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Aug 20, 2013 - 04:20 PM
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2013 Sonoma: IndyCar Rahal Letterman Lanigan Race Preview
Posted by: newsla on Aug 20, 2013 - 04:15 PM
IndyCar Weekend Team Reports
2013 Sonoma: IndyCar Rahal Letterman Lanigan Race Preview


NEWS & NOTES:

SIXTH INDYCAR RACE AT SONOMA FOR RLL RACING
The GoPro Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma will mark the sixth Indy car event for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (RLL) here and only second since 2008 when Ryan Hunter-Reay started eighth and finished 18th for the team. The highest start and finish for the team here is by Buddy Rice in 2005 when he started sixth and finished second. Prior to the 2013 event, the team prepared a total of 10 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), and Takuma Sato (2012). The team has earned one podium (2nd – Rice 2005), 1 top-five and four top-10 finishes at the track. The No. 15 Midas / Big O Tires entry for Graham Rahal and No. 16 Acorn Stairlifts entry for James Jakes will bring the Indy car total to 12 entries in 2013.

 

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GRAHAM AT SONOMA
The 2013 GoPro Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma will mark Graham’s sixth Indy car race here. His best start is sixth place with Newman/Haas Racing (NHR) in 2009 and best finish is fifth with Service Central Chip Ganassi Racing (SCCGR) in 2012. He has finished in the top-10 in all but one of his five races (broken drive shaft in ’09). He qualified 15th for SCCGR in 2012, started 13th after grid penalties were served and finished fifth. He qualified 13th for SCCGR in 2011 and finished eighth. In 2010, he qualified 16th with NHR and finished 9th. He made the final Firestone Fast Six in qualifying six times in the seven road/street races in 2009 and started sixth in Sonoma for Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing (NHLR). Contact on the opening lap with Marco Andretti forced an early stop for a new front wing but his drive shaft broke when he attempted to leave the pits. After the car was repaired in the garage area, he returned to the track many laps down in 21st position and ultimately retired in the same place after completing 30 of the 75 laps. He started 15th and finished 8th here in 2008 with NHLR.

“I have always done well here, even though it has always been a track that I haven’t been that fast at,” said Rahal. “For whatever reason when it comes race day I excel here, so hopefully we can qualify up front and go from there. Sonoma is tough because of the elevation and wind. You never know what way the wind will be coming off the bay and that changes the track in a huge way. It’s always very difficult to get the car right over all the crests and quick elevation changes. I’m excited as can be that the Big O Tires car is back for Sonoma. The last time we had any sort of good luck was Long Beach and it was the same design. I hope these colors bring some luck back to us!”

JAKES AT SONOMA
The 2013 GoPro Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma will mark James’ third event here and first with RLL. He participated in a one-day Manufacturers test here Aug. 13. In 2012 he qualified 26th, started 24th after two competitors were penalized for an unapproved engine change and finished 12th. In 2011 he qualified 17th and finished 19th. Both events were with Dale Coyne Racing.

“Qualifying is very important here,” said Jakes. “It can be a very tough place to pass. Last year it was nice to make up 12 spots in the race. I just remember trying to stay patient and make sure that I had strong in and out laps for the pit stops. Sonoma is always very challenging especially when the wind picks up. It can blow sand all over the track and can make each corner very challenging. It’s important to make sure you put all the sectors together to maximize the lap time, and with the sand blowing it can be tough.”

SERIES-WIDE OPEN TEST ON WEDNESDAY
Both Rahal and Jakes participated in a one-day manufacturers test at Sonoma Raceway on Aug. 13 and the series will hold an Open Test on Wednesday, August 20. Both drivers are looking forward to more track time before race weekend officially begins on Friday.

“Testing is key for us,” said Rahal. “We felt we got some of our objectives covered last week although there is a lot left to be done. I think we will still have a long list of test items come Wednesday, but I feel confident we can get it all covered. As we look forward to the remainder of our season and next year, any time we get a bit of track time and testing is key. We must take advantage of it.”

“The test was very important,” added Jakes. “Everyone in the team is pushing very hard to keep improving and finishing the year strong. With another test on Wednesday we should be in great shape for the race.”

FIVE RACES TO GO IN THE CHAMPIONSHIP
Graham Rahal’s top finish of the season is second in Long Beach and his top start is eighth in Iowa after winning his Heat Race. He is ranked 17th in series point standings with 233 points with five races to go. James Jakes’ top finish is also second place, in Dual 2 in Detroit which is also the site of his top start of second place. He is ranked 18th in series standings with 232 points. Rahal is 80 points behind 10th place ranked Tony Kanaan (313) and Jakes is 81 points back. Both are taking the final five races, one race at a time.

“I am only focused on getting the best result possible in each of the events individually,” said Rahal. “We don’t have any chance in the championship fight, so for now it’s all about going fast and winning races.”

“Right now I'm just focusing on one race at a time, taking each weekend step by step,” added Jakes. “If we are able to extract the maximum out of each weekend then we will improve our position in the championship.”

THE CHAMPIONSHIP BATTLE – DRIVER AND MANUFACTURER
Helio Castroneves leads the IZOD IndyCar Series championship by 31 points over Scott Dixon with five races to go for the first time in his career. There are 20 drivers still mathematically eligible for the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series championship. Any driver who trails the leader by 217 points or more following Sonoma will be eliminated from championship contention. Rahal or Jakes could be the eighth different winner since the series started racing here in 2005 and could strengthen Honda’s position in the manufacturer’s standings. Chevrolet and Honda are currently tied in the manufacturer standings. Both manufacturers have seven victories, but Honda has won the last four races.

“All of the usual suspects have been quick,” said Jakes. “Dixon (Honda) seems to be coming on very strong at the end of the season.”

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