Rahal Letterman Lanigan Launches Two-Car Attack on Indy 500

INDIANAPOLIS (May 12, 2011) – After a strong run in last year’s Indi­anapolis 500 that saw the Rahal Letterman Lanigan team qualify seventh and run on the lead lap all day, the Ohio-based team has expanded to a two-car effort for the 2011 edition of the Memo­rial Day classic — and has not less­ened its expec­ta­tions a bit.

Second-year driver Bertrand Baguette (#30 RACB/Aspria Dallara/Honda/Firestone) and rookie Jay Howard (#88 Service Central Dallara/Honda/Firestone) will carry the team’s colors into battle begin­ning Saturday after­noon at the Indi­anapolis Motor Speedway, as on-track prepa­ra­tions begin for the 100th anniver­sary of the Indy 500. Coming off a strong run last year, the team that won the 2004 race with Buddy Rice has high hopes this time around.

“We are looking forward to going to Indi­anapolis,” said team co-owner Bobby Rahal. “We have been consis­tently fast in recent years when we have gone there and I think that it shows that we have a good team and good people. Most of our guys were there when we won in 2004 and are some of the best in the busi­ness. The guys we have steering the cars have shown their abil­i­ties, so I think we have a real­istic shot to be a factor in the race.”

Baguette ran well last year in his first trip to the 500, but fell victim to a loose mirror, which cost his team a number of laps to fix, and dropped him back to 22nd in the order. The young Belgian returns this year with a new team, but more impor­tantly — a new bank of expe­ri­ence to draw from.

“Last year every­thing was all new to me, it was even my first time in America, and I liter­ally had to learn every­thing about the car, the track and the race,” Baguette said. “I realize that I haven’t been in the car since Miami last year, but this is the first oval race this year for everyone. It’s a big chal­lenge but we’ll take our time, progres­sively get back up to speed and get ready for the race. I am really proud to be working with Rahal Letterman Lanigan. I have visited them a few times and I am very impressed with their facil­i­ties and the commit­ment of the team. They obvi­ously know how to win the race, so I expect to have a great expe­ri­ence with them.”

Howard is looking to make his first Indy 500 start, having narrowly missed punching his ticket a year ago. His time last year was good enough to make the race, but uncer­tainty at the end of Bump Day led him to having his time pulled by his team and left him on the outside looking in. A veteran of nine Indy Car starts and winner of the 2006 Fire­stone Indy Lights cham­pi­onship, Howard is more than ready for his shot at the show this year.

“Being with a team like Rahal Letterman Lanigan and running in their program is a dream come true for me,“ said Howard, whose Service Central-sponsored entry comes through a part­ner­ship with Sam Schmidt Motor­sports and RLL. “I feel like I have paid my dues and been in some cars that have not been compet­i­tive, but having seen this team and knowing what it can do, I’m really confi­dent in our chances to do well.”

Howard and Baguette will make their first laps of the month around the 2.5-mile Indi­anapolis Motor Speedway oval on Saturday after­noon. The RLL team will have seven days of prac­tice avail­able leading into Saturday’s first qual­i­fying day. The field will be final­ized on Bump Day, May 22nd, with the race taking place May 29.

 Contact: Eric Mauk — RLL Director of Commu­ni­ca­tions 614 – 264-1254