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Rahal Aims to Continue Momentum in Iowa Corn 300 After Collecting Five Podiums This Season and a Third Place Series Rank

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing

Iowa Corn 300 – Iowa Speedway

Pre-Race Notes

Round 13 of 16 in the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series

 

NEWS & NOTES:

DATE:

July 17-18, 2015

QUALIFYING BROADCAST:      

Tape delayed on Saturday, July 18 at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network and live on July 18 4:00-5:00 p.m. ET on www.indycar.com (streaming video, timing & scoring w/radio commentary)

RACE BROADCAST:

Live on Saturday, July 18 at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN

RADIO BROADCAST:

The race will air on the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network, Sirius 212, XM 209 and www.indycar.com

 

TRACK LAYOUT:

0.894-mile oval

RACE LENGTH:

300 laps / 262.2 miles

2014 WINNER:                                 

Ryan Hunter-Reay

2014 POLESITTER:                       

Scott Dixon (2-lap avg. speed 34.5588 seconds, 186.256 mph)

 

RAHAL’S BEST OVAL START/FINISH:

Pole (Kansas 2009) / 1st (Fontana 2015)

RAHAL’S BEST START/FINISH AT IOWA:

6th / 5th – both in 2013

 

RLL’S TOP START/FINISH AT IOWA:                           

4th / 3rd – both in 2007 by Scott Sharp

 

NEWS & NOTES: 

RLL AT IOWA SPEEDWAY

The Iowa Corn Indy 300 will mark the sixth event for Rahal Letterman Lanigan (RLL) Racing at Iowa Speedway.  The best finish for the team is third in 2007 by Scott Sharp who also earned the top start for the team of fourth the same year.  Prior to the 2015 event, the team prepared a total of seven entries for drivers Scott Sharp (2007), Jeff Simmons (2007), Ryan Hunter-Reay (2008), Takuma Sato (2012) Graham Rahal (2013-2014) and James Jakes (2013). The team has earned one podium (3rd, Sharp 2007) and four, top-10 finishes at the track.  The No. 15 entry for Graham Rahal will bring that total to eight in 2015.

IMPORTANCE OF DOING WELL FOR THE THREE OVAL STRETCH

Prior to winning the 500-mile MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California on June 27 and finishing third in the ABC Supply Wisconsin 250 this past Sunday at the Milwaukee Mile, Rahal commented that finishing well in the upcoming stretch of three consecutive oval races — the third being this weekend’s Iowa Corn Indy 300 — would be of utmost importance to the team’s overall season finish. The third of that stretch will take place on a track that Rahal feels was one of the team’s best oval performances the past two years.

“I said before the three oval stretch began that these three (Fontana, Milwaukee, Iowa) would be important to our season-ending rank and I absolutely still think that the biggest thing for us as a team is to try to carry momentum through these races because it’s not only important to us for our season, but because these are areas where we struggled as a team the past couple of years. They are areas that are proving to be pretty good to us right now but we’ve got a little bit of work to do still. Now we have Iowa coming up and of all the oval races I think Iowa has been our strength the last couple of years so I’m pretty excited to get there and see what we can do.”

GRAHAM AT IOWA SPEEDWAY

The 2015 Iowa Corn Indy 300 will mark Graham’s eighth race here.  He has earned five top-10 finishes in seven starts with his best being fifth in 2013. In 2014, he started 15th and was in 10th place on a late race restart after a caution period for Montoya. Once the race was restarted with six laps to go he moved up to eighth place and passed Castroneves on the final lap for a seventh place finish. He set the 19th fastest lap time in single-car qualifying in 2013 to determine that he would be in Heat Race 2. He drove to victory in Heat Race 2 after starting seventh and progressed to Heat Race 3 where he also started seventh. Contact with Ed Carpenter on Lap 16 of 50 damaged his front wing and he held on to finish ninth of 10 cars to match his best start at Iowa of ninth. He started sixth after engine penalties were served and charged from 10th to second on his second stint. He challenged for the win and led Lap 160 until the last 20 laps where he dropped to fourth while navigating traffic and then fifth on the final lap. In 2012 he qualified 10th, started 20th (penalty for unapproved engine change) and finished ninth with Service Central Chip Ganassi Racing (SCCGR). In 2011 he qualified 20th and finished 15th with SCCGR. In 2010, he qualified 17th with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, led 11 laps and finished ninth. In 2009 he qualified ninth and finished 11th with Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing (NHLR) and in 2008 he qualified 16th and finished 10th with NHLR.

