RAHAL - Detroit Preview
Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix – The Raceway at Belle Isle Park
Round 7 and 8 of 17 in the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series
DATE: May 31 – June 2, 2019
PRACTICE BROADCASTS: Live on INDYCAR Pass, the direct-to-consumer streaming product from NBC Sports Gold, on Friday from 10:55-11:40 a.m., 2:50-3:35 p.m. and 3:50-4:20 p.m. All times Eastern. Also live on the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network (AAPIRN) and www.indycar.com (timing & scoring + live analysis).
QUALIFYING BROADCASTS: Race 1 is live on INDYCAR Pass from 10:45-11:15 a.m. ET and tape-delayed on NBCSN from 12:00-12:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 1. Race 2 is live on NBCSN and INDYCAR Pass from 10:30-11:30 a.m. on Sunday, June 2. Also live on the AAPIRN and www.indycar.com (timing & scoring + live analysis).
RACE BROADCASTS: Live on Saturday, June 1 and Sunday, June 2 beginning at 3 p.m. ET on NBC, INDYCAR Pass and the AAPIRN. Coverage will also air on Sirius 113 and XM 209.
TRACK LAYOUT: 2.35-mile, 13-turn temporary street course
RACE LENGTH: 70 laps / 164.5 miles (each race)
2018 WINNER(S): Scott Dixon (Race 1) and Ryan Hunter-Reay (Race 2)
2018 POLESITTER(S): Marco Andretti (113.024; Race 1) and Alexander Rossi (90.661; Race 2)
RAHAL’S HIGHEST SERIES START / FINISH: Pole at St. Pete (street) 2009, Kansas (oval) 2009, Detroit Race 1 (street) 2017 / 1st in St. Pete in 2008, Fontana & Mid-Ohio 2015, Texas 2016, Detroit Race 1 & Race 2 2017
RAHAL’S BEST DETROIT START / FINISH: 1st in 2017 in Race 1 / 1st in Race 1 and Race 2 in 2017; will be his 14th & 15th starts here
SATO’S HIGHEST SERIES START/FINISH: Pole at Iowa (oval) 2011, Edmonton (street) 2011, Houston Race 1 (street) 2013, St.Pete (street) 2014, Detroit Race 2 (street) 2014, Detroit Race 2 2017, Pocono (oval) 2017, Barber (road) 2019 / 1st in Long Beach (2013), Indianapolis 500 (2017), Portland (road), Barber (2019)
SATO’S BEST START / FINISH AT DETROIT: 1st in 2014 & 2017 (both Race 2) with AA & Foyt / 2nd in 2015 (Race 2) with Foyt; will be his 14th and 15th races here
RLL’S BEST START / FINISH AT DETROIT: 1st – Graham Rahal (2017, Race 1) / 3 wins: Bobby Rahal (1992 inaugural Belle Isle event), Graham Rahal (2017, Race 1 & Race 2)
NEWS & NOTES:
DETROIT DOMINATION IN 2017 & PODIUM FINISHES FOUR OF THE PAST SIX YEARS AT BELLE ISLE
The 2019 Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix will mark the NTT IndyCar Series’ 10th visit to Detroit, and it’s eighth since 2008. The Motor City hosted Indy car racing from 1989-91 in Downtown Detroit. The race moved to Belle Isle Park from 1992-2001 and 2007-2008 and returned in 2012. The 2019 event will mark the 20th year for Rahal Letterman Lanigan (RLL) Racing to compete at the Raceway at Belle Isle Park and the team’s 26th and 27th races here.
The team’s highest start of pole came in 2017 with Graham Rahal earning his first pole since 2009 in Race 1. Bobby and Graham Rahal have earned a combined total of three wins for the team here. Bobby won the inaugural race in 1992 and Graham is the only driver to have won both races on the same weekend, which he did in 2017. In total, the team has earned seven podiums (2nd - G. Rahal 2014, Jakes 2013 & Max Papis 2000), (3rd – G. Rahal 2015) eight top-five finishes and 16 top-10’s here (chart available). Prior to 2019, the team prepared a total of 31 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), Ryan Hunter-Reay (2007-08) Takuma Sato (2012, 2018), Graham Rahal (2013-2018), James Jakes (2013) and Oriol Servia (2017). The No. 15 Fifth Third Bank / United Rentals Honda entry for Graham Rahal and the No. 30 Mi-Jack / Panasonic Honda for Takuma Sato will bring that total to 33 in 2019. Rahal will compete in Fifth Third Bank livery for Race 1 and a United Rentals livery for Race 2.
