Pocono Preview: 1988 Winner Rahal on the Return to Pocono; Rahal and Jakes Ready to Get Back to Action after a Weekend Off

Pocono INDYCAR 400 Fueled by Sunoco – Pocono Raceway
Pre-Race Notes
Round 11 of 19 in the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series

NEWS & NOTES:

DATE:
July 6-7, 2013

QUALIFYING BROADCAST:
On www.indycar.com with timing & scoring information and IMS Radio Network commentary

RACE BROADCAST:
Live on Sunday, July 7 at 12 noon ET on ABC

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

TRACK LAYOUT:
2.5-mile tri oval

RACE LENGTH:
160 laps / 400 miles

RAHAL’S BEST OVAL START/FINISH:
Pole (Kansas 2009) / 2nd (Texas 2012 and Milwaukee 2011)

JAKES’ BEST OVAL START/FINISH:
10th (Texas 2013) / 10th (Texas 2012)

BOBBY RAHAL’S BEST START/FINISH AT POCONO:
2nd in 1984 (started from first two rows in 6 of 8 events) / 1st in 1988

NEWS & NOTES:

RLL MAKES ITS DEBUT AT POCONO RACEWAY
The Pocono INDYCAR 400 Fueled by Sunoco will mark the first open-wheel race at Pocono Raceway since 1989. The 2.5-mile oval hosted Indy car races from 1971 to 1989 and team co-owner Bobby Rahal competed in eight races there from 1982-1989.  The No. 15 Midas / Big O Tires entry driven by Graham Rahal and the No. 16 Acorn Stairlifts entry driven by James Jakes participated in a test here last Tuesday, June 25 and will test again on Thursday, July 4 prior to the official start of race weekend on Saturday.

1988 POCONO 500 WINNER RAHAL ON THE RETURN OF INDY CARS TO POCONO
Team co-owner Bobby Rahal competed in eight races at Pocono Raceway from 1982-1989.  His best start was second in 1984 and he qualified in the first two rows in six of his eight events. In addition to his win in 1988, he earned two third place finishes (1982, 1984) and finished in the top-five, six of eight races. He led five of the eight races for a total of 131 laps. He is looking forward to returning to the track this year.

“I haven’t seen the track since 1989 but from what I understand, it’s a lot smoother than it used to be. I’m sure the track has changed dramatically in the ensuing 24 years. It was always one of my favorite, if not my favorite, ovals and was certainly my favorite big oval because all three corners were totally different. Based on testing, it’s going to be a big challenge. They (drivers) are almost flat out, or are flat out, which is hard to believe because I don’t think we were ever flat by any stretch of the imagination around the whole track. Although I don’t think the speeds were too dissimilar than they are today but they were different cars and it was a different world back then. From what I can tell it’s going to be a very challenging race and I think everyone has responded very positively towards the track.

“I’m not sure why its 400 miles instead of 500 like it used to be but they are all sprint races today so I don’t think it matters how long or how short the race is. We came away from the test pretty pleased. The series has since put more downforce in the car so it should make the car a bit racier, and easily flat out so that is going to take a little bit of the advantage away from those people who can get the handling working better. But then it will be all about trimming out and seeing how little downforce you can get away with. It will make for an interesting race. It’s great for IndyCar to be back in the northeast and back at Pocono. I’m looking forward to getting there.”

BOBBY ON HIS PERFORMANCE AT POCONO AND HIS 1988 WIN
“In 1985, I think we had a good chance to win the race and led a lot of laps that year. I led the race at Pocono almost from the first year there, and almost every year after that, at some point in time. When I won in 1988 that was the one and only victory with a Judd engine in the history of Judd. To be honest, we weren’t the fastest although we qualified well (third). The Chevy’s were much more powerful than the Judd was at the time but it was a battle of attrition and in the end Al Sr. and I had a fight. He was Chevy-powered and with Penske and the Chevy was very strong at the time but we just outlasted everybody which was somewhat unusual with that engine because we suffered with reliability earlier in the year.  In the end we were the last ones standing so to speak. What made that race even more special was that earlier in the week we had broken ground on my first automobile dealership in Mechanicsburg, PA. that started the Automotive Group we’ve got going today, and won the race too. It was a special week.”

RAHAL AND JAKES ON HOW THEY SPENT THEIR TIME OFF
After a busy stretch that saw eight weekends of series action and nine in the past 10 weeks dating back to the Long Beach event, the series was off last weekend and Rahal and Jakes used the time to recharge.  “My brother (Jarrad) and I got to enjoy some NHRA drag racing with Courtney Force and JFR up in Joliet, as well as played some golf with my dad,” said Rahal. “It was a nice relaxing way to spend a weekend without a doubt.”

“I spent the time off just relaxing really,” added Jakes.  “After nine weeks on the road it was nice to finally have a weekend free. I’m very much looking forward to getting back in the car this weekend.”

RAHAL AND JAKES ON THE TYPE OF RACING THEY EXPECT AT POCONO
“It’s going to be difficult, and at this point it is tough to say with the aero regulation changes and tire change,” said Rahal. “I think it will be tough racing, a lot of passing, a lot of people struggling with their cars.”

“I think it’s going to be an extremely tough weekend, with three different types of banking it really puts a lot of emphasis on the set up to be right for the race. We have had only one day there so far, but we have one planned for July 4th so hopefully we can work some more on the race car to dial it in.”

RAHAL AND JAKES ON THE TYPES OF DEMANDS THE TRACK WILL POSE – PHYSICAL OR MENTAL
“I don’t think the race will be very tough physically but mentally this place is draining, its fast, its busy, and the car changes handling considerably in all corners,” said Rahal. “I think it will more be keeping your head in the game than anything else.”

“With the track having such a long straight it generally didn’t feel too difficult,” added Jakes. “Mentally it should be difficult with three different types of banking.  It’s going to be mentally draining making sure you can have the car running well in all three; this will be key in the race.”

RAHAL AND JAKES ON A CHANGE OF STRATEGY DUE TO BEING A 400-MILE RACE VERSUS SHORTER
“Not one bit, people will be pushing hard the entire time,” said Rahal. “We will need to make sure we stretch our stints and take care of our tires. The biggest difference of course is the amount of pit stops which I am sure will be around six or so. It will be a busy day for our crews.”

“No I don’t think 400 miles will change the strategy much,” added Jakes.  “This will all depend on what car balance you have during the race and making sure you look after your tires well.”

RAHAL AND JAKES ON THEIR EXPECTATIONS FOR THE 400-MILE RACE
“I feel good here,” Rahal said about Pocono. “We have had ups and downs this year but I think we are finding some things that work. We will keep pushing hard to get that Midas car up front!”

“I’m very excited to get out at Pocono this weekend,” said Jakes. “We had a positive test so I’m pretty confident. We generally were very competitive in Texas and Turn 1 is pretty similar to there so I have a good feeling. With another test day planned for July 4th it should give us time to get the cars dialed in even more.”