Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama – Barber Motorsports Park, Birmingham, Alabama
Round 3 of 17 in the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series
Friday – Sunday, April 21-23, 2017
All sessions not broadcast on NBCSN will be streamed live on the IndyCar Series website (+ live analysis from the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network, AAPIRN), YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, and the INDYCAR17 app.
Live on NBCSN, Saturday, April 22 beginning at 4:30 p.m. ET. Live on the AAPIRN, the INDYCAR17 app and www.indycar.com (timing & scoring + live analysis)
Live on NBC Sports Network beginning at 3:00 p.m. ET on Sunday, April 23 and on the INDYCAR17 app. The race will also air live on the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network, Sirius 212, XM 209 and www.indycar.com
2.38-mile, 17-turn road course
90 laps / 207 miles
Simon Pagenaud (1:06.7262; 124.089 mph)
RAHAL’S BEST START/FINISH AT BARBER:
6th in 2016 / 2nd –in 2015 and 2016; will be his eighth race here
RAHAL’S BEST ROAD/STREET START/FINISH:
Pole at St. Pete (street) 2009 / 1st at St. Pete in 2008 and Mid-Ohio 2015
RAHAL’S HIGHEST SERIES START/FINISH:
Pole at St. Pete (street) 2009 & Kansas (oval) 2009 / 1st in St. Pete in 2008, Fontana (Super Speedway) & Mid-Ohio (road) 2015, Texas 2016 (oval)
RLLR TOP START/FINISH AT BARBER:
6th by Rahal in 2016 / 2nd by Rahal in 2015 and 2016; six events
NEWS & NOTES:
RAHAL LETTERMAN LANIGAN RACING – FIFTH RACE AT BARBER MOTORSPORTS PARK
The 2017 Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama will mark the sixth IndyCar Series race for the team at Barber Motorsports Park (BMP). The past two years, RLLR and Rahal played a major role in exciting races and earned the top finish for the team of second place each year (more details below). In 2014, Rahal finished 17th after running as high as 10th but was hit by two cars. Servia started 19th, ran as high as 14th and finished 20th. In 2013, Rahal set a lap time fast enough to progress to Round 2 and qualify in the top-12 if he had been in Group 2 but he was in Group 1 and ultimately qualified 21st. He had to pit for a new nose on the opening lap after the field checked up and he hit Oriol Servia. He moved up to 12th place but ran out of fuel on the final lap due to a malfunction in the fueling system and dropped to 21st. James Jakes qualified 11th in 2013 but had to pit early in the race when the camber shims fell out of the left rear upright which put him two laps down to the leader. He soldiered on through fueling issues, set the fastest lap of the race and finished 23rd. In 2012, Takuma Sato set the third fastest time in Friday’s first practice for the team and was fastest in the wet second session but traffic limited his qualifying performance to 16th. In the race he passed four cars for 12th place on red alternate tires but struggled on primary tires and ultimately retired in 24th place due to mechanical failure after 52/90 laps.
For 2017, RLLR has entered the No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda-Dallara-Firestone car for Graham Rahal which brings the total to eight entries for RLL for this event.
