2017 Sonoma: Rahal Letterman Lanigan IndyCar Race Preview
NEWS & NOTES:
DATE: September 15-17, 2017
SPECIAL PROGRAMMING: Graham Rahal will be the featured driver on “INDYCAR: Next,” a 30-minute special that
will air on NBCSN Friday, September 15 at 8 p.m. ET.
PRACTICE BROADCASTS: Live on NBCSN on Friday, September 15 from 5:00-6:30 p.m. ET. Also live from 1:00-
1:45 p.m. ET on Indycar.com, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter and on Saturday from 2:00-2:45 p.m. ET and 2:30-3:00 p.m. ET on Sunday.
QUALIFYING BROADCAST: Live at 6:30 p.m. ET Saturday, September 16 on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts
INDYCAR Radio Network (AAPIRN), the INDYCAR 17 app and www.indycar.com (video streaming and timing & scoring + live analysis).
RACE BROADCAST: Live on NBCSN beginning at 6:30 p.m. ET Sunday, September 17, the INDYCAR 17 app
and www.indycar.com (timing & scoring + live analysis).
RADIO BROADCAST: Live on the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network, Sirius 212, XM 209
TRACK LAYOUT: 2.385-mile, 12-turn road course
RACE LENGTH: 85 laps / 202.73 miles
2016 WINNER: Simon Pagenaud
2016 POLESITTER: Simon Pagenaud (1:16.2565 / 112.594 mph)
RAHAL’S BEST ROAD/
STREET START/FINISH: Pole at St. Pete (street) 2009 / 1st at St. Pete in 2008 and Mid-Ohio in 2015
RAHAL’S BEST SONOMA
START/FINISH: 6th in 2009 with NHLR & 2015 with RLL / 5th in 2012 with SCCGR; will be his 9th Indy
car race here
CLAMAN DeMELO’S BEST
FINISH: IndyCar Series and Sonoma Raceway debut; best Indy Lights R/S start – 2nd at IMS /
best Indy Lights R/S finish – 1st at Road America 2017
RLLR’S BEST START/
FINISH AT SONOMA: 5th in 2016 (Rahal) / 2nd in 2005 (Buddy Rice) and 2016 (Rahal)
NOTES & QUOTES:
TENTH INDYCAR RACE AT SONOMA FOR RLL RACING
The 2017 GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma race will mark the 10th Indy car event for RLLR here. The highest start for the team here is fifth by Graham Rahal in 2016. The highest finish is second place by Buddy Rice in 2005 and Graham Rahal in 2016. Prior to the 2017 event, the team prepared a total of 15 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), James Jakes (2013) and Graham Rahal (2013-2016). The team has earned two podiums (2nd – Rice 2005, Rahal 2015), two top-five’s and five top-10 finishes at the track. The No. 15 United Rentals / SoldierStrong entry for Graham Rahal and the No. 13 Paysafe entry for Zachary Claman DeMelo will bring the Indy car total to 17 entries in 2017.
INDYCAR SEASON FINALE A DOUBLE POINTS RACE
Double points will be awarded for the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma. One-hundred points will be awarded to the winner of a double-points race, with the runner-up receiving 80 points and the third-place finisher receiving 70 points. The scale decreases to 10 points for the 25th-place finisher and lower. Bonus points will be awarded to the pole winner (one point) and for leading the most race laps (two points) and leading at least one lap (one point).
2016 SONOMA REWIND FOR GRAHAM AND THE 2017 POINT STANDINGS
In 2016, Graham entered the Sonoma race seventh in points and jumped to fifth in season-ending standings after finishing second. This year, Rahal arrives after wins in the Detroit doubleheaders and a total of three podiums and six, top-five finishes and again seventh in series point standings with a total of 466. He is 94 points behind leader Josef Newgarden (560), 91 behind second place Scott Dixon (557), 72 behind third place Helio Castroneves (538), 60 behind fourth place Simon Pagenaud (526), 26 behind fifth place Will Power (492) and 10 behind sixth place Alexander Rossi (476), who moved ahead of Rahal with his win in the previous race at Watkins Glen. He is mathematically in contention for the title although a long shot but is looking forward to the opportunity to end the season strong.
“Hopefully we can finish in the top five, which would be great. Everything is going to have to go our way to do that. We are close to Rossi and not that far off of Power so we’ll keep our heads down and keep working hard. We lost two opportunities towards the end of the season at Pocono and St. Louis which was disappointing but certainly Sonoma should be a good one for us. We’ll see how it plays out. We are focused on going out and winning the race which would put us in the best case scenario.”
GRAHAM ON HIS EXPECTATIONS FOR SONOMA
“Expectations are always high going into race weekend but I think we have been good on the road courses this year overall. “We have a lot to work on though. I don’t think we were great at Watkins Glen, which was disappointing, but we just need to keep working hard like we have been and put the United Rentals / SoldierStrong Honda up front. We’ve got one race to go and it’s important to us to finish off strong and try to get in the top five in the championship.”
GRAHAM ON THE 2017 SEASON AND 2018 OUTLOOK
Like every season, there were high’s and low’s for all drivers and teams including RLL. Naturally, Rahal pointed to his dominating weekend in Detroit as the highlight.
“The 2017 season has been a great one for us overall. Getting the two back-to-back wins in Detroit, a pole and starting third the next day was a highlight for me. It’s going to be a year that we definitely remember but I’m also extremely eager to go into 2018. I think we will be even better and much stronger next year, performance wise.”
