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Jun 25, 2014 - 04:51 PM
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2014 Houston: Rahal Letterman Lanigan IndyCar Race Preview
Posted by: newsla on Jun 25, 2014 - 04:44 PM
IndyCar Weekend Team Reports
2014 Houston: Rahal Letterman Lanigan IndyCar Race Preview


DATE: June 27–29, 2014
QUALIFYING BROADCAST: Broadcast on NBC Sports Network at 2 p.m. ET on Saturday, June 28 and live on
www.indycar.com (timing & scoring with audio commentary)
RACE BROADCAST: Live on Saturday, June 28 and Sunday, June 29 at 3:00 p.m. ET; both races on
NBC Sports Network
RADIO BROADCAST: The race will air on IMS Radio Network, XM & Sirius channels 211

TRACK LAYOUT: 1.683-mile, 10-turn street course
RACE LENGTH: 90 laps / 153 miles (each race)

 

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PREVIOUS WINNER(S): Scott Dixon and Will Power
PREVIOUS POLESITTER(S): Takuma Sato and Helio Castroneves (points)

RAHAL’S BEST ROAD/
STREET START/FINISH: Pole at St. Pete 2009 / 1st at St. Pete in 2008
RAHAL’S BEST HOUSTON
START/FINISH: 6th / 2nd -- both in 2007 with Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing (Champ Car)

FILIPPI’S BEST ROAD/
STREET START/FINISH: 8th / 10th – both at Houston in 2013
FILIPPI’S BEST HOUSTON
START/FINISH: above

RLL’S BEST HOUSTON
START/ FINISH: 9th / 6th – both by James Jakes in Race 1 in 2013



NEWS & NOTES:

RLL RETURNS TO HOUSTON IN SEARCH OF ANOTHER STRONG STREET COURSE RUN
The Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston presented by the Greater Houston Honda Dealers doubleheader on June 28 and 29 will mark the third and fourth races for the team at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center Speedway at NRG Park. The team competed on the temporary circuit downtown around the George R. Brown Convention Center from 1998-2001 and at this course in 2013. It will mark the second time for RLL to compete in an event promoted by team co-owner Mike Lanigan’s company, MJ Promotions, since he joined the team in 2011. The event will mark the fourth overall Indy car weekend at Reliant Park and second since the 2006 and 2007 Champ Car races that MJ Promotions also promoted. The team will field the No. 16 National Guard entry for Graham Rahal and the No. 16 Rahal Letterman Lanigan entry for Luca Filippi.

LAST YEAR AT HOUSTON FOR RLL
Graham Rahal set the 10th fastest time in Group 2 of qualifying on Saturday to earn a 19th place starting position but was assessed a 10-grid penalty for an unapproved engine change and started 24th. The team employed good pit strategy and he was able to move up to a seventh place finish. Qualifying for Race 2 in Houston was cancelled due to standing water on the course so the field was set by Entrant Points and Graham started the race 19th. He was hit on the opening lap by Simona de Silvestro who was penalized for “avoidable contact” and had to pit for a new nose which put him a lap down. Later he tagged the wall and had to pit for a new rear wing which dropped him another lap down. He finished 18th… James Jakes set the sixth fastest time in Group 2 of qualifying to earn a ninth place start and steadily gained positions in the first stint of the race and was in fourth place when a miscommunication over the radio led to him entering the pits for his first pit stop but the team was unaware so he had to come back in on the following lap which dropped him to the back of the field. Hard charging and the timing of caution periods enabled him to move up the field and finish sixth. James started Race 2 20th due to Entrant Points, moved up as high as fourth but the timing of a stop under caution dropped him a lap down and he ultimately finished 17th.

RAHAL LOOKING FORWARD TO RETURNING TO A STREET COURSE AFTER SECOND PLACE IN DETROIT
Rahal, 25, returns to the site of his first podium finish in the top form of open-wheel racing of second place while a high school senior in 2007 and hopes to challenge for the win again like he did in the previous street race this season in Detroit where he finished second in Dual 1. His first Indy car race here was Round 3 of the Champ Car World Series on April 22, 2007 and he became the youngest driver to earn a Champ Car podium with his second place finish at the age of 18 years, 3 months and 18 days. Rahal skipped his prom to compete in Houston and qualified sixth. His second place finish brought his team, Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing, a 1-2 with teammate Sebastien Bourdais earning the win from a second place start. Rahal also competed in the 2006 Atlantic Series race at Reliant Park where he started third and was in second place when he collided with Raphael Matos while attempting to take the lead with three laps to go and finished 15th. It will be his second Indy car race here and third overall.
“I feel that our expectations have to be pretty high,” Rahal said about this weekend’s doubleheader in Houston. “We must continue our good speed and run from Detroit. At the end of the day we have some work to do still but we are getting closer and faster, and I think we can position ourselves well for a good points weekend in Houston. We have a long ways to go in the season, but things are looking up. We seem to be gaining ground quickly and we need to keep it up and keep pushing hard. The team has done a great job bouncing back from adversity, but we need to keep that going!”

