Friday – Sunday, March 9-11, 2018
Live on www.Indycar.com and the INDYCAR YouTube channel on Friday from 11:20-12:05 p.m. and 3:10-3:55 p.m., on Saturday from 11:10-11:55 a.m., on Sunday from 8:45-9:15 a.m. on Sunday. All times Eastern.
Live on the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network (AAPIRN) and www.indycar.com (timing & scoring + live analysis) from 2:20-3:35 p.m. ET.
Live Sunday, March 11 at 12:30 p.m. ET on ABC
The race will air on the AAPIRN, Sirius 214, XM 209 and www.indycar.com, and on the INDYCAR mobile app.
1.8-mile, 14-turn street course
110 laps / 198 miles
Will Power (1:00.0658; 107.882 mph)
RLL TOP START/ FINISH AT ST. PETE:
6th by Hunter-Reay in 2008 (led 4) / 5th by Meira in 2005; will be team’s 11th event here
RAHAL’S BEST START/FINISH IN ST. PETE:
1st in 2009 / 1st in 2008 – both with Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing; will be his 11th race here
RAHAL’S HIGHEST SERIES START/FINISH:
Pole at St. Pete (street) 2009, Kansas (oval) 2009, Detroit Race 1 (street) 2017 / 1st in St. Pete in 2008, Fontana & Mid-Ohio 2015, Texas 2016, Detroit Race 1 & Race 2 2017
SATO’S BEST START/ FINISH IN ST. PETE:
1st in 2014 with A.J. Foyt Racing / 5th in 2011 with KV Racing; will be his 9th race here
SATO’S HIGHEST SERIES START/FINISH:
Pole at Iowa (oval) 2011, Edmonton (street) 2011, Houston Race 1 (street) 2013, St. Pete (street) 2014, Detroit Race 2 (street) 2014, Detroit Race 2 2017, Pocono (oval) 2017 / 1st in Long Beach (2013), Indianapolis 500 (2017)
RAHAL LETTERMAN LANIGAN RACING AT ST. PETE
The 2018 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will mark the 11th IndyCar Series race for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (RLL) in St. Petersburg. The team has entered the No. 15 United Rentals Honda for Graham Rahal and the No. 30 Mi-Jack / Panasonic Honda for Takuma Sato. The team prepared Indy cars for Danica Patrick (2005, 2006), Buddy Rice (2005, 2006), Vitor Meira (2005), Jeff Simmons (2007), Scott Sharp (2007), Ryan Hunter-Reay (2008), Takuma Sato (2012), Graham Rahal (2013-2017), James Jakes (2013) and Spencer Pigot (2016) prior to this year. The team led 11 laps with Takuma Sato in 2012 and four laps with Hunter-Reay in 2008 (G. Rahal won w/NHLR) and has earned three top-10 finishes with the best being fifth by Meira in 2005. The highest starting position by the team is sixth place by Hunter-Reay in 2008.
GRAHAM AND HIS HISTORY-MAKING APPEARANCES IN ST. PETE AND GOAL OF WINNING CHAMPIONHIPS
In 2018, Graham will make his 11th Indy car start at this track. His best start here is pole in 2009 and best finish is a win in 2008 in his IndyCar Series debut – both history-making moments (more info below). In 2017, he started 10th and passed Rossi and Kimball on the opening lap but contact with Kimball in Turn 3 led to a punctured right rear as well as damage to his sidepod and rear wing. He pit for tires and the team assessed the damage and once he got back on track he went a lap down. Once he was cleared to pit for full service, the team changed the rear wing and he returned to the track in 19th place. He moved into 18th when Pigot had an issue on Lap 29 and then late in the race moved into 17th when Power was black flagged for driving too slow. In 2016, Graham qualified seventh but started sixth after pole sitter Power was replaced by Servia due to a mild concussion and Servia started from the back of the field. After a mid-race return to Green, Rahal was running eighth, but sixth on the same fuel strategy, when Munoz dove into Turn 4 on Lap 57/110 and hit him from behind which set off an eight-car pileup that blocked the turn. Once restarted, he had to pit for a new front and rear wing and ran 21st. Munoz was penalized for “avoidable contact.” Rahal finished 16th. In 2015, he started 15th and gained three spots on the first lap and ran as high as fifth place midway through the race but was penalized for “avoidable contact” after he made contact while trying to pass the damaged car of Charlie Kimball. He dropped to the back of the field and ultimately finished 11th. In 2014, the start of qualifying was delayed over three hours after an afternoon storm. Rahal was in Group 1 that ran on a wet track on rain tires. Conditions improved as each of the three rounds took place and teams switched to “slick” tires. Rahal lost control of the car on the slick course and made contact with a tire barrier which brought out a red flag. His two fastest laps were omitted, one of which was sixth fastest and would have allowed him to progress to Round 2 and start in the top-12. On the opening lap, Rahal charged from his 21st place starting spot to 12th and was in 14th when he made his first pit stop. Different pit strategies played out in a race that saw only 10 caution laps of 110 total. In the closing laps of the race, Rahal was 13th but lost a position to Bourdais with two laps to go and finished 14th. He qualified 15th in 2013 and was in ninth place when the team discovered an electrical issue on Lap 22 under caution that shut the engine off intermittently 6-7 times and dropped him to 21st place. He soldiered on to finish 13th. He qualified 11th in 2012 and finished 12th and qualified 12th in 2011 and finished 17th – both for Service Central Chip Ganassi Racing (SCCGR). He qualified 16th and finished 9th for Sarah Fisher Racing in 2010. While with Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing, he won pole in 2009 and finished seventh and in 2008 he qualified ninth, led 19 laps and won in his series debut at the age of 19 years, 93 days old. Graham is hoping to add his name to the list of repeat winners at St. Pete.
