Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma – Sonoma Raceway
Season-Finale in the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series
NEWS & NOTES:
September 16-18, 2016
*NEW* Saturday, September 17 at 5 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network.
Saturday, September 17 from 6:00-7:30 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network; LIVE on www.indycar.com (timing & scoring with audio commentary from INDYCAR Radio Network).
Live on Sunday, September 18 at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN
The race will air on the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network, Sirius 212, XM 209 and www.indycar.com
2.385-mile, 12-turn road course
85 laps / 202.73 miles
Will Power (1:16.2597 / 112.589 mph)
RAHAL’S BEST ROAD/STREET START/FINISH:
Pole at St. Pete (street) 2009 / 1st at St. Pete in 2008 and Mid-Ohio in 2015
RAHAL’S BEST SONOMA START/FINISH:
6th in 2009 with NHLR & 2015 with RLL / 5th in 2012 with SCCGR; will be his 9th Indy car race here
RLL’S BEST START/FINISH AT SONOMA:
6th in 2005 (Buddy Rice) & 2015 (Rahal) / 2nd in 2005 (Buddy Rice)
NOTES & QUOTES:
NINTH INDYCAR RACE AT SONOMA FOR RLL RACING
The 2016 GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma race will mark the ninth Indy car event for RLL here. The highest start for the team here is sixth by Buddy Rice in 2005 and Graham Rahal in 2015. The highest finish is second place by Buddy Rice in 2005. Prior to the 2016 event, the team prepared a total of 14 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 (2013-2015). The team has earned one podium (2nd – Rice 2005), one top-five and four top-10 finishes at the track. The No. 15 Steak ‘n Shake entry for Graham Rahal will bring the Indy car total to 15 entries in 2016.
INDYCAR SEASON FINALE A DOUBLE POINTS RACE
Double points will be awarded for the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma. One-hundred points will be awarded to the winner of a double-points race, with the runner-up receiving 80 points and the third-place finisher receiving 70 points. The scale decreases to 10 points for the 25th-place finisher and lower. Bonus points will be awarded to the pole winner (one point) and for leading the most race laps (two points) and leading at least one lap (one point).
2015 SONOMA REWIND AND THE 2016 POINT STANDINGS
In 2015, Graham arrived to the season finale at Sonoma Raceway in second place and 34 points behind leader Juan Pablo Montoya after being only 9 points behind in the penultimate race in Pocono before contact from Tristan Vautier led to a crash and subsequent 20th place finish. He was in sixth place in the Sonoma race last year 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. This year, Rahal arrives after a win in Texas and a total of seven, top-five finishes and three podiums. He is seventh in series standings with a total of 403 points and is 43 behind fifth place Josef Newgarden (446) and 48 behind third place (Castroneves & Dixon, 451). Rahal is looking forward to arriving to Sonoma Raceway and the opportunity to win the double-points paying season finale.
“We had plenty of pace last year for the entire weekend but we knew the race was going to be an area of weakness. We worked hard to get the car better but it just seemed that we struggled too much too keep the tires under us. However, there was certainly a lot of pressure, this year much less so. I am excited to get there and just try to get another win this year. We need it, we want it, and I think we can get it. We have nothing to lose really.”
GRAHAM ON THE TEAM’S RECENT TEST AT SONOMA RACEWAY AND SEASON-ENDING GOAL
The majority of the field tested at Sonoma Raceway on Thursday, September 8. The level of competition was as high as usual but Rahal believes the team is capable of a good result both in the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma and the season-ending standings.
“I think we should be very strong but based on testing, I think a lot of teams will be strong. Then again, when you show up for the race weekend the cream rises to the top and I think we are in that group. I think we have things to work on but we know what needs to be done and we are working hard on them. My guys have been very focused amidst this busy, difficult season and I think we can get rewarded with a great result this weekend. I do not want to pressure ourselves, but I think we certainly deserve to be a top-five car at the end of the season.”
GRAHAM ON THE CHALLENGES OF THE COURSE
“The course is very difficult on tire wear and it is demanding to get the chassis balance correct,” said Rahal of the 12-turn course that features 160 feet in elevation changes. “With all the elevation and everything else, it’s one of the most demanding tracks of the entire season. It also tends to be lower grip, so with all things combined, it is very tough to get it right.”
GRAHAM ON THE SEASON TO DATE
Like every season, there were high’s and low’s for all drivers and teams including RLL. Naturally, Rahal pointed to his win at Texas Motor Speedway, which was the fifth closest finish in Indy car history and closest at TMS. He considers his weekend in Watkins Glen, where he served a qualifying penalty on Saturday which led to him being unable to extend his streak of being in the “Firestone Fast Six” round at all 2016 road courses to date intact, and his retirement from the race after contact with Charlie Kimball as one of his most disappointing results.
“There have been highs and lows this season. We have a lot of top five’s, but a lot of disappointments too. Once we get this season completed we will regroup for 2017 and come back stronger. I think we are a top tier team but we need Lady Luck on our side a bit more. Texas was great, Watkins Glen hurt… That pretty much sums up our season in two weekends.”
GRAHAM AT SONOMA
The 2016 GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma will be Graham Rahal’s ninth Indy car race here. His best start is sixth place with Newman/Haas/ Lanigan Racing (NHLR) in 2009 and RLL in 2015 and best finish is fifth with Service Central Chip Ganassi Racing (SCCGR) in 2012. He has finished in the top-10 in four of his eight races. 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.
– RLL –