GRAHAM AT SONOMA
The 2017 GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma will be Graham Rahal’s 10th Indy car race here. His best start is fifth place and best finish is second – both in 2016 with RLLR – and he has finished in the top-10 in five of his nine races. In 2016, he started fifth and held the position until his first stop on Lap 15. He returned to the track in sixth place. Once he passed Daly, who had yet to stop, on Lap 16 he returned to fifth place. Third place Castroneves, who was on a four stop strategy to Rahal’s three-stop one, pitted on Lap 29 and he moved into fourth. Championship contender Will Power, who had previously been second, had gear issues after Lap 30 and Rahal moved to third before his second stop under caution for Power on Lap 36. He returned to the track in fourth place behind Kimball, who was on a four stop strategy. On Lap 42, he passed Kimball for third and moved into second on Lap 50 when Castroneves pitted. He took the lead on Lap 61 when Pagenaud pitted before he went one lap longer and made his final stop on Lap 62. He returned to the track in third place but reclaimed second once Castroneves pitted on Lap 69. He closed to one second on leader Pagenaud for much of the time but the rear of his race car was loose when he got too close and he was unable to make a pass. He took the checkered flag in second place and moved to a fifth place rank in series standings from sixth. In 2015, he started sixth and struggled with the handling of the rear of the race car for the majority of the race and the field also dealt with tire management. He was in sixth place with 9 laps to go when Sebastien Bourdais hit him from behind and he dropped to 19th. Bourdais was penalized for “avoidable contact” and had to serve a drive through but the incident dropped Rahal from a third-place series standing to fourth and he finished the race in 18th place. In 2014, he avoided a multi-car collision on the start and moved from his 14th place qualifying position to 12th. He pit out of sequence on Lap 8 and cycled up to fourth before his second stop where he pit under caution with Sato and Conway, but those two topped off two additional times before green conditions which helped them later. Rahal climbed back into fourth when the majority of the field pitted during a caution for Saavedra and later passed Briscoe, Kanaan and Conway to take the lead on Lap 64 of 85 which he held until Lap 81 when he had to pit for 2.2 gallons of fuel. Due to extreme fuel conservation, the fuel setting he had been running in didn’t have Pit Lane Speed control and he was given a drive through penalty for speeding when he entered the pits for his splash of fuel and served it on Lap 84 of 85 which ultimately resulted in a 20th place finish. 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. Made the final Firestone Fast Six in qualifying six times in the seven road/street races in 2009 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 8th here in 2008 with NHLR.
ZACHARY CLAMAN DeMELO TO MAKE HIS INDYCAR DEBUT
Zach Claman DeMelo, 19, who finished fifth in 2017 Indy Lights standings, will make his Verizon IndyCar Series debut with the team at Sonoma Raceway. DeMelo, who is from Montreal, Quebec, Canada, earned four podium finishes in the 2017 Indy Lights season, including a win at Road America. Paysafe, a leading global payments provider, is the primary partner of the No. 13 Honda entry. Claman DeMelo participated in a one-day test at Sonoma in an Indy Lights car before he competed in the series from 2016-2017. As it was only his second day in that type of race car, the focus was on adjusting to the car more than anything. He is looking forward to achieving his dream of competing in the IndyCar Series.
“Since I made the move to cars from karts I always knew that I either wanted to get a chance to race in the IndyCar Series or F1. So to get this opportunity is a big deal for me and I can’t thank Paysafe or Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing enough. I think Sonoma in general is a great track! It’s really up and down which is exciting. You have some fast sections and hard braking and a lot of blind corners so it’s a cool place with a bit of everything. My favorite part would have to be Turn 2. It’s just so uphill and really fun to drive. I’ve been in the gym every day. I want to make sure I’m in the best shape I can be and make a big splash at Sonoma. I’ve been watching as many onboard videos as possible and staying in touch with the team.”
ZACH ON THE ADDED BONUS OF THE THURSDAY TEST DAY
The full field will arrive to Sonoma Raceway a day early to participate in an open test on Thursday prior to the official race weekend starting on Friday. Claman DeMelo is looking forward to the extra track time.
“I’m excited about that as I think any extra time I can get in the car will benefit me. I have a lot to learn and this Thursday’s test will really help with that. Hopefully by the end of Thursday I understand the car a lot more and can push to be in the top on Friday.”
ZACH ON HIS FIRST INDY CAR TEST & THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A LIGHTS AND INDY CAR
“The first time I tested an Indy car I was more excited than anything! The night before all I could think about was the test day. Overall after driving the car my feelings were that it’s more physical to drive than the Indy Lights car, but easier also. I say easier because the Lights car has less down force and a harder tire so because of those factors you are a lot busier with the wheel in the Lights car.”
ZACH ON HIS APPROACH TO THE TEST AND RACE WEEKEND AND HIS SUPPORT SYSTEM ON SITE
“My approach is going to be to go in with an open mind and learn as much as I can. I think to set expectations is always hard but as a driver and competitive person I want to be at the front running with the best guys and showing that I can compete. If I had to set one goal throughout the weekend it would just be to keep on progressing and learn every time I go out on track. I will have some close family friends who will watch and I believe my family will come. I know a lot of friends from home will be watching, but I thought it was best to keep it quiet at the track and focus on the job I’m there to do.”