After Being a Contender in the Final Laps of the Indy 500 in Recent Years, RLL Aims for Victory with Rahal, Jakes and Jourdain in 2013

97th Running of the Indianapolis 500 – Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Pre-Race Notes
DATE:                                              Opening Day — May 11; Pole Day – May 18; Race Day – May 26
QUALIFYING BROADCAST:          May 18 from 11 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. ET and 4:30-6:30 p.m. and on May 19 from 12:00-6:30 p.m. ET
                                                         on NBC Sports Network and (timing & scoring)
RACE BROADCAST:                      Live on Sunday, May 26 at 12:00 p.m. ET on ABC
RADIO BROADCAST:                    The race will air on IMS Radio Network, XM channel 94 & Sirius channel 212
TRACK LAYOUT:                           2.5-mile oval
RACE LENGTH:                             200 laps / 500 miles 
2012 WINNER:                                Dario Franchitti
2012 POLESITTER:                        Ryan Briscoe (226.484 mph avg.)
OVAL START/FINISH:                    Pole (Kansas 2009) / 2nd (Texas 2012 and Milwaukee 2011)
START/FINISH:                               4th in 2009 / 3rd in 2011 (five previous Indy 500’s)
OVAL START/FINISH:                   17th (Indy 2012) / 10th (Texas 2012)
START/FINISH:                               17th / 15th – both in 2012 (one previous Indy 500’s)
OVAL START/FINISH:                   2nd (Milwaukee 2003) / 1st (Milwaukee 2003)                           
START/FINISH:                               8th / 13th – both in 1996 (2 previous Indy 500’s)
FINISH AT INDY:                             Won the 2004 race from pole with Buddy Rice (15 previous Indy 500’s)
The 2013 entry will mark the 16th year for the team in the event.  Prior to 2013, the team prepared a total of 28 entries for drivers such as Bobby Rahal (1992-1995), Mike Groff (1994), Raul Boesel (1995), Jimmy Vasser (2002-2003), Kenny Brack (2003, 2005), Buddy Rice (2004, 2006; DNC 2005 due to practice crash), Vitor Meira (2004, 2005), Roger Yasakawa (2004), Danica Patrick (2005, 2006), Jeff Simmons (2006, 2007), Scott Sharp (2007), Ryan Hunter-Reay (2008), Oriol Servia (2009), Graham Rahal (2010), Bertrand Baguette (2011), Jay Howard (2011), Takuma Sato (2012) and Michel Jourdain Jr. (2012).  The No. 15 Midas / Big O Tires entry for Graham Rahal, the No. 16 Acorn Stairlifts entry for James Jakes and the No. 17 Office Depot entry for Michel Jourdain will bring that total to 31 in 2013.

The team’s highest start and finish in the event came in 2004 when Buddy Rice won from pole. In addition, the team has earned a total of four podiums (2nd – Meira 2005; 3rd – Rahal 1994, 1995). The team was in contention to win the race as recent as 2011 when Bertrand Baguette led laps 139-140 and laps 189-197 of the 200 lap race. Had a caution come our before Baguette was forced to pit for a splash of fuel, he might have been the victor. The race ultimately ended under caution when JR Hildebrand crashed on the front straight while in the lead on the final lap.  In 2012, RLL driver Takuma Sato was alongside eventual Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti in Turn 1 on the final lap but limited traction and possible tire contact catapulted him into a spin and he ultimately finished 17th after leading the third most race laps
The team continued to work on the Indy cars on Opening Day and plan to get on track with Rahal. Jakes and Jourdain beginning Sunday, May 12.
The 2013 race will mark Graham’s sixth Indy 500.  He ran in the top-five in four of his five previous races here.  In 2008, with Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing (NHLR), he was the highest Indy 500 starter of the Champ Car transitioning teams with his 13th place qualifying effort but made contact on L36 after driving high to avoid the slower car of Lloyd and retired in 33rd place.  He qualified fourth for NHLR in the 2009 Indy 500 but made contact on L56 while fifth and retired in 31st. In 2010, he competed for his father’s team – RLL – for the first time in an Indy car. He qualified seventh and ran as high as second but a blocking penalty on L188/200 dropped him from third to a 12th place finish. He qualified 29th with Service Central Chip Ganassi Racing in 2011 and earned his best finish at Indy to date of third place after he led six laps. In 2012, he qualified 12th, ran as high as third and finished 13th for SCCGR.  He believes his experience running up front, coupled with a strong race car, will help him and the team fight for their second victory here after being a contender the previous years.
