PRACTICE BROADCASTS: Live on INDYCAR Pass, the direct-to-consumer streaming product from NBC Sports Gold, on
Friday from 10:45-11:30 a.m. and 2:20-3:05 p.m., on Saturday from 10:25-11:10 a.m., and on Sunday from 9:20-9:50 a.m. All times Eastern. Also live on the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network (AAPIRN) and www.indycar.com (timing & scoring + live analysis).
QUALIFYING BROADCAST: Live on NBCSN and INDYCAR Pass from 2:30-4:00 p.m. Also live on the AAPIRN and www.indycar.com (timing & scoring + live analysis).
RACE BROADCAST: Live Sunday, March 10 from 12:30-4:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and INDYCAR Pass. The AAPIRN will begin coverage of the race at 1 p.m. and coverage will also air on Sirius 216 and XM 209.
TRACK LAYOUT: 1.8-mile, 14-turn street course
RACE LENGTH: 110 laps / 198 miles
2018 WINNER: Sebastien Bourdais
2018 POLESITTER: Robert Wickens (1:01.6643; 105.085 mph)
RLL’S TOP START/FINISH AT ST. PETE: 5th by Sato in 2018 / 2nd by Rahal in 2018; will be team’s 12th event here
RAHAL’S BEST START/FINISH IN ST. PETE: 1st in 2009 – with Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing / 2nd in 2018 with RLL; will be his 12th race here
RAHAL’S HIGHEST SERIES
START/FINISH: 3 poles – Pole at St. Pete (street) 2009, Kansas (oval) 2009, Detroit Race 1 (street) 2017 / 6 wins – 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 10th race here
SATO’S HIGHEST SERIES
START/FINISH: 7 poles – 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 / 3 wins – 1st in Long Beach (2013), Indianapolis 500 (2017), Portland (2018)
NEWS & NOTES:
RAHAL LETTERMAN LANIGAN RACING AT ST. PETEThe 2019 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will mark the 12th 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 Panasonic / Seeman Holtz 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, 2018), Graham Rahal (2013-2018), 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 fifth place by Sato and highest finish is second by Graham Rahal – both in 2018.
GRAHAM’S HISTORY-MAKING APPEARANCES IN ST. PETE AND GOAL OF WINNING CHAMPIONSHIPS
In 2019, Graham will make his 12th 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). He has earned one top-five and four top-10 starts here and has two top-five and four top-10 finishes. In 2018, Rahal recovered from a spin in wet conditions in qualifying that led to a 24th place start to finish second in the 110 lap race but not without in-race drama. After he recovered from Lap 8 contact with Pigot, which put him on an alternate fuel strategy, he went on to capitalize on the timing of caution periods and fuel savings to run fourth in the closing stages of the race. On a restart for a two-lap shoot out, Rahal was fourth but contact between race leader Robert Wickens and Alexander Rossi opened the door for third place Sebastien Bourdais and fourth place Rahal to pass them to take the white and checkered flags under caution to finish one-two. 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.
“I am eager to get going, while the offseason has been good, it’s also been busier than in-season for me. I am excited to just turn my focus completely to racing, and doing our best to going out there and winning this year. Last year in St. Pete wasn’t a great start, that’s for sure but we managed to come away with second place. However I do think we are headed for a much better weekend this time around. We have worked hard on our street course package for this year, and I do think we will see some nice gains as we go back. We have a great opportunity ahead of us, a strong team, great sponsor support, and I have a feeling it should be an awesome year for our program. We have done well at St. Pete, but more importantly it’s just one of my favorite venues and race weekends. I’m glad to be going back to a place we did well at last year, and I am hopeful we can do one spot better this time around. I certainly do not see why winning my second at St. Pete isn’t possible. You can never give up, you never know what will happen or what position you will be put in. I am confident we can run up front, and I am looking forward to it. I expect to win this year and I expect to be in the championship battle.”
