Rahal and Jakes Aim for Podium Finishes at the Long Awaited Return of the Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing

Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston Presented by the Greater Houston Honda Dealers – at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center Speedway at Reliant Park

Pre-Race Notes

Round 17 and 18 of 19 in the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series


DATE:   October 4 – 6, 2013

QUALIFYING BROADCAST:   Broad­cast on NBC Sports Network at 7 p.m. ET on Friday, October 4 and live on www.indycar.com (timing & scoring with audio commentary)

RACE BROADCAST:   Live on Saturday, October 5 at 3 p.m. ET and Sunday, October 6 at 1:00 p.m.  ET; both races on NBC Sports Network

RADIO BROADCAST:   The race will air on IMS Radio Network, XM & Sirius chan­nels 211

TRACK LAYOUT:   1.683-mile, 10-turn street course

RACE LENGTH:   90 laps / 153 miles (each race)


PREVIOUS WINNER:   Winner of 2007 Champ Car event was Sebastien Bourdais

PREVIOUS POLESITTER:   Pole winner for 2007 Champ Car event was Will Power (57.405, 105.545 mph)


RAHAL’S BEST ROAD/STREET START/FINISH:   Pole at St. Pete 2009 / 1st at St. Pete in 2008

RAHAL’S BEST HOUSTON START/FINISH:   6th / 2nd — both in 2007 with Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing (Champ Car)


JAKESBEST ROAD/STREET START/FINISH:   2nd at Detroit Dual 2 in 2013 / 2nd at Detroit Dual 2 in 2013



RLL’S BEST HOUSTON START/ FINISH:   First race at Reliant­Park; competed on another layout from 1998 – 2001




The Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston presented by the Greater Houston Honda Dealers double­header on Oct. 5 and Oct. 6 will mark the first (and second) time for the team to race at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center Speedway at Reliant­Park.  The team competed on the tempo­rary circuit down­town around the GeorgeR. Brown Conven­tion Center from 1998 – 2001 but this will mark the first time for RLL to not only compete at Reliant Park, it will also be the first time for RLL to compete in a race promoted by team co-owner Mike Lanigan’s company, MJ Promo­tions, since he joined the team in 2011.  The event will mark the third overall Indy car race at Reliant­Park and first since the 2006 and 2007 Champ Car races that MJ Promo­tions also promoted.  The team will field the No. 15 blu e Cigs entry for Graham Rahal and the No. 16 Acorn Stair­lifts entry for James Jakes.



When Rahal, 24, previ­ously competed in an Indy car at Reliant­Park, it was a history-making weekend for the then high school senior.  His first Indy car race here was Round 3 of the Champ Car World Series on April 22, 2007 and he became the youngest driver to earn a Champ Car podium with his second place finish at the age of 18 years, 3 months and 18 days.  Rahal skipped his prom to compete in Houston and qual­i­fied sixth. His second place finish brought his team, Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing, their first 1 – 2 finish since the 2005 Las Vegas race with team­mate Sebastien Bour­dais earning the win from a second place start.  Rahal also competed in the 2006 Atlantic Series race at Reliant Park where he started third and was in second place when he collided with Raphael Matos while attempting to take the lead with three laps to go and finished 15th. It will be his second Indy car race here and third overall. In total, there are six drivers entered in the event this weekend that competed on this layout previ­ously. Rahal’s 2007 team­mate Sebastien Bour­dais (2006 and 2007 HGP winner), Simon Page­naud, Will Power, Oriol Servia and Justin Wilson also competed here.

It was a pretty smooth race for us overall coming off a tough start to the season,” recalled Rahal of his 2007 race. “It was only my third Champ Car race, and to finish second felt awfully good. As a team it was all about completing laps and doing a good job that weekend, and it paid off with a good 1 – 2 finish at the time.  I think the track is pretty much iden­tical from what I have heard. I am excited to go back; it presents similar chal­lenges of a Balti­more style of circuit. It’s very bumpy, has very chal­lenging corners, fast and slow, and it should make for an exciting race.”



RLL co-owner Mike Lanigan has been involved in Graham’s career for many years starting in 2006 as a co-owner of Conquest Racing, whom Graham drove for in the 2006 Atlantic Series. Lanigan was also part of the owner­ship when Graham joined Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing in 2007 and finished second in Houston as well as won in St. Pete in 2008.

Mike has been a huge part of my career, prob­ably second only to my dad. It’s exciting for me to compete with him as part of our racing team, and hope­fully we can make him even more proud at a race where he is the promoter. I was defi­nitely involved in this race coming back when IndyCar first merged so it’s nice to now see it come together and be ready to race.”



The Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston will mark the first for Jakes on this course. He had compet­i­tive week­ends at the previous double­headers in Detroit and Toronto and earned his best series start and finish of second in Dual 2 in Detroit.  Jakes is hoping to continue the level of compet­i­tive­ness he has shown with RLL this season in the final street course race of 2013.

A lot of people have told me this is a very bumpy track. To be honest though, which street track do we go to that isn’t bumpy? They are all pretty severe. I’m looking forward to the chal­lenge. At most street tracks, we have been compet­i­tive this year so I am looking forward to getting back out there. I think it will be a combi­na­tion of Toronto and Detroit. We will know a lot more after the first session though.

I’ve watched a few videos online, and I will speak to the engi­neers and look at data from previous years,” added Jakes on how he has prepared for the new course. “To be honest though I am going to try and get around the track somehow even if it means looking from the outside. It’s pretty essen­tial to take a look consid­ering there is only one prac­tice before first qualifying.”



Toronto was brutal and it really was due to the heat,” said Rahal. “I feel that Houston could be even worse. Mentally I am prepared, and phys­i­cally I am as well. I’m excited for that chal­lenge, and I think my strength will serve me well this weekend. I have no doubt there will be mental errors, and if the racing is anything like it has been recently there will be a lot of banging. It should be enjoy­able though.”

They were both very phys­ical,” added Jakes about the double­headers in Detroit and Toronto. “Having two races on a weekend is very demanding not only on the driver but everyone involved in the team too. Take Formula 1 for example. Their races are shorter than ours anyway, and we have to do two on some week­ends. That’s around four hours of racing so it can be very tough.”



We absolutely had a turn around coming out of Mid Ohio into Sonoma. Suddenly our team started to click with (race engi­neer) Neil (Fife) in charge. We found a balance I felt confi­dent in and started to put in some great laps. I wish we could have the ulti­mate results we deserved, but we certainly have been amongst the quickest for the last couple of races.”



I think we have to be looking at the top three and nowhere else,” said Jakes who qual­i­fied in the top five for three of the four double­header races so far, including second for Duel 2 in Detroit. “We have been compet­i­tive on the street tracks for the most part this season and there is no reason why it should change. I’m really looking forward to the chal­lenge of the weekend and getting a solid result on the final street track of the year.”



I think it will be tough for some to stay in the groove, but it’s the same for all of us. We simply have to focus on doing the best we can. That’s all we can ask and all we can worry about.”

- RLL -