Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach – Streets of Long Beach, California
Round 3 of 17 in the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series
DATE: Friday – Sunday, April 13-15, 2018
PRACTICE BROADCASTS: Live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com with analysis from the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network (AAPIRN) and on the INDYCAR YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/indycar) on Friday beginning at 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. ET. On Saturday beginning at 1:45 p.m. ET and Sunday beginning at 12 p.m. ET. Also on the INDYCAR 18 app.
QUALIFYING BROADCAST: Live on NBCSN, Saturday, April 14 beginning at 6:30 p.m. ET. Live on the AAPIRN and RaceControl.IndyCar.com
RACE BROADCAST: Live on NBCSN, Sunday, April 15 beginning at 4:00 p.m. ET and also on the AAPIRN, Sirius 214, XM 209, RaceControl.IndyCar.com and on the INDYCAR mobile app.
TRACK LAYOUT: 1.968-mile, 11-turn street course
RACE LENGTH: 85 laps / 167.28 miles
2017 WINNER: James Hinchcliffe
2017 POLESITTER: Helio Castroneves (1:06.2254 / 106.980 mph)
RLL’S BEST START/ FINISH AT LONG BEACH: 3 poles (Herta 1998, Vasser 2002, Jourdain, Jr. 2003) / 2nd – four times (B. Rahal 1992-1993, Vasser 2002, G. Rahal 2013)
RAHAL’S BEST START/FINISH AT LONG BEACH: 5th in 2007 / 2nd in 2013; will be his 12th Indy car race here and 13th overall
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 (Super Speedway) & Mid-Ohio (road) 2015, Texas 2016 (oval), Detroit 1 & 2 (street)
SATO’S BEST START/FINISH AT LONG BEACH: 4th / 1st — both in 2013 with A.J. Foyt Enterprises; 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)
NEWS & NOTES:
19TH INDY CAR RACE IN LONG BEACH FOR RLL; DOUBLEHEADER FOR TEAM WITH IMSA RACE
The 2018 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach (TGPLB) marks the 19th time for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (RLL) to compete in the event. Although the team didn’t compete in Indy car races here from 2004-2011 while they fielded a fulltime entry in the Indy Racing League (2004-2008), they did compete in the 2003 and 2004 Atlantic races with Danica Patrick and in the 2007 American Le Mans Series (ALMS) race. In 2009, the team returned to the streets of Long Beach in the GTLM class of the ALMS with BMW Team RLL and has finished on the podium each year but 2016 and 2017 although they started from pole in 2016 and led in 2017 before an electrical issue forced them to fall back. Despite not finishing on the podium the past two years, Long Beach is the most successful venue for the team on the current IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship schedule. The team has won the race three times (2011, 2013 and 2015), has eight podium finishes and started from pole five out of nine years.
In the RLL’s 18 previous Indy car races in Long Beach, the team entered 30 cars for drivers such as Bobby Rahal (1992-1998), Mike Groff (1994), Raul Boesel (1995), Bryan Herta (1996-1999), Max Papis (1999-2001), Kenny Brack (2000-2001), Jimmy Vasser (2002), Michel Jourdain (2002-2003), Takuma Sato (2012), Graham Rahal (2013-2017), James Jakes (2013), Mike Conway (2013) and Oriol Servia (2014). In total, the team won three poles (Herta 1998, Vasser 2002, Jourdain, Jr. 2003); made five front row starts including an all-Team Rahal front row in 1998 (2nd – Rahal 1998, Brack 2001); earned their best finish of second place four times (Rahal 1992-1993, Vasser 2002, G. Rahal 2013) and earned six podiums (2nd – Rahal 1992-1993, Vasser 2002 & G. Rahal 2013; 3rd – Herta 1998-1999). The team has entered the No. 15 Total Honda for Graham Rahal and the No. 30 Mi-Jack / Panasonic Honda for Takuma Sato in this year’s race.