TAKUMA AT ST. PETE
The 2019 race will be Takuma’s 10th here. In nine 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 five of nine races and earned two, top-five and five, top-10 finishes. Last year, he started fifth and ran as high as fourth a couple of times but contact by Scott Dixon while ninth on Lap 34 of 110 forced him to pit to replace a punctured right rear tire and check for other damage which dropped him to the back of the field. The team tried alternate pit strategy in order to get to the front but he soldiered on to finish 12th in his ninth race here… In 2017, 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 to return to St. Pete where he was optimistic of a good finish after qualifying fifth last year. In the race he was hit by Scott Dixon on Lap 34 of 110 which dropped him to the back of the field with a puncture and was only able to finish 12th.
“I am extremely excited about the new 2019 season. I had a great off-season in both the US and Japan but it was really non-stop as usual so I feel it quickly turned around to March. The team did a lot of winter development and preparation and I think we had very productive pre-season tests. St. Petersburg is always a perfect venue for the opening race. It has such a great atmosphere and the track presents exciting race all the time.”
GRAHAM ON THE OFF-SEASON PREPARATION AND WORKING WITH ALLEN McDONALD
Race and championship-winning engineer Allen McDonald joined the team in October of 2018 and will work with Graham as race engineer this season which will enable Tom German to focus solely on his role as technical director. Graham feels this further bolsters the engineering group and has led to performance gains in the off season.
“I feel like there are a lot of areas we have improved. Preseason testing has gone well, Allen (McDonald; race engineer), Eddie (Jones, race engineer), Tom (German, technical director), Neil (Fife, ride control engineer), Mike (Talbott, vehicle dynamics engineer) and the entire team have done a great job banging their heads together and finding some new and exciting ideas for us. We have done a lot of development, and I foresee that paying off big for us. Allen is a great thinking, strategic minded guy, but open minded to everything we do. I believe he has been a huge asset and advantage to our team thus far, and together with Eddie and the rest of the engineering core I think great things are ahead. Allen has had a lot of success in this sport, and I think we can have a lot together as we go forward.”
TAKUMA ON BUILDING DURING HIS SECOND CONSECUTIVE SEASON WITH THE TEAM
The 2019 season will mark the first time Takuma will run with the team for consecutive seasons after having first competed for the team in 2012 before returning last season. Takuma’s program gained momentum last season from Round 10 of 17 at Road America and continued through the remainder of races. He is hoping to carry that over from the off-season.
“I really feel good about this year as it’s my second year with RLL after my return and everything works seamlessly so I’m really looking forward to going back to racing at St. Petersburg this weekend.”
BOBBY RAHAL ON 2019 INDYCAR SEASON
“Our team has worked unbelievably hard in the off season. The mechanics have really made a huge commitment to the team in terms of their time as have the engineers. It’s been flat out since the end of last season. We made some good moves in the off season by bringing in new people like Allen McDonald and having Neil Fife come back to the Indy car side working with Allen and the rest of the engineers. I’m very optimistic. We had a very good tire test at Indy the end of October. Graham was fastest of the group and was very pleased with how the car handled. And then you look at the last two tests and COTA and Sebring which were strong, good tests where we were able to find some good things with the car. IT leads you to be optimistic about the start of the season and what we hope to accomplish throughout the year. I know our guys aren’t stopping; the demands are great. I think we have two motivated drivers with Graham and Takuma and of course we are looking forward to having Jordan (King) with us at Indy. You’re always optimistic going into a new season but I do believe we have reason to be. It’s going to be tough, there is no question that its going to no less difficult this year than it was last year but we made some good moves and investments since the end of last year and I think they are going to pay off.”
POLE AT ST. PETE AND THE MAN TO BEAT
Graham Rahal and Takuma Sato are two of only four 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, Sato won pole with AJ Foyt Racing in 2014 and Robert Wickens won pole with SPM in 2018. Team Penske’s Will Power has been the man to beat with a total of seven poles in the past nine races in St. Pete. Both Rahal and Sato have shown it is possible.