knew we were fast all weekend and it just proved that the car has been there all weekend. I wanted to get the No. 45 Hy-Vee Honda on the pole so we could finish the season with the most poles. It just wasn’t meant to be today. I pushed too hard and I saw it on the dash on the delta that I was faster than my Q2 lap so I went for it and it didn’t work. I paid the price for it.”
- FAST FACTS: In Round 2 of qualifying, he set a time of 1:06.4610, which is a new track record, well over Helio Castroneves’s qualifying lap record of 1:07.722, set in 2000. In the Firestone Fast Six, he was on a lap time that would have been four-tenths-of-a-second up and good enough for his third pole of the season but made a mistake in the Corkscrew. Will make his second start here. Last year, he 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… He is ranked 8th in the point standings with 362.
RAHAL LETTERMAN LANIGAN RACING AT LAGUNA SECA … 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 2009-2021, and 2023 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 team finished third at the May 1, 2022 race. The INDYCAR 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).
NEXT UP: The warm-up will take place tomorrow from 9:00-9:30 a.m. PT and NBC will begin broadcasting the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey at 3 PM ET Sunday, September 10. Peacock will broadcast all sessions live. Timing and Scoring information and live streaming video is also available for all sessions from www.indycar.com and includes live commentary.