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2018 Portland: Rahal Letterman Lanigan IndyCar Race Preview
Posted by: newsla on Aug 29, 2018 - 06:18 PM
IndyCar Weekend Team Reports
2018 Portland: Rahal Letterman Lanigan IndyCar Race Preview



Indy car racing will return to Portland International Raceway (PIR) for the first time since the 24th consecutive race was held in 2007. It will mark the 13th time for Rahal Letterman Lanigan (RLL) Racing to compete in an Indy car race here and first since 2003 when Michel Jourdain Jr. started second but contact with Paul Tracy led to a 12th place finish. The team competed in CART and Champ Car-sanctioned races here from 1992-2003 with a best starting position of pole by Bryan Herta in 1998 and Max Papis in 2001 and best finish of first place by Max Papis in 2001. RLL has earned a total of three podium finishes (3rd – B. Rahal 1995, Herta 1998) and has led a total of 89 laps here (1998: Herta, 20; 2001 Papis, 69). In addition, the team competed in the Toyota Atlantic races here in 2003 (Danica Patrick, Jon Fogerty) and 2004 (Patrick and Chris Festa).

Prior to 2018, the team prepared a total of 22 Indy car entries for drivers such as Bobby Rahal (1992-1998), Mike Groff (1993-94), Raul Boesel (1995), Bryan Herta (1996-99), Max Papis (1999-2001), Kenny Brack (2000-01), Jimmy Vasser (2002) and Michel Jourdain (2002-2003). The No. 15 One Cure Honda entry for Graham Rahal and the No. 30 Mi-Jack / Panasonic Honda entry for Takuma Sato will bring that total to 24 in 2018.


It will be the fourth overall race for Graham at PIR and second in the main event. He competed in the 2007 Champ Car World Series race where he started eighth and finished ninth in his rookie season for Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing. He started from pole in the Atlantics race here in 2006 but was hit by Simon Pagenaud on Lap 1 and finished 27th. In 2005, he earned his first professional win at PIR in the Star Mazda race after starting fourth and winning by a margin of 0.0317 seconds.

“I’m excited to go back to Portland. It’s a great venue that has held a lot of historic Indy car races. It’s a place that I grew up going to and really enjoyed with my dad. For me the region has a lot of importance in my career. Getting my first Star Mazda win comes to mind as does getting the pole in Formula Atlantic before getting hit in the first corner. I actually got my first national victory there in a go-kart race, which was big for me, at Pat’s Acres which is just southeast of town. PIR and the Portland area in general holds a special place in my career. I have a lot of fond memories so I’m excited to go back to race. It’s great for IndyCar fans in the Pacific Northwest. We have not been there in a long time and there is really not a lot of racing in the Pacific Northwest so this is a really, really key event for the region. I know there are a lot of people that are very excited. I had a lot of people comment about how excited they were for our return when I was at the NHRA event in Seattle.”


The Grand Prix of Portland will be Takuma Sato’s first race here. He and his fellow competitors will participate in an open test on Thursday before the official weekend gets started on Friday.

“Going to a new event is always interesting and exciting. On the technical side, we will get the data from the engineers and information on the characteristics and discuss the setup to prepare for the event. Personally, I think the area is one of the most beautiful. The Portland track looks like it has a great history of races. I’ve never been there but I am excited to go.”


“When I went back for the announcement, I got to see the track. The layout is slightly different but in essence, it’s very similar to what it originally was. There are definitely some wider corners leading on to the back straight that could open up some passing opportunities if people are feeling feisty. It will be interesting to see how that plays out. Overall, in essence, the basic layout of the track is the same.”


“The test is huge for us. I think it’s going to be big to just get our bearings straight. We’ve got two races left in the season and we’ve got to get a win. We have to. Definitely having the test day is a great opportunity.

“The open test is extremely important for us. We haven’t been able to do a lot of testing this year due to the limitations. The last time we had a successful test was at Road America and we had a very strong weekend there. Once we have had a hopefully good test to collect very valuable data, the team can quickly analyze it and then that will be a huge help before we start the official event.”


Takuma’s best finish of the season is third place on the Iowa Speedway short oval but his fourth place finish at Road America was equally impressive. He has been on target for other strong finishes on road and street courses but a variety of challenges have presented themselves. He is cautiously optimistic of a competitive weekend in Portland.

“It’s a bit too early to say how competitive we will be but we will try to make the most of it. We have been competitive at some of the road courses, and at some we were not as much and we’re not sure why, but in recent road course races we have been competitive so hopefully we can find a good balance at the test on Thursday to go into the official weekend.”


Bobby Rahal won at PIR on June 14, 1987 with Truesports after starting third. He also finished second in 1989 and third in 1991 and 1995 – the 1995 finish coming with Rahal Hogan Racing.

“Portland is a tough race track and I always enjoyed going there. There are fabulous race fans and it’s a fabulous part of the country. I don’t think there is a prettier part of the country when the sun is out. It was always great to see Mt. Hood from the paddock. It’s been at least two years in the making and I’m really pleased that the event is on our schedule. My understanding is that ticket sales are good and I know it will be a great race. The last Champ Car race at Portland was run under difficult conditions with a lot of rain off and on but it was a good race. It was Graham’s rookie season with Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing and they had a pretty good race. He raced there in Star Mazda and Atlantics but Takuma has not been there. Our pace on road courses has been pretty good so I’m looking forward to a going back to the Pacific Northwest and having a good weekend.”


Heading into Round 16 of 17, Rahal has a total of 371 points and is ranked eighth overall. He trails fifth place Ryan Hunter-Reay by 50 (421). Takuma Sato is 13th with 290.

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