Rahal and Jakes Aim for Personal Best Finishes at Sunday’s GoPro Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
GoPro Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma – Sonoma Raceway
Pre-Race Notes: Round 15 of 19 in the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series

DATE: August 23 – 25, 2013

QUALIFYING BROADCAST: Saturday, August 24 at 9:00 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network; LIVE on www.indycar.com (timing & scoring with audio commen­tary)
RACE BROADCAST: Live on Sunday, August 25 at 4:00 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network
RADIO BROADCAST: The race will air on IMS Radio Network, XM & Sirius chan­nels 211
TRACK LAYOUT: 2.385-mile, 12-turn road course
RACE LENGTH: 85 laps / 196.35 miles
2012 WINNER: Ryan Briscoe
2012 POLESITTER: Will Power (1:17.2707; 111.116 mph)

RAHAL’S BEST ROAD/ STREET START/FINISH:
Pole at St. Pete (street) 2009 / 1st at St. Pete in 2008
RAHAL’S BEST SONOMA START/FINISH:
6th in 2009 with NHLR / 5th in 2012 with SCCGR; will be his sixth Indy car race here JAKESBEST ROAD/ STREET START/FINISH: 2nd at Detroit Dual 2 in 2013 / 2nd at Detroit Dual 2 in 2013

JAKESBEST SONOMA START/FINISH: 17th in 2011 / 12th in 2012 – both with Dale Coyne Racing; will be third race here

RLL’S BEST START/ FINISH AT SONOMA: 6th / 2nd — both in 2005 by Buddy Rice

NEWS & NOTES:

SIXTH INDYCAR RACE AT SONOMA FOR RLL RACING

The GoPro Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma will mark the sixth Indy car event for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (RLL) here and only second since 2008 when Ryan Hunter-Reay started eighth and finished 18th for the team. The highest start and finish for the team here is by Buddy Rice in 2005 when he started sixth and finished second. Prior to the 2013 event, the team prepared a total of 10 Indy car entries for drivers Buddy Rice (2005 – 2006), Vitor Meira (2005), Danica Patrick (2005 – 2006), Jeff Simmons (2006), Scott Sharp (2007), Ryan Hunter-Reay (2007 – 2008), and Takuma Sato (2012). The team has earned one podium (2nd – Rice 2005), 1 top-five and four top-10 finishes at the track. The No. 15 Midas / Big O Tires entry for Graham Rahal and No. 16 Acorn Stair­lifts entry for James Jakes will bring the Indy car total to 12 entries in 2013.

GRAHAM AT SONOMA

The 2013 GoPro Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma will mark Graham’s sixth Indy car race here. His best start is sixth place with Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing (NHLR) in 2009 and best finish is fifth with Service Central Chip Ganassi Racing (SCCGR) in 2012. He has finished in the top-10 in all but one of his five races (broken drive shaft in ’09). He qual­i­fied 15th for SCCGR in 2012, started 13th after grid penal­ties were served and finished fifth. He qual­i­fied 13th for SCCGR in 2011 and finished eighth. In 2010, he qual­i­fied 16th with NHR and finished 9th. He made the final Fire­stone Fast Six in qual­i­fying six times in the seven road/street races in 2009 and started sixth in Sonoma for Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing (NHLR). Contact on the opening lap with Marco Andretti forced an early stop for a new front wing but his drive shaft broke when he attempted to leave the pits. After the car was repaired in the garage area, he returned to the track many laps down in 21st posi­tion and ulti­mately retired in the same place after completing 30 of the 75 laps. He started 15th and finished 8th here in 2008 with NHLR.

I have always done well here, even though it has always been a track that I haven’t been that fast at,” said Rahal. “For what­ever reason when it comes race day I excel here, so hope­fully we can qualify up front and go from there. Sonoma is tough because of the eleva­tion and wind. You never know what way the wind will be coming off the bay and that changes the track in a huge way. It’s always very diffi­cult to get the car right over all the crests and quick eleva­tion changes. I’m excited as can be that the Big O Tires car is back for Sonoma. The last time we had any sort of good luck was Long Beach and it was the same design. I hope these colors bring some luck back to us!”

JAKES AT SONOMA

The 2013 GoPro Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma will mark James’ third event here and first with RLL. He partic­i­pated in a one-day Manu­fac­turers test here Aug. 13. In 2012 he qual­i­fied 26th, started 24th after two competi­tors were penal­ized for an unap­proved engine change and finished 12th. In 2011 he qual­i­fied 17th and finished 19th. Both events were with Dale Coyne Racing.

Qual­i­fying is very impor­tant here,” said Jakes. “It can be a very tough place to pass. Last year it was nice to make up 12 spots in the race. I just remember trying to stay patient and make sure that I had strong in and out laps for the pit stops. Sonoma is always very chal­lenging espe­cially when the wind picks up. It can blow sand all over the track and can make each corner very chal­lenging. It’s impor­tant to make sure you put all the sectors together to maxi­mize the lap time, and with the sand blowing it can be tough.”

SERIES-WIDE OPEN TEST ON WEDNESDAY

Both Rahal and Jakes partic­i­pated in a one-day manu­fac­turers test at Sonoma Raceway on Aug. 13 and the series will hold an Open Test on Wednesday, August 20. Both drivers are looking forward to more track time before race weekend offi­cially begins on Friday.

Testing is key for us,” said Rahal. “We felt we got some of our objec­tives covered last week although there is a lot left to be done. I think we will still have a long list of test items come Wednesday, but I feel confi­dent we can get it all covered. As we look forward to the remainder of our season and next year, any time we get a bit of track time and testing is key. We must take advan­tage of it.”

The test was very impor­tant,” added Jakes. “Everyone in the team is pushing very hard to keep improving and finishing the year strong. With another test on Wednesday we should be in great shape for the race.”

FIVE RACES TO GO IN THE CHAMPIONSHIP

Graham Rahal’s top finish of the season is second in Long Beach and his top start is eighth in Iowa after winning his Heat Race. He is ranked 17th in series point stand­ings with 233 points with five races to go. James Jakes’ top finish is also second place, in Dual 2 in Detroit which is also the site of his top start of second place. He is ranked 18th in series stand­ings with 232 points. Rahal is 80 points behind 10th place ranked Tony Kanaan (313) and Jakes is 81 points back. Both are taking the final five races, one race at a time.

I am only focused on getting the best result possible in each of the events indi­vid­u­ally,” said Rahal. “We don’t have any chance in the cham­pi­onship fight, so for now it’s all about going fast and winning races.”

Right now I’m just focusing on one race at a time, taking each weekend step by step,” added Jakes. “If we are able to extract the maximum out of each weekend then we will improve our posi­tion in the championship.”

THE CHAMPIONSHIP BATTLE – DRIVER AND MANUFACTURER

Helio Castron­eves leads the IZOD IndyCar Series cham­pi­onship by 31 points over Scott Dixon with five races to go for the first time in his career. There are 20 drivers still math­e­mat­i­cally eligible for the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series cham­pi­onship. Any driver who trails the leader by 217 points or more following Sonoma will be elim­i­nated from cham­pi­onship contention. Rahal or Jakes could be the eighth different winner since the series started racing here in 2005 and could strengthen Honda’s posi­tion in the manufacturer’s stand­ings. Chevrolet and Honda are currently tied in the manu­fac­turer stand­ings. Both manu­fac­turers have seven victo­ries, but Honda has won the last four races.

All of the usual suspects have been quick,” said Jakes. “Dixon (Honda) seems to be coming on very strong at the end of the season.”