FILIPPI MAKES HIS DEBUT FOR RLL AT HOUSTON, WHERE HE SET THE FASTEST RACE LAP IN ‘13
The Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston will mark the third and fourth races for Italian driver Luca Filippi at Houston, as well as his debut for the team. He ran four races last season with Bryan Herta Autosport including Mid-Ohio, Baltimore and the Houston doubleheader on October 5 and 6, 2013. Last year he qualified eighth for Race 1 and finished 10th which is his best start and finishing positions to date of his four series races. Qualifying for Race 2 was cancelled due to standing water on the course so the field was set by Entrant Points and Luca started the race 23rd due to his lack of points in his partial season, he ran as high as 12th but made a mistake and fell one lap down. He went on to set the fastest race lap (Lap 86/90) and finished 19th. He is looking forward to his return to Indy car racing, and especially the course in Houston.
“For me it was a great event because I was competitive all the time, especially Race 1 where I was fighting for the podium and we were caught by a yellow and the pits closed at the wrong moment. But the pace was good and I finished in the top-10 for the first time in an Indy car. In Race 2, I had to start from the back of the grid because qualifying was cancelled and it went by entrant points. My pace was strong but maybe I was a little too fired up because I had already finished in the top-10 and I made a little mistake after running as high as 12th and I was probably one of the fastest cars on the circuit. I lost a lap and the race as basically over for me but still I managed to run the fastest lap of the race. I have good memories of Houston which is probably the best place for me to get back in an Indy car.”

LUCA ON WHAT TYPE OF RACE CAR IS NEEDED IN HOUSTON & WHERE TO MAKE UP YOUR LAP TIME
“I think drive-ability will be the key to having good races in Houston. It would be good to have a car that is fast but, more than all, easy to drive so you can be consistent and drive around the bumps and in the heat; that’s going to be tough. If you can be consistent, it will be important. Drive-ability is what I will try to look for over the weekend. I like the section (of the track) after the back straight where you have a changing of direction and changes of surface. Where you go from concrete, to tarmac and back to concrete. It’s nice and challenging and probably where you can make up the most time from your lap time.”

GRAHAM ON THE PROGRESS MADE SINCE THE 2013 HOUSTON DOUBLEHEADERS
“I think we have come a long way since the 2013 race in Houston and I think that should show this weekend. Last year our races were pretty opposite. Saturday we had a good day and gained a lot of points, we moved forward quickly and found ourselves fighting the guys up front at the end. Sunday we got hit right at the start, thus we struggled the rest of the day.”

GRAHAM ON THE PHYSICALITY OF DETROIT DOUBLEHEADERS VS. HOUSTON
“Detroit wasn’t bad, but Houston will be brutal. I know that we will have our work cut out for us on all fronts. The teams need to stay hydrated and sharp, and the drivers will be beat by the end of it all. It’s bumpy, and it’s bound to be extremely hot so we need to be prepared. I think a lot of guys will struggle physically, so I think you’re going to see a lot of mistakes happening.”

GRAHAM AND LUCA ON PREPARATION FOR THE HEAT AND ETC.
Much has been made of the anticipated warm, humid conditions in Houston. One Indy car race is physically demanding but two in a row will be one of the most demanding – if not the – weekends many of the drivers have ever encountered. Rahal and Filippi have been preparing for the challenge.
“Just lots and lots of hydration,” said Rahal on his pre-Houston preparation. “I don’t think you can replicate the heat very well, so it’s a lot of hydration and getting sleep for the races. Its going to be very tough and very demanding, we just need to do the best we can.”
“I am bringing my physio (physical trainer) so he will prepare special drinks for before and after the races which is important,” added Filippi. “We are all used to hot races and I have raced in the Middle East where it is burning hot! I expect it to be tough, especially from the mental point of view because I will be getting back in an Indy car for the first time in a while. Most things are not new but I need to refresh myself so I can concentrate and focus on every single lap. It’s going to be tough, but it’s going to be the same for everyone.”

FILIPPI NO STRANGER TO DOUBLEHEADERS
“I’m used to doubleheaders from racing in GP2. It’s the normal format there although there is only one qualifying session and the race on Sunday is shorter. I like this format better because you have two big events and once you race Saturday you have another chance the day after. It’s challenging, especially for me since I obviously have to get used to the team and the car.”

GRAHAM AND LUCA ON WORKING TOGETHER
“I think Luca will be very fast and should be right up front,” said Rahal. “I hope he can bring as much to the table as Oriol has for us.”
“I met Graham a couple of years ago when I spent some time with the team,” added Filippi. “It’s great that he is on a positive curve this year and has been on the podium at the last street race. For sure he is happy with the car on the street course and wants to be competitive and I’m obviously happy about that because it will be a good reference for me.”

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