                “The 2011 race was my best finishing position and it was actually the worst starting position at Indy I ever had.  It gives me a lot of confidence knowing that I know how to run up front at Indy. I know how to be right there at the end to give myself a chance to win and that is exactly what we have to do this year. I’m really looking forward to that aspect, that with my knowledge now from the years that I have been in this, combined with the team’s knowledge, I think we’ll have a good shot.”
“I was pretty nervous the first time that I ran with dad in 2010. This year I’m probably the most nervous I have ever been going into the month of May and maybe that’s a good thing. I just think we’re going to have a fantastic shot at winning this race. I’ve been thinking about it quite a lot and — fingers crossed — everything goes well. I think the team is ready and everybody is eager to get started; this is what we all go racing for.”
“If you look back at the record books, the team has always been strong at Indy,” said Rahal. “Clearly they won in 2004 but if luck had been on their side I think they would have a few by now. Without a doubt, it’s a big race and I think we’ll have as good a shot at winning as anybody. I think that how solid the team has been here over the years gives me a lot of confidence.”
                “Obviously I am very excited to be going back to Indy with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing,” added Jakes. “I think we can roll off the trailer pretty strong. Hopefully the weather will be good for the month. It looks a bit mixed right now.  The team has nearly won it two years in a row now. They were there fighting for it in the last 10 laps so its exciting to be part of RLL heading to Indianapolis.”
The 2013 race will be James Jakes’ second race here. He qualified 17th and finished 15th in 2012. In 2011, he attempted to qualify but the car was not fast enough. Both events were with Dale Coyne Racing.  He plans to build on his experience in his second Indy 500.
                “The car wasn’t very good in 2011 and we didn’t qualify.  We ran as high as eighth last year and just didn’t quite have the pace to stay there really and finished second to Rubens in the rookie race. We were pretty good early on and managed to get into the top-10 but didn’t have the pace really.”
“You have to be patient. You get a lot of track time if the weather is good and if the weather isn’t good, you still have to stay patient. You’re going to get some days that are bad and you can’t run.  You just need to make sure you take advantage of the days you do run. Hopefully we will get good weather like we had last year and we can get some good work done. I’m confident that we will have a great car the minute we roll onto the track.”
The 2013 event will be the third Indy 500 for Michel. He returned to RLL and Indy car racing in 2012 after an eight year hiatus and qualified 22nd and finished 19th. In the race, he was called into a closed pit then penalized with a drive-through which put him one lap down after he ran in the top half of the field mid-race.  He qualified eighth and finished 13th in 1996.  He is encouraged by the fact that the team ran well last year despite the challenges and is looking forward to getting back behind the wheel of an Indy car.
                “At the start of the race last year, I’m sure everyone is quite conservative and I was a probably a little bit more but the car felt quite good. After five or six laps I started passing some cars. The first pit stop was really good and we gained a couple of spots. The second pit stop I made a little mistake, I wasn’t used to the hand clutch and things like this. I had it in neutral when I thought I had it in first gear so I just couldn’t go then we lost a lap because of that. After that we ran really good trying to get our lap back. We did almost two stints with the guys in the front, Scott Dixon and the others around him. The car felt ok.  Then when we were about to get our lap back I was called into the pits when the pits were closed. After that it was a mess; a lot of the cars I was racing with got their lap back and we were at the back of the pack. There were no more stops so we didn’t have a chance to get our lap back. After so much time has passed, I feel like the whole month went really good. It felt good to be disappointed about the race result because that means that we felt we had a chance of getting a much better finish.”
“We will approach the event very similar to last year. Although last year I hadn’t been in one of these cars in eight years, now it’s from the standpoint of not having been in one of these cars in a year. It’s a lot less but still it’s a long time. We have to be conservative. For me, I’m trying to take it exactly the same as last year. I have a little bit less running because I don’t have the rookie sessions and I am taking it as conservative as last year.  It’s easier to go from conservative to more aggressive than from more aggressive to conservative. Normally that means you had a problem. We will take the same approach as last year and we’ll see where we are at.”