Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
Grand Prix of Sonoma – Sonoma Raceway
Season-Finale of the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series
NEWS & NOTES:
DATE: September 14-16, 2018
PRACTICE BROADCASTS: Live on www.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 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. ET and Saturday at 2 p.m. ET. Also on the INDYCAR 18 app.
ADDED BROADCAST: Practice 2 will be live on NBCSN on Friday, September 14 at 6 PM ET.
QUALIFYING BROADCAST: Same day delayed coverage on NBCSN, Saturday, September 15 beginning at 8 p.m. ET. Live at 6 PM ET Saturday, September 15 on the AAPIRN, the INDYCAR18 app and www.indycar.com (timing & scoring + live analysis).
RACE BROADCAST: Live on NBCSN, Sunday, September 16 beginning at 6:30 p.m. ET and on the INDYCAR 18 app. The race will also air live on the AAPIRN, Sirius 214, XM 209 and www.indycar.com
TRACK LAYOUT: 2.385-mile, 12-turn road course
RACE LENGTH: 85 laps / 202.73 miles
2017 WINNER: Simon Pagenaud
2017 POLESITTER: Josef Newgarden (1:15.5205 / 113.691 mph)
RAHAL’S BEST SONOMA START/FINISH: 5th / 2nd – both in 2016 with RLL; will be his 11th Indy car 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 SONOMA START/FINISH: 5th in 2017 with Andretti Autosport / 4th in 2014 with A.J. Foyt Racing
SATO’S HIGHEST SERIES START/FINISH: Pole at Iowa (oval) 2011, Edmonton (street) 2011, Houston Race 1 (street) 2013, St. Pete (street) 2014, Detroit Dual 2 (street) 2014, Detroit Dual 2 2017, Pocono (oval) 2017 / 1st in Long Beach (2013), Indianapolis 500 (2017), Portland (2018)
RLL’S BEST START/ FINISH AT SONOMA: 5th in 2016 (Rahal) / 2nd in 2005 (Buddy Rice) and 2016 (Rahal)
NOTES & QUOTES:
11TH INDYCAR RACE AT SONOMA FOR RLL RACING
The 2018 Grand Prix of Sonoma race will mark the 11th Indy car event for RLL here. The highest start for the team here is fifth by Graham Rahal in 2016 and the highest finish is second place by Buddy Rice in 2005 and Graham Rahal in 2016. Prior to the 2018 event, the team prepared a total of 17 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), Zachary Claman De Melo (2017) and Graham Rahal (2013-2017). The team has earned two podiums (2nd – Rice 2005, Rahal 2015), two top-five’s and six top-10 finishes at the track. The No. 15 Total entry for Graham Rahal and the No. 30 Mi-Jack / Panasonic entry for Takuma Sato will bring the Indy car total to 19 entries in 2018.
INDYCAR SEASON FINALE A DOUBLE POINTS RACE
Double points will again be awarded for the 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).
GRAHAM AT SONOMA AND THE 2018 POINT STANDINGS
The 2018 Grand Prix of Sonoma will be Graham Rahal’s 11th Indy car race here. His best start is fifth place and best finish is second – both in 2016 with RLL. He has earned two top-five finishes and six top-10’s in 10 races. In 2017, he entered the Sonoma race seventh in points and moved to sixth in season-ending standings after finishing sixth. This year, Rahal arrives after a season-best finish of second place at St. Pete and a total of 12 top-10 finishes to rank eighth in series point standings with a total of 378. He is 50 points behind sixth place Ryan Hunter-Reay and 46 ahead of 12th place Marco Andretti.
“Sonoma has always been a tough track for me personally but I have always had good results there. I probably have more top-10’s there than almost anywhere else in my career. It’s an important race with double points on the line. It’s going to be important to have a really solid run there. We can move all the way up to sixth place but we can also move back quite a ways. We’re going to keep our eyes and minds focused forward and try to move up in points. It has been a tough season. I cannot say that I’m pleased with our results but I am pleased with the effort. I have seen a lot of effort and heart from our team and I think that’s going to pay off for us in the long run.”