“St. Pete is one of the greats and I am happy to get our season going there once again. With some new paving, a new car and a whole lot of new drivers around the series, it’s going to be an exciting weekend for everyone and I can’t wait to get it started and hopefully have a great result for United Rentals. I think our team has worked incredibly hard this offseason, and I do think our guys deserve to be rewarded for that. We are all refreshed. We are all anxious and excited for what’s to come. I think this year can be something special for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, and I am focused heavily on making that possible! There is a new car, more new sponsors and a re-energized focus. It’s time for us to win championships and I think if we do so it can help our sport grow even more.”
TAKUMA AT ST. PETE
The 2018 race will be Takuma’s ninth race here. In eight races his best start is pole in 2014 with AJ Foyt Racing (AFR) and best finish is fifth place in 2011 with KV Racing. He started in the top-five in four of eight races and earned two, top-five and five, top-10 finishes. Last year, he started and finished fifth for Andretti Autosport and led two laps. In 2016, he qualified 11th, started 10th after Servia replaced polesitter Power and finished sixth for AFR. In 2015, he started fifth and finished 13th for AFR. He won pole in 2014, led 33 laps and finished seventh and started second and finished eighth in 2013 – both with AFR. With RLL in 2012, he qualified 15th and retired in 22nd after an electrical failure. In 2011, he qualified 11th and finished fifth and in his first race here in 2010, he qualified 11th and retired in 22nd after contact – both races with KV. After earning his best season-ending finish of eight place in 2017, Takuma is excited about the opportunity to start the season strong after productive off season testing.
“St. Petersburg is the perfect venue to open the season because there is such a good energy there, everyone looks forward to the warm weather in Florida and the race itself is always unpredictable because it’s a street course. It will be even more exciting this year with the new (aero) package. It’s a new season, there are new drivers, drivers with new teams and that, combined with a street course will bring some excitement on track. The rhythm of the track is interesting. It has some very fast committed corners as well as the technical Mickey Mouse section and then back on the long straight at the airport. It’s a fun track that I always enjoy. Hopefully we will have the best result.”
GRAHAM AND TAKUMA ON THE NEW AERO KIT
New for 2018 is a universal aerodynamic kit that replaced the specific ones for Honda and Chevy entries. After raves from drivers and fans alike, both Graham and Takuma are looking forward to the racing debut of the new aero kit.
“I am really excited about this new aero kit as I do think it will equalize things,” said Rahal. “The way I think about it, if you do your job and you nail the setup, you will be right there contending for wins. Before there were certainly cases and tracks where that wasn’t the way it was for us, and it is nice now to feel like we can be rewarded for lots of hard work.”
“We all have a brand new car with the new aero kit and I can’t wait to get out there,” added Sato. “The car works extremely well and looks really cool. It’s more difficult to drive which is good. For the drivers, there is definitely more action involved in the cockpit due to less downforce which makes the car slide around more and that is always good for the racing. It’s a little bit of an unknown right now because I haven’t really raced with other cars yet in the street course package but it seems to be working really well. Overall, it’s good for the series, good for our races and we will try to have as consistent of a season as possible to try to challenge for the championship.”
TAKUMA ON HIS RETURN TO THE TEAM
“The transition to a new team went extremely well in the off season. Of course I was basically returning to the team I drove for in 2012 but there are a lot of new faces to remember and it has gone very well. Testing in the off-season was very short due to the new aero kit but I think the team did extremely well with the amount of testing we had. We already have shown good speed but there are a lot of things to learn so hopefully we will be well prepared for St. Petersburg.”
GRAHAM ON GROWING TO A TWO-CAR TEAM, NEW TEAMMATE SATO AND NEW ENGINEER GERMAN
“So far so good; I think the team has adjusted just fine. Tom (German) is great. I am very excited to have him on our side and think together we can accomplish some great stuff. Our team is loaded with talent. Every mechanic has been hand chosen to fit their role and I can’t think of a better group of men to go to battle with every weekend!”
TAKUMA ON WORKING WITH NEW ENGINEER JONES AND TEAMMATE RAHAL
“It has been great getting to know Eddie (Jones). We have only worked together a few days in terms of testing but we have talked a lot, had a lot of discussions. I have known Graham a long time of course but we have never been teammates until now but he is a great teammate already. We discuss so many things and we already have made the car go faster together so I think it’s going to be a great season with him.”
POLE AT ST. PETE AND THE MAN TO BEAT
Graham Rahal and Takuma Sato are two of only three drivers who have won pole at this track since 2007 that were not driving for Team Penske. Tony Kanaan won pole in 2008 with Andretti Autosport, Rahal won pole with Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing in 2009 and Sato won pole with AJ Foyt Racing in 2014. Team Penske’s Will Power has been the man to beat with a total of seven poles in the past eight races in St. Pete. Both Rahal and Sato have shown it is possible.