HILLIARD, Ohio (June 7, 2011) — It is not immediately known whether Chicago Cubs Hall of Fame shortstop Ernie Banks ever drove a race car, but his famed “Let’s Play Two’ rallying cry will be Saturday’s night’s theme for Rahal Letterman Lanigan and driver Jay Howard.
For the first time since 1981, Indy cars will contest two races on the same date as Saturday evening sees Texas Motor Speedway play host to the Firestone Twin 275s on the demanding high-banked 1.5-mile oval in Fort Worth. The historic occasion features one 114-lap event beginning at 7:45 p.m. Central Time with another to follow at approximately 9:45. To throw an added twist into the mix, the starting grid for the second race is slated to be set by a blind draw to be held upon the conclusion of the first race.
For RLL, the evening marks another forward step as it builds on a positive showing at Indianapolis two weeks ago. The Texas event is the first Indy Car Series event other than the Indianapolis 500 that the team has contested since 2008, and the Ohio-based squad will do so by again partnering with Sam Schmidt Motorsports to field the #88 Service Central SSM/RLL Dallara/Honda/Firestone for Jay Howard. Howard, who had a promising run at the 500 dashed by a loose wheel, will make his second start at Texas, having run with Sarah Fisher Racing one season ago.
“I am excited to be going to Texas, I lived in Dallas for a short time, so it’s nice to visit again,” Howard said. “The new format is going to be cool, and just like the double file restarts, will make for exciting racing especially in race 2!”
Rahal Letterman Lanigan has reason to be optimistic about its sojourn to Texas as well. The team won the pole in 2007 and had a realistic chance to win the race in 2008 with Ryan Hunter-Reay, before he and Marco Andretti tangled with five laps to go while fighting for second place behind eventual race winner Scott Dixon.
“We have had fast cars at Texas and it is a place that suits our team well,” said RLL Senior VP of Operations Scott Roembke. “We were very encouraged by how racy Jay Howard was at Indianapolis and we expect to represent ourselves and Service Central well this weekend. This will be an interesting event. With only an hour between races, keeping your nose clean will go a long way toward determining what kind of night you will have, but you have to go hard because there are 25 other cars that will be charging all night long.”
Things get underway on Friday at Texas Motor Speedway with a 75-minute practice session leading into single-car qualifying at 3:45 p.m. The teams will have another 30-minute practice outing after qualifying, which will set the stage for Saturday’s races. The event will both be televised live on Versus with coverage slated to begin at 7:30 p.m. Eastern Time.