GRAHAM AND LONG BEACH
The 2018 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach will be Graham’s 12th Champ/Indy car race here and 13th overall. His best IndyCar start here is fifth in 2007 and best finish is second place in 2013. In 2017, he started sixth and moved into fourth before his first of two planned stops. His two-stop strategy forced him to conserve more fuel that some others and he lost positions. As other fuel strategies played out he cycled back into sixth place by the halfway point. On Lap 46, he was seventh overall and fourth of those who were on a two-stop strategy. The timing of the cautions negated the two-stop strategy and Rahal was sixth when he got a right rear puncture and had to pit on Lap 79 of 85 which dropped him to 13th. He moved into 12th and was pressuring Hildebrand when Hildebrand and Aleshin made contact on the final lap and Rahal moved into 10th place. In 2016, after setting the third fastest time overall on Friday, Rahal held the fastest spot in Saturday morning’s final practice at one point late in the session and was ranked sixth with a few minutes to go when he made contact with the wall in Turn 9 and sustained damage to his front and rear wings and left-side corners of his car. The team repaired it by qualifying but he was unable to progress from his group and ultimately qualified 17th. In the race, the team elected for an alternate strategy due to starting from 17th place. Rahal passed two cars on the start and another by Lap 3 to run 14th.. He made his first stop on Lap 20 of 80 and returned to the race in 19th place. As the field cycled through their stops he moved up to 10th place and later made his second stop on Lap 48 which came one lap earlier than expected which forced the team into even more of a fuel-savings mode. He had moved up to ninth place by Lap 59 and held it while the team hoped for a caution period. The race ran caution-free and Rahal dropped from ninth to 15th in the final 10 laps and coasted across the finish line. His car ultimately stooped on track in Turn 1. In 2015, he qualified eighth but struggled in the race and finished 11th. In 2014, he finished seventh after struggling in practice and qualifying 23rd. In 2013, he finished second after starting 11th. In 2012, he qualified 15th for SCCGR, started 8th due to penalties to Chevy-powered teams, ran as high as fourth but finished 24th due to contact with Marco Andretti. In 2011, he qualified 16th for SCCGR and finished 13th. In 2010 he started and finished 22nd for Sarah Fisher Racing after contact. In 2009, he started seventh and finished 12th for NHLR. In 2008 he started ninth and had a podium in sight when he was alongside third place but contact during this pass led to a 13th place finish. Started fifth in 2007 but the pit strategy of others and slow fuel flow related to teething problems for the all-new Panoz Champ Car on two stops limited his finish to eighth place. In the 2006 Champ Car Atlantic Series race here he started seventh and finished fifth. Rahal is hoping to pick up where he left off at the previous street course race in St. Petersburg where he finished second.
“I think we should be competitive at Long Beach. I have high hopes and expectations as I always do. St. Pete wasn’t the best for us so from a street course perspective, I think we have some work to be done but I also know that Tom (German, race engineer) and everyone are working hard to find a solution to make the cars perform more competitively than we did in St. Pete.”
TAKUMA’S WIN AT TWO OF THE MOST PRESTIGIOUS INDYCAR RACES – INDY AND LONG BEACH
The 2018 race will mark the ninth here for Takuma Sato. His highest start and finish here came in 2013 with A.J. Foyt Enterprises when he led 50 laps and won from a fourth place start. The race prior to that was with RLL in 2012 and he led 16 laps and was third when he was hit by Hunter-Reay on the final lap and finished eighth after starting eighth. His other top-10 start came in 2016 with Foyt (8th) and other top-10 finish was fifth in 2016, also with Foyt.
“Long Beach is everyone’s favorite! It’s so special. It has a lot of history, a great location, food and atmosphere. It’s so gorgeous and a lot of fun both on track and off track. I am really lucky to win two of the top races in the series (2017 Indy 500, 2013 Long Beach) but of course I want to add more! People really enjoy the event and so do I — especially winning the 2013 race which was so special for me and makes me very happy thinking about that race. I was at AJ Foyt’s team back then but shared the podium with my current teammate Graham so I would love to repeat that this year too.”
