HILLIARD, Ohio (September 29, 2011) – In sporting circles, ‘The Friendly Confines’ refers to Wrigley Field — home to baseball’s Chicago Cubs. But for Rahal Letterman Lanigan and its driver Pippa Mann, hopes are that the 1.5-mile Kentucky Speedway oval can wear that moniker as well this weekend, as the team and its rookie driver return to a place that has given both sides plenty of good feelings over the past seasons.
This weekend’s Kentucky Indy 300 will see Mann revisit the site of her first-ever Firestone Indy Lights win, while her RLL teammates will look to recapture the form that brought them back-to-back poles in 2004 and 2005. Mann dominated the Lights event on the tri-oval a year ago, claiming the pole and leading wire-to-wire to take her maiden victory.
“I had a great run at Kentucky last year, and we got the car just right for me, allowing me to run away with the race in Indy lights,” Mann recounted. “However, that doesn’t really affect my confidence as much coming back as it would for some other drivers, simply because I tend to take my confidence from the handling of the car.
The Brit tested her IZOD Indy Car Series #30 Dallara/Honda/Firestone at Kentucky last weekend, and while her and her Rahal Letterman Lanigan suffered through a long morning of rain before getting on track, Mann was able to complete 63 laps and post times that were competitive with the top cars at the test session.
“The test showed we still have a little work to do, the car is definitely fast enough, but we just need to get me and her to “play nice” a little better together before we go and play with everyone else out there in the race.” reported Mann. “I think some people, and myself included, have under estimated how big a challenge it is to jump in for just a few races, mid-season, with a team and people whom I have never worked with before. Normally you would have plenty of time to get up to speed, but only having a few opportunities really magnifies the situation!”
The Ohio-based RLL squad has had seven top-10 starting spots in 12 starts at Kentucky, including poles by Buddy Rice and Danica Patrick. RLL cars have finished second at Kentucky on two occasions and have earned six top-10 finishes overall, most recently with Ryan Hunter-Reay in 2008.
“After a tough outing in New Hampshire, it was important to get back on track and have a good test day prior to this weekend’s event, and I think we accomplished that last week, despite not having a full day of testing because of the rain,” said RLL co-owner Bobby Rahal. “We have had a decent amount of success at Kentucky in the past and we believe that we are capable of having another good weekend there if we work hard and stay focused.”
The two-day event gets busy quickly on Saturday with practice sessions available from 12:00 to 1:15 p.m. and again from 2:45 to 3:45, leading into single-car qualifying which gets underway at 6:00 p.m. The 200-lap Kentucky Indy 300 gets the green flag at 2:45 Eastern Time, with live flag-to-flag coverage beginning on Versus at 2 p.m.