“I really think we can continue to be competitive in Iowa,” said Rahal. “We found some things for our short track setup in Milwaukee that is really going to help us going forward. There is no doubt in my mind that this team will show improvement at Iowa. Even last year we had a pretty good run, the car was fairly competitive so hopefully all those things considered, I hope we can have a good, successful event. The team has done an excellent job, the pit stops have been incredible, everybody is just working really well together and that’s a big part of our results.

ON HOW HIS SEASON COMPARES TO HIS PREVIOUS SEASONS TO DATE

In his nine seasons of running in the top form of open wheel racing to date, Graham Rahal’s highest season-ending points rank is fifth in his rookie season in the Champ Car World Series with Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing (NHLR) in 2007 as teammate to Sebastien Bourdais during his history-making run to his fourth consecutive championship. Rahal was aiming to repeat a fifth place season-ending rank during the 2009 Indy Racing League-sanctioned season when he entered the season-finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway with NHLR only 15 points behind fifth place ranked Danica Patrick. A difficult race and an 11th place finish led to him falling only eight points short of a fifth place season-ending finish with a total of 385 points which ranked seventh, and only one point shy of sixth place Tony Kanaan, who finished fourth in the race.

“For sure this has been my most successful season of my career so far and I really hope that continues and just keeps improving,” said Rahal. “I hope we continue to be a frontrunner and contend each and every race. That’s our goal this weekend in Iowa – to make sure we keep putting this team up front where they belong and try to give ourselves the best chance in the championship. It’s going to be hard to catch Montoya to win the championship but I really don’t see why we can’t be right there, right behind them. That’s our goal.”

GRAHAM ON WHAT TO ATTRIBUTE THE SUCCESS OF THE SEASON TO AND SPECIFICALLY OVAL GAINS

Graham Rahal has finished on the podium five times in 12 Verizon IndyCar Series season races this season – or 42 percent of the time.  He has led four races for a total of 46 laps – including his 500-mile win at Auto Club Speedway where he led the race more times than his 15-lap lead count indicates. He has run in the top-five in eight of the 12 races and run in the top-10 in all but Detroit Race 1 where he was collected in a multi-car accident between other cars on Lap 6. He attributes the competitiveness this season to gains made by the team.

“The engineers are doing a great job. With Eddie (Jones, race engineer) and Martin (Pare, head of vehicle ride control development) overseeing the setup we have made strides. Martin definitely knows what I am looking for from the car because he’s worked with me for many, many years and I think he has helped a lot to translate that to Eddie and smooth out this process and transition (to a new race engineer for 2015) and make it happen a little bit quicker. I think they are just doing a tremendous job and then you put Mike (Talbott, vehicle dynamics program leader) on top of that pairing and it seems that everyone is working seamlessly together all the time.”

RAHAL ON HONDA’S CONTINUED PERFORMANCE GAINS

“Everyone from Honda continues to work hard. They have kept their heads down and kept working hard and we are putting ourselves in a place where we can succeed and we will. I’m proud of the effort they have put in. It was apparent from the start that we were a little bit behind and the guys have just kept working hard and we have found ourselves right in the thick of this thing in the championship. We’re going to keep pushing hard to get Honda even further up if we can.”

RAHAL ON WHETHER THE CHAMPIONSHIP IS ALWAYS ON HIS MIND

With four races to go this season, Rahal and Helio Castroneves both have a total of 370 points but Rahal is ranked third due to having more wins this season than Castroneves. Rahal trails second place Scott Dixon by 15 (385) and leader Juan Pablo Montoya by 69 (439) after Round 12 of 16. Does this consume his thoughts?

“I’m not worried about the title or standings as much as I am thinking about how we can do the best we can, and put ourselves in a great position to compete. And if we do those things and take care of that we are going to be in the hunt come Sonoma where there are double points.”

– RLL –