Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg — St. Petersburg, Florida
Round 1 of 17 in the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series
PRACTICE NOTES/QUOTES – Friday, March 8, 2019
RAHAL AND SATO SET THE 11TH AND 12TH FASTEST TIMES IN PRACTICE ON FRIDAY FOR THE FIRESTONE GRAND PRIX OF ST. PETERSBURG INDYCAR SEASON-OPENER
1) Ryan Hunter-Reay 1:00.8969 / 106.409 mph
11) Graham Rahal 1:01.2129 / 105.860 mph
12) Takuma Sato 1:01.2700 / 105.761 mph
GRAHAM RAHAL, No. 15 United Rentals Dallara/Honda/Firestone: “It was awesome to be back in the United Rentals Honda today in St. Pete. The first session went really well, we finished eight and were very competitive. In the second session we ran the red Firestone tires very early. We decided as a team that I would do that this race and Takuma would do it at the next one to try to help the team get better. Overall it was a solid day. We will do some homework overnight and hopefully be faster tomorrow.”
•FAST FACTS: Will 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… Has six IndyCar Series wins (2008 – St. Pete street course; 2015 – Fontana Super Speedway, Mid-Ohio road course; 2016 – Texas Super Speedway; 2017 Detroit Race 1, Detroit Race 2) and three poles (2009 – St. Pete street course, Kansas oval; 2017 – Detroit Race 1 street) and his highest series season-ending standing is fourth place in 2015.
TAKUMA SATO, No. 30 Panasonic / Seeman Holtz Dallara/Honda/Firestone: “I’m happy with our progress today. I think it was a productive day. We continued to work on the car through Practice 1 and 2 and continued to show solid performance on the black tire. When we ran the red Firestone tires, it was a little out of balance so I wasn’t able to improve the lap time. Nevertheless, the important thing today was to gather data. We were mainly working on the rear end and Graham was working on the front end. We split the program so hopefully we can both be better for tomorrow. I think it was a very good day.”
•FAST FACTS: 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… Has three wins (2013 – Long Beach; 2017 Indianapolis 500; 2018 – Portland) and seven series poles (2011 – Iowa (oval); 2011 – Edmonton (street); 2013 – Houston Race 1 (street); 2014 – St. Pete (street); 2014 Detroit Race 2 (street); 2017 – Detroit Race 2; 2017 – 2017 Pocono (oval).
NEXT UP: Practice will take place tomorrow from 10:25-11:10 a.m. ET and qualifying is 2:30-3:45 PM. Timing and Scoring information is available for all sessions from www.indycar.com. The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will be televised live on NBCSN at 12:30 PM ET Sunday, March 10.
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