GRAHAM RAHAL RETURNS TO DETROIT AFTER DOMINATING IN 2017 & RUNNING STRONG IN 2018
The event will mark Graham Rahal’s 14th and 15th races here. Last year, he was in second place until he lost control of his race car on the out-lap from his final stop and made hard contact with the wall in Turns 13-14 and retired in 23rd place after starting eighth. For Race 2, he started ninth and finished fifth. In 2017, Rahal was either first or second in every on-track session including qualifying and each race. In Dual 1 last year, Rahal earned his first pole since Kansas 2009 and led a dominating 55 of 70 laps en route to his fifth series victory and first ever from pole. He handily held the lead with the exception of pit cycles and built a gap of more than 13 seconds at one point before he ultimately won by a six-second margin over Scott Dixon. For Dual 2, Rahal set the second fastest time in his qualifying group 2 to Sato to start third. In the race, he passed Hunter-Reay on Lap 8 and closed the gap to pole sitter and leader Sato but could not pass. Sato pit one lap earlier than Rahal, who took the lead on Lap 23 before he made his first of two stops on Lap 24 and returned to the track behind Newgarden who was on a three-stop strategy. Once Newgarden pit on Lap 29, Rahal took over the lead and steadily built his gap to second place to 16 seconds over Sato before his second and final stop on Lap 47. He then proceeded to build an 18 second gap over second place before he caught traffic. That reduced his lead to new second place runner Newgarden to 5.5 seconds before a red flag came out for the car of Pigot, who experienced a smoky end. All race cars were stopped in pit lane for approximately 10 minutes while the track was cleared and an attempt to remove marbles was made. The race resumed with a two lap shootout and Rahal utilized his 57 seconds of Push to Pass over Newgarden’s 36 to keep the lead on the restart before he was able to pull a slight gap before the checkered flag to become the first winner of both races in Detroit. In total, he led 41 of 70 laps. His other podiums in the race came in 2014 with second place in Dual 1 and third place in Dual 2 in 2015. Overall, he has two wins, four podiums and one pole in 13 races here. He is looking to put the disappointment of losing the opportunity to maximize perhaps his best opportunity to win the Indy 500 behind him after contact while passing for fifth place in the pivotal final stage of the race took him out of the event.
“Detroit has always been one of my favorites,” said Rahal. “It’s one of those races we get pumped up for and get excited to go to and be a part of. I'm excited to turn the page and get there. I think we'll be pretty strong. I remember vividly coming to the race as a kid. It’s always been a great event but Mr. Penske, Bud Denker and everyone have done a great job. We came back and it was bumpy and since then, the paving job they have done is amazing. The restoration of the fountain and everything they have done has transformed the entire place. Between my dad winning the first race on Belle Isle and the almost-perfect weekend I had in 2017, dad and I have a lot of pride in coming here. It’s probably the only place in my entire career that I can say that I have more wins at than my dad at any sort of venue because he’s won everywhere else. Detroit is a special place for me. It will be a good weekend with the double header races and a big opportunity to get some points and have a really strong run."
TAKUMA’S STRONG RUNS IN DETROIT
The 2019 race will be Takuma’s 14th and 15th here. In 13 races, his best start is two poles (2014 with A.J. Foyt Racing, 2017 with Andretti Autosport), best finish is second in 2015 with AFR and he has led a total of 44 laps in three races. He started in the top-five in four of 13 races and earned three, top-five and five, top-10 finishes. Last year, He started seventh and finished fifth to earn his best finish of the season to date and begin to create some momentum that has carried through to this year. He had a minor setback with Race 2 when he started 20th and an alternate fuel strategy didn’t pay off due to timing of caution periods and other factors and he finished 17th. In 2017 he qualified third for Dual 1 and finished eighth and won pole for Race 2 and finished fourth for Andretti Autosport after leading 22 laps. And in 2012 with RLL, he qualified 12th and retired in 20th after contact. His comeback run to third place in the Indy 500 after dropping to 31st due to an issue on his first pit stop has him even more excited about continuing the momentum.
"After the month of May we get used to the speed and smoothness, then we go to one of the bumpiest tracks in the series but we love Detroit,” said Sato. “I personally like Detroit and have some great memories with podiums and poles and the team has good history too so this year I think we can come back much more competitive. I think last year we missed the little things. Hopefully this year we can carry great momentum after the month of May. It's an important race for the rest of the season because last year everything started really hooking up after Detroit and we have been able to build on that. I would say our team is more comfortable with the street course set up and is working better. The trend is still there this year. I think we will be in great shape."
THE POINT STANDINGS
Takuma Sato is ranked fourth in series point standings with 203 to leader Simon Pagenaud’s 250. Graham Rahal dropped from a pre-Indy 500 rank of seventh to 12th with 123 points after the double point’s race.
- RLL -
Tom has been a contributor to RIS since 1992, and has covered IndyCar, Formula 1, NASCAR, Grand-Am, ALMS and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. In addition to his RIS work, Tom has been a contributor for General Motors, Nissan, Toyota and the ACO.