GRAHAM AT BARBER MOTORSPORTS PARK
Rahal played a major factor in the most exciting races of the 2015 and 2016 seasons as he challenged for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama win the past two years but finished second both times. Last year, Rahal started sixth and moved into fourth when Bourdais and Dixon made contact on the first lap. He stretched his fuel the farthest and cycled into the lead by the time he made his first of three pits stops and returned to the track in fourth. He cycled into second place before his second stop on Lap 43 and returned to the track in third place and reclaimed second place on Lap 65 by passing Power. On Lap 81, Rahal attempted to pass Pagenaud but the Frenchman made an evasive move and the two made contact sending Pagenaud off course and he returned second to Rahal. Later the pass was deemed a racing incident. On Lap 85 of 90, Rahal was behind traffic which enabled Pagenaud to close. Sixteenth placed Hawksworth allowed Rahal to pass but the two made contact which allowed Pagenaud to take the lead. Rahal’s already compromised front wing (mechanical failure on a portion since approx. Lap 50) took a fatal blow and he struggled to hold on to second place until the checkered flag. The 2015 race at BMP kicked off a strong run of races for Rahal that largely continued for the rest of the season. He started eighth and passed Kanaan on the opening lap. He later lost a position to Filippi but passed Dixon for 7th. He pitted and ran ninth place but moved to third as others made their stops. He held off charges from fourth place Hinchcliffe on several restarts and later built a gap on him while leading Laps 35-46. He pitted from the lead for his second stop, dropped to 15th but cycled back into the lead for Laps 65-69. He made his final stop on Lap 71 and returned to the track in sixth place, approx.. 20 seconds behind the leader. With new tires and more fuel than others, he consistently turned lap times that were one-to-two seconds quicker than those in front of him and eventually passed Power, Hunter-Reay and Castroneves before he was able to close the gap on second-place Dixon in the closing laps. With less than two laps to go, he passed Dixon but ran out of time to catch eventual race winner Newgarden and finished second. In 2014, Rahal started 18th on a wet track, ran as high as 10th, dropped four places after being hit by two cars and ultimately finished 17th. In 2013, Rahal set a lap time fast enough to progress to Round 2 and qualify in the top-12 if he had been in Group 2 but he was in Group 1 and ultimately qualified 21st. He had to pit for a new nose on the opening lap after the field checked up and he hit Servia. He moved up to 12th place but ran out of fuel on the final lap due to a malfunction in the fueling system and dropped to 21st. He started 8th, led one lap and finished fourth here in 2012 for Service Central Chip Ganassi Racing (SCCGR). He started 10th and finished 18th in 2011 for SCCGR and started 15th and finished 17th for Sarah Fisher Racing in 2010. Graham hopes to have a competitive run like his 2015 and 2016 races.
“Last year was a great race. We got a good start but had a wing part that failed on the second stint that made life difficult when the right front flap fell otherwise I think we would have been even more competitive in the long term. We were able to chase down the leaders, able to get by (Will) Power, Helio (Castroneves) and some of those guys and pull away and chase down (eventual winner Simon) Pagenaud. Ultimately I had a little contact with him and got by and then just had issues with (Jack) Hawksworth, who was a lapped car. That contact kept us from coming to the stripe and getting a win. Overall the car felt really good in race trim as it has the last couple of races there. My hope is that this year, we’ll be looking as good as that and have another shot at the win.”
GRAHAM ON WHAT HE WOULD HAVE LIKED TO DO DIFFERENT LAST YEAR
“If the wing part hadn’t failed and the flap hadn’t broken, I feel like we would have been very competitive over the entire course of the race. We would have been looking very good. I would have liked to have cleared (Jack) Hawksworth quicker and easier. I didn’t force the issue. I didn’t realize Pagenaud was right behind me still and I didn’t force the issue and ultimately it came back to bite us.”
GRAHAM ON THE HONDA INDY BEING ONE OF HIS 2016 SEASON HIGHLIGHTS
“It was a great battle, a great challenge and right up there with some of my highlights from the 2016 season. Obviously I was disappointed to not get the victory so perhaps from that standpoint, it wasn’t up there with Texas (as season highlight) but it was definitely pretty good.”
GRAHAM ON WHAT HE ATTRIBUTES THE TEAM’S COMPETITIVENESS AT BMP TO & TIRE DEG
“In terms of overall competitiveness at Barber, the team does a pretty good job. We put a good car on the track and we seem to keep the tires underneath us pretty well. I think the tire degradation will be similar this year so we have to do the same thing and try to keep everything in one piece and wear everyone down. We weren’t as fast as we wanted to be at the March test but at the same time we were okay so we’re going to work hard to find a few more things to gain some time and make us a little more competitive. That should allow us to run right up front where we feel like we deserve to be.”
GRAHAM ON THE BARBER MOTORSPORTS PARK COURSE
“Barber Motorsports Park is challenging because it has a ton of high speed and low speed corners but the high speed are ultimately just insane-commitment-corners. You have to be pedal to the metal and obviously hope that nothing goes wrong and that the car sticks. It’s just such a great venue for families. Everyone gets to come out, relax and sit on the hillsides and watch some great racing. I just love it! It’s got to be one of my favorite venues of the entire season, each and every year. I’m excited to go back and I hope it suits my driving style again. I hope that we can have a really good run. We need it, we deserve it. I think that we have had a lot of pace this year so far. Race stint one in Long Beach killed us but in qualifying we were good. In St. Pete, I felt like our race car was going to be good but unfortunately that potential got cut short so hopefully we can get Lady Luck on our side and have a good day in the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.”