Rahal Qualified Ninth for the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma IndyCar Season Finale; Rookie Claman DeMelo Will Start 21st

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing

GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma – Sonoma Raceway

Verizon IndyCar Series

QUALIFYING NOTES/QUOTES – Saturday, September 16, 2017



1)         Josef Newgarden                  1:15.5205 / 113.691 mph       (Group 1, Round 3)

9)         Graham Rahal                       1:16.1968 / 112.682 mph       (Group 2, Round 2)

21)       Zachary Claman DeMelo      1:17.2814 / 111.100 mph       (Group 1, Round 1)

ZACHARY CLAMAN DeMELO, No. 13 Paysafe Dallara/Honda/Firestone: “Today was really enjoyable. I made some good progress throughout the day. I was pretty far off in the practice before qualifying but we made some changes to the car and I got better and I made some changes to my driving and I was only two-tenths off of making it through to the second qualifying round so I think it was a good result. I will keep working on the car and myself for tomorrow.”

  • FAST FACTS: Will be his first Indy car race and also his first race at Sonoma Raceway. His participated in an Indy Lights test at this track two years ago.   It was only his second time in an Indy Lights car at that point… He finished fifth in 2017 Indy Lights standings after earning four podium finishes, including a win at Road America.   It was his second year in Indy Lights.


GRAHAM RAHAL, No. 15 United Rentals / SoldierStrong Dallara/Honda/Firestone: “We have just been a little off this weekend. Our United Rentals guys have worked extremely hard this weekend and the engineering staff has done a great job.  We have thrown everything you can imagine at this car and we just can’t seem to make much of a difference.  Today we really closed the gap; yesterday we were not this close.  I’m proud of everyone here at Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing for keeping focused and putting us in a good spot for tomorrow. My gap to Rossi was only a couple thousandths (of a second) and only another couple of thousands to Hunter-Reay ahead of him. And Dixon was only nine-hundredths ahead so it’s tight. IndyCar racing is the tightest, most competitive motorsport in the world. We’ve proven that time and time again and today is no different. The Penske’s are solid. We’re going to have our work cut out for us tomorrow but hopefully we will find ourselves in front again.”

  • FAST FACTS: Will be his 10th Indy car race here. His best start is fifth place and best finish is second – both in 2016 with RLLR. He has finished in the top-10 in five of his nine races. In 2016, he started fifth and held the position until his first stop on Lap 15. He returned to the track in sixth place. Once he passed Daly, who had yet to stop, on Lap 16 he returned to fifth place. Third place Castroneves, who was on a four stop strategy to Rahal’s three-stop one, pitted on Lap 29 and he moved into fourth. Championship contender Will Power, who had previously been second, had gear issues after Lap 30 and Rahal moved to third before his second stop under caution for Power on Lap 36. He returned to the track in fourth place behind Kimball, who was on a four stop strategy. On Lap 42, he passed Kimball for third and moved into second on Lap 50 when Castroneves pitted. He took the lead on Lap 61 when Pagenaud pitted before he went one lap longer and made his final stop on Lap 62. He returned to the track in third place but reclaimed second once Castroneves pitted on Lap 69. He closed to one second on leader Pagenaud for much of the time but the rear of his race car was loose when he got too close and he was unable to make a pass. He took the checkered flag in second place and moved to a fifth place rank in series standings from sixth… In 2015, he started sixth and struggled with the handling of the rear of the race car for the majority of the race and the field also dealt with tire management. He was in sixth place with 9 laps to go when Sebastien Bourdais hit him from behind and he dropped to 19th. Bourdais was penalized for “avoidable contact” and had to serve a drive through but the incident dropped Rahal from a third-place series standing to fourth and he finished the race in 18th place… In 2014, he avoided a multi-car collision on the start in Sonoma and moved from his 14th place qualifying position to 12th. He pit out of sequence on Lap 8 and climbed up to run fourth before his second stop where he pit under caution with Sato and Conway, but those two topped off two additional times before green conditions which helped them later. Rahal climbed back into fourth when the majority of the field pitted during a caution for Saavedra and later passed Briscoe, Kanaan and Conway to take the lead on Lap 64 of 85 which he held until Lap 81 when he had to pit for 2.2 gallons of fuel. Due to extreme fuel conservation, the fuel setting he had been running in didn’t have Pit Lane Speed control and he was given a drive through penalty for speeding when he entered the pits for his splash of fuel and served it on Lap 84 of 85 which ultimately resulted in a 20th place finish… Rahal qualified eighth in 2013, ran as high as sixth but contact while in the middle of a three-wide situation dropped him to the back and he rallied to finish 11th… 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. Made the final Firestone Fast Six in qualifying six times in the seven road/street races in 2009 and started sixth in Sonoma for 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… His top finishes this season are wins in Dual 1 and Dual 2 in Detroit and top start is pole for Detroit Dual 1… Rahal is seventh in series point standings with a total of 466. He is 94 points behind leader Josef Newgarden (560), 91 behind second place Scott Dixon (557), 72 behind third place Helio Castroneves (538), 60 behind fourth place Simon Pagenaud (526), 26 behind fifth place Will Power (492) and 10 behind sixth place Alexander Rossi (476), who gained the position with his win at the previous race in Watkins Glen.


RAHAL LETTERMAN LANIGAN RACING AT SONOMA … The 2017 GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma race will mark the 10th Indy car event for RLLR here. The highest start for the team here is fifth by Graham Rahal in 2016.  The highest finish is second place by Buddy Rice in 2005 and Graham Rahal in 2016.  Prior to the 2017 event, the team prepared a total of 15 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), Takuma Sato (2012), James Jakes (2013) and Graham Rahal (2013-2016).  The team has earned two podiums (2nd – Rice 2005, Rahal 2015), two top-five’s and five top-10 finishes at the track.

NEXT UP: The pre-race warm-up will take place tomorrow from 11:30-12:00 p.m. PT and the 85-lap race will take the Green Flag at 3:50 p.m. The GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma will be televised live on NBCSN beginning at 6:30 p.m. ET Sunday, September 17.

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