Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama – Barber Motorsports Park, Birmingham, Alabama
Round 4 of 17 in the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series
DATE: Friday – Sunday, April 20-22, 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 on Friday beginning at 12:15 p.m. and 3:50 p.m. ET and on Saturday beginning at 11:50 a.m. ET. Also on the INDYCAR 18 app.
QUALIFYING BROADCAST: Live on NBCSN, Saturday, April 21 beginning at 4 p.m. ET. Live on the AAPIRN and RaceControl.IndyCar.com
RACE BROADCAST: Live on NBCSN, Sunday, April 22 beginning at 3:00 p.m. ET and also on the AAPIRN,Sirius 214, XM 209, RaceControl.IndyCar.com and on the INDYCAR mobile app.
TRACK LAYOUT: 2.38-mile, 17-turn road course
RACE LENGTH: 90 laps / 207 miles
2017 WINNER: Josef Newgarden
2017 POLESITTER: Will Power (1:06.9614; 123.653 mph)
RLL TOP START/FINISH AT BARBER: 6th by Rahal in 2016 / 2nd by Rahal in 2015 and 2016; seven events
RAHAL’S BEST START/FINISH AT BARBER: 6th in 2016 / 2nd in 2015 and 2016 – Both with RLL; will be his 9th 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 (Super Speedway) & Mid-Ohio (road) 2015, Texas 2016 (oval), Detroit 1 & 2 (street)
SATO’S BEST START/FINISH AT BARBER: 6th in 2010 with KVRT / 9th in 2017 with Andretti Autosport; 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:
RAHAL LETTERMAN LANIGAN RACING AT BARBER MOTORSPORTS PARK
The 2018 Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama will mark the seventh IndyCar Series race for the team at Barber Motorsports Park (BMP). The best finishes for the team came in 2015 and 2016 where RLL and Graham Rahal played a major role in the most exciting races of those seasons and earned second place finishes each year (more details below). In addition to Rahal, other drivers to have competed for the team here include Takuma Sato (2012) James Jakes (2013) and Oriol Servia (2014). In 2012, Sato set the third fastest time in Friday’s first practice 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 2018, RLL has entered the No. 15 Mi-Jack Honda for Graham Rahal and the No. 30 Mi-Jack / Panasonic Honda for Takuma Sato which brings the total to 10 entries for RLL for this event.
GRAHAM AT BARBER MOTORSPORTS PARK
Rahal’s best start at BMP is sixth in 2016 and his best finish is second, two times (2015-2016) in his previous eight starts. In 2017, he qualified 21st and alternate strategy didn’t pay off so he was only able to gain eight positions to finish 13th. 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 but finished second both times. In 2016, 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 another competitive run like his 2015 and 2016 races.
“We have always been pretty strong at Barber but last year wasn’t that great for us. In general, it’s a place we should be good at and I hope we can carry on the progress that we have been making in terms of competitiveness. I think it could be a great weekend for us. The team has worked hard and we’ve been fortunate to sneak in a couple of good results so far even with some difficulties and hopefully we can keep that going. Our pre-season test went well. I think we were fortunate that we went to the first one (February 20) because the weather cooperated and we got good track time with this car unlike the open test (March 20). I think it’s going to be interesting to see what conditions we get as we go back for the race.”
TAKUMA AT BARBER MOTORSPORTS PARK
The 2018 race will mark the ninth here for Takuma Sato. His highest start here is sixth in 2010 with KVRT and highest finish is ninth in 2017 with Andretti Autosport which are both his only top-10 starts or finishes here. It will be his second time to compete with RLL here. In 2012 he qualified 16th but retired due to mechanical failure in 24th place. The team tested at BMP February 20 and March 20. The February test took place under mild conditions while rained ended the March test early.
“We tested at Barber twice but the second one was cut short due to the weather,”’ said Sato. “Honestly we don’t know yet how competitive we will be but we have some good data. At least the first test was productive for us which will hopefully give us a good baseline to start with.”
GRAHAM AND TAKUMA ON THE FIRST ROAD COURSE RACE WITH THE NEW AERO KIT PACKAGE
“I think the new aero kit has met expectations,” said Rahal. “It seemed like at Long Beach it really helped passing. You were able to follow a lot closer. Barber has always put on a great race but I think that this year it could be even better. Depending on tire degradation and things like that, I think this new car could put on a very exciting race at Barber.”
“Barber will be fun to drive with the new aero kit,” added Sato. “The track is beautiful but it is very difficult to overtake. Again I think tire management will be the key. I think that by the end of each stint, you will see a great battle with overtaking. Other than that, first we have to make the car fast. The weekend will be quite different conditions, temperature-wise, than when we tested there which was very cold. I hope we have a good, strong package for the Honda Indy Grand Prix.”
With three races in the books, Graham Rahal is third in series standings with 93 points and Takuma Sato is 14th with 46.
“We are just going to keep our heads down, work hard and stay focused on the end goal,” said Rahal. “I certainly hope that we can keep this thing going and go into Indy with a lot of momentum as we have done. I’m really excited about where we are and I think things are looking pretty good.”