LONG BEACH REPLAY OF TAKUMA’S PREVIOUS RACE WITH RLL HERE
In 2012, Sato made his third start at this track and almost bettered his series-best finish at the time of fourth place at Mid-Ohio (2010). Due to a round of penalties for unapproved engine changes, he started eighth after qualifying 13th. By Lap 12 of the 85-lap race he had moved into third place and took the lead on Lap 20 when a good portion of the field, including two cars ahead, pit under caution. After his first stop on Lap 30, he passed eventual winner Will Power and moved up from 12th place into third by Lap 41. He reclaimed the lead on Lap 48 and held it until the second pit stop on Lap 56. He was in third place when Power passed him and was later passed by eventual second place finisher Simon Pagenaud. Once the field made their final stops, he was in third place and on the final lap, Ryan Hunter-Reay hit Sato’s left rear in Turn 8 and Sato stopped on course. He was scored with an eighth place finish after being restarted because the majority of the field was stuck behind a multi-car crash that made the hairpin impassable. Series officials deemed Hunter-Reay’s contact “avoidable” and gave him a 30 –second penalty which dropped him from third to sixth.
GRAHAM ON THE HISTORY AT LONG BEACH – IN GENERAL AND FOR THE RAHALS
“Outside of the Indy 500, Long Beach is the biggest race for us. Forty four years of a lot of history for Indy car racing and a lot of close calls for the Rahal’s in Long Beach so hopefully this year we can make it happen and get a win after a lot of second place finishes.”
GRAHAM ON THREE IN A ROW AND THE IMPORTANCE TO THE INDY 500 AND SEASON-ENDING OUTCOME
The 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season opener in St. Petersburg, Fla. was held March 11 and Rahal started his season off strong with a second place finish after rebounding from a 24th place start. Since then the team tested in Texas, Alabama and Indianapolis before the start of three races in three weekends. Rahal believes this three-race stretch is an important time to gain valuable ground in the championship fight.
“With three in a row, this is an important time. We got some good points in Phoenix but we would have obviously liked to have been better but Long Beach is going to be important to continuing that momentum and not lose any ground. Obviously the Honda Indy Grand Prix at Barber is key. While Barber is not the start of the month May, it certainly aims us in the direction of it so this is an important three weeks in a row. I would say it’s second only to the summer stretch which makes or breaks your season. It’s good for us to be fourth in points and to be as close as we are because historically that hasn’t been our strength. Historically we have not been good at starting off the season so we’re in a better position that we have been in probably ever so I’m excited about that and I think that’s going to help us.”
SATO ON COMPETITIVENESS FROM ST. PETE TRANSFERING TO LONG BEACH AND BACK LUCK
Takuma made the Firestone Fast Six in St. Pete with a fifth place qualifying effort but contact from the airborne car of Scott Dixon caused a punctured tire and extra stop that dropped him to the back of the field. He’s hoping to pick up where he left off in terms of competitiveness but hopes to avoid back luck.
“I believe the competitiveness from St. Pete will transfer to Long Beach. The track characteristics are obviously not the same and Long Beach is lower grip but most of parts are similar. I am very motivated and look forward to going back to Long Beach. It’s disappointing that I couldn’t have a good result in St. Pete unfortunately but that’s motor racing and we will sometimes have bad luck and sometimes good. We will do our best and that’s not necessarily extra motivation but the natural tendency we have.”
RAHAL AND SATO EXPECT ANOTHER EXCITING RACE WITH THE UNIVERSAL AERO KIT AT LONG BEACH
The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach is sure to be exciting with the new universal aerodynamic kit used by all teams in 2018 if St. Pete was any indication. Rahal and Sato are looking forward to the new experience at Long Beach.
“I think that with the universal aero kit, the Indy cars are going to be way quicker on the straightaways and I think Long Beach is going to highlight that,” said Rahal. “I’m excited about getting on track in the Total Honda and showing that and I think the fans are really going to enjoy that. I think it’s going to be great for passing on the front straights and other places and I also think that with the tire degradation that we saw at St. Pete, and having a similar tire in Long Beach, it should make the racing really, really interesting.”
“The race will be exciting for sure but if there was a concern I have, then it will be tire marbles off line which was a lot in the opening race,” added Sato. “The car slides more due to low downforce and that makes more marbles but hopefully the combination at Long Beach gives a better outcome.”
GRAHAM ON SIZING UP THE COMPETITION
“I think everyone is doing a good job right now. I do feel like a lot of the teams are performing at their best. I’m not sure that we are yet but we will keep plugging away. Guys are putting a lot of effort in. The crew did an amazing job with their pit stops in Phoenix, I was really proud of them. We just have to keep that up.”