TAKUMA AT SONOMA RACEWAY AND THE 2018 POINT STANDINGS
The Grand Prix of Sonoma will be Takuma Sato’s ninth race here. His best start came last year of fifth place with Andretti Autosport and his best finish came in 2014 of fourth place with A.J. Foyt Racing. He has a total of two top-10 finishes with eighth place in 2015, also with A.J. Foyt Racing. His win at the previous race in Portland enabled him to move from a pre-race rank of 13th to 11th with 341 points. He is 50 points behind seventh-place Robert Wickens, who has 391, and 38 points ahead of 14th place Ed Jones who has 303.
“It’s a very challenging track in terms of engineering because there are many corners that could conflict with each other for best performance so it is always tough to find a good compromise point. It’s very challenging for drivers too with high speeds and a few blind corners which make it a lot fun but you definitely need a good commitment! I always enjoy coming back to Sonoma but at the same time, it’s very difficult to predict because track is actually quite slippery. Usually the tire compounds are very soft which means it has a high degradation so to get the balance right is very tough and race performance really depends on that. But, having said that, it will be the last chance to get a strong result so we want to have a good race. Sonoma is going to be a big weekend for everyone. We will focus on being at a high competitive level. If we could finish strong then the overall standing should raise too. I want to have a good race. It’s been a tough season for the team but we always fought back strong and at the mid-season point, to rate the season we were very strong despite some unlucky moments. Highlights of the season were podiums at Iowa and Portland but there were many races we felt we had some good potential.”
TAKUMA ON MOMENTUM FROM HIS PORTLAND WIN AND BEING ABLE TO CELEBRATE
With the weekend off of racing since the Grand Prix of Portland, Sato was able to enjoy being the most recent race winner for more than one week. He is thankful that the experience will carry over to Sonoma and provide momentum for a strong end to the season.
“There is always high motivation for any race weekend but winning is such a special moment and the boys (crew) and engineers should really feel proud and positive. I certainly hope the win provides extra motivation! It definitely gave us good momentum for Sonoma for sure. An off weekend after a win is very good! I enjoyed the moment.”
GRAHAM AND TAKUMA ON TESTING AT SONOMA
Both Graham and Takuma tested at Sonoma Raceway last Thursday with Team Penske, among others. Many other drivers and teams will test this Thursday before the official race event begins on Friday. Testing last week enabled the engineers time to analyze the data prior to returning to Sonoma Raceway this week.
“The test went okay,” said Rahal. “We tried a lot of different things versus focused specifically on setting a lap time. We didn’t get to run as much as we wanted in the afternoon. We made a lot of big, long changes but the guys did a great job getting through it all. It was a long, tough day for everyone but as we come to a close on the season we really need to try everything we possibly can. We will go back to the drawing board and return to Sonoma for the race with something slightly different. Penske has been the standard there so from a competitive standpoint, I think we will be okay be we need to find a little bit more to end the season strong.”
“The reason the team chose to test last week rather than a day before race weekend starts was simply to have more time to analyze and gain knowledge for the weekend,” added Sato. “I think test went well although we were not fully happy in terms of lap time but with the new car there was a lot to learn. Certainly we gathered very good data for the day.”
GRAHAM AND TAKUMA ON THE CHAMPIONSHIP PREDICTION
Four drivers have a mathematical chance to win the championship. Scott Dixon leads with 598 points. Alexander Rossi is second with 569 (-29) and Will Power and reigning champion Josef Newgarden are tied for third with 511 (-87).
“From the championship perspective, however it ends up, there will be a great champion. Someone that is obviously very deserving of the honor,” said Rahal. “Alexander Rossi has had an amazing year and so has Dixie (Scott Dixon) and (Will) Power. It really could be anybody’s championship at the end of this thing.”
“It will be quite exciting to watch,” added Sato. “I think all the contenders have a chance to win the championship and that shows how competitive INDYCAR was all year. Certainly we want to have the most respect for the championship contenders this weekend but if there is any clean chance then of course we will compete strong (with them). It’s going to be a very exciting weekend.”