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Aug 20, 2014 - 06:23 AM
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2014 Sonoma: Rahal Letterman Lanigan IndyCar Race Preview
Posted by: newsla on Aug 20, 2014 - 06:22 AM
IndyCar Weekend Team Reports
2014 Sonoma: Rahal Letterman Lanigan IndyCar Race Preview


The race will mark the seventh Indy car event for RLL here. 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 2014 event, the team prepared a total of 12 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), Takuma Sato (2012), Graham Rahal (2013) and James Jakes (2013). The team has earned one podium (2nd – Rice 2005), one top-five and four top-10 finishes at the track. The No. 15 National Guard entry for Graham Rahal will bring the Indy car total to 13 entries in 2014. Last year here, Rahal qualified eighth, ran as high as sixth but contact while in the middle of a three-wide situation dropped him to the back and he rallied to finish 11th. James Jakes ran well in practice but qualified 19th. He gained 10 spots to run ninth but retired in 25th with engine failure after 57/85 laps.


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The 2014 GoPro Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma will be Graham Rahal’s seventh Indy car race here. His best start is sixth place with Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing (NHLR) 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 two of his six races (broken drive shaft in ’09; contact while sixth in ‘13). Rahal qualified eighth in 2013, ran as high as sixth but contact while in the middle of a three-wide situation dropped him to the back and he rallied to finish 11th. 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. In 2009 he made the final Firestone Fast Six in qualifying six times of the seven road/street races and started sixth in Sonoma for 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 eighth here in 2008 with NHLR. He is looking forward to his return.

“Sonoma, for me, has always been kind of a lucky place. I have always had good results there. It’s a place I sort of have a love-hate relationship with. It’s not a track that I truly have been crazy about or loved but I’ve always done well there so it’s a place I’ve come to love. Hopefully we can go out there and have some good runs, put it together and have a good result.”

“It’s challenging because of the elevation changes. It’s just a difficult place to get the car right in all different phases. The car is so different from start to finish. You climb x-number of feet and go flying up over the hill over a lot of crests, back down the other side so it’s generally just a difficult place to work properly there.”

The team tested at Sonoma Raceway on August 7 and Rahal is optimistic that they learned some valuable things that will improve the team’s setup for the 2.385-mile course.

“The test went alright. I think we are finding some good things to improve our setup. We need to carry on the good performance that we’ve had on road and street courses as of late. I have high hopes, high expectations. I think we ought to be up front, we ought to be able to compete with these guys and that’s what the goal will be. We had a good qualifying last year and I think we ought to be able to improve on that.”

Graham Rahal will wear a helmet designed by 10-year-old cancer survivor, Daniel Cooper, when he races in the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma. The design was selected through the Graham Rahal Foundation’s third annual helmet design contest which was held in partnership with Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation (ALSF), a non-profit organization that raises awareness and funds to fight childhood cancer. The program gave children and families directly affected by childhood cancer the opportunity to submit their personal designs on a pre-made helmet template with a theme of, “What Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation means to me.” Rahal selected five designs from the entries that were posted on the organizations website and fans could vote on their favorite designs. Following a weeklong voting period, Daniel’s artwork was selected as the winning design. The race-worn HP7 Bell helmet will be auctioned on Rahal’s celebrity eBay page at http://givingworks.ebay.com/graham-rahal/, where 100% of the proceeds will be directed to Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation. Daniel submitted his hope-themed helmet design to help find a cure for cancer. “I like racing and I want to help get a cure for cancer,” said Daniel. “My helmet design represents Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation and hope for all kids with cancer. I feel good that I could do something to help.” Daniel’s design incorporates a personal ‘to-do’ list that includes, beating cancer, growing hair and living his dreams. Today, Daniel is focused on the third item from his list. “My to-do list: 1. Beat Cancer – Check! 2. Grow Hair – Check! 3. Living My Dreams – Working on it!”

Will Power (602) leads the Verizon IndyCar Series championship by 39 points over his teammate Helio Castroneves (563) and has 92 more than Simon Pagenaud (510) with two races to go in the season. The MAV TV 500 season-finale will pay double championship points and could be a big factor.

“I think its going to be hard to beat the Penske boys at this rate. They haven’t had the best of records in recent years of closing it out but I think that they’re going to be a changed group and that they’ve got to be the favorites at this point.”

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