RAHAL FINISHED 12TH IN THE FIRESTONE GRAND PRIX OF ST PETERSBURG AFTER A PUNCTURE DICTATED AN ALTERNATE STRATEGY; AN EIGHTH PLACE FINISH LOOKED LIKELY FOR SATO BEFORE AN ISSUE AROSE DUE TO OVERHEATING CAUSED BY DEBRIS AND HE RETIRED IN 19TH
GRAHAM RAHAL, No. 15 United Rentals Dallara/Honda/Firestone: “I thought the United Rentals machine was pretty strong today and I thought the race was shaping up okay for us. We had a good first pit stop there and I thought we were headed down the right path. Hinch (Hinchcliffe) was about equal to us. I thought we were maybe a little better than Alex but we were struggling to get around Harvey at that point. And Hinch said the same; he had a ton of straightline speed. Coulda, shoulda, woulda. It was a shame to get a puncture when we did. We’ve been on a little string of bad luck the last few races – the end of last year and to kick off this year — but hopefully it will turn around in a hurry. I’m excited and happy with what I saw though. Our competitiveness this weekend versus last year here is definitely better. My hopes and expectations are pretty high.”
FAST FACTS: Started 10th and passed Hinchcliffe for ninth at the start of the 110 lap race. He made his first pit stop on L12. He moved up to seventh place while multiple pit strategies were playing out and some competitors encountered problems. On Lap 32 the team called him in during a caution when a tire pressure sensor alerted them of a right rear tire puncture, likely caused by running over debris from previous accidents. This necessitated a strong fuel conservation to finish the race in two more stops. He made his third stop on Lap 71 from eighth place and continued to conserve fuel after he returned to the track. Due to being unable to maintain a strong pace, the team elected to come in for a splash of fuel on Lap 101/110 while running ninth. He dropped to 12th place and took the checkered flag I that position. On Saturday, he set the third fastest lap (1:00.5933) in Group 2 of Round 1 and advanced to Round 2. He set the 11th fastest lap time and did not progress to Round 3… Will make his 12th Indy car start at this track in 2019. 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: “Everyone was on the same tire strategy. I think it’s the first time since Firestone brought out the red tire that everyone chose to start on the same one which means it was quite difficult to make a different strategy. Having said that, we made good progress. I overtook a few cars on the start and restarts as well on track. We were steadily moving up the field and it looking good for us. We weren’t the most competitive but we were definitely moving up the field which is positive. In the end I am obviously disappointed not to finish. It’s a shame because the boys worked so hard for us not to finish it. Circuit of the Americas is the next race for us and we had a positive test. It’s a very dynamic course and I am looking forward to it.”
FAST FACTS: Started 20th and gained three spots on the start after passing Bourdais, Ericsson and Pigot to run 17th. He passed Handley for 16th and held the position until his first stop on Lap 10. He moved up to 17th place within a few laps of returning to the track. He cycled up as high as ninth before his second stop on Lap 42. He had moved up to eighth place by Lap 70 and made his next stop on Lap 75 but on his in-lap, he began having a shifting problem in Turn 10 and once he got to the pits he was unable to continue. It was discovered that debris had clogged the gearbox electronic cooling duct which led to overheating and a malfunction of the gear control unit… On Saturday, he set the fifth fastest time in Group 2 of Round 1 in qualifying but INDYCAR took away his fastest lap (1:00.7059) for bringing out a local yellow when he went into the Turn 4 runoff. Will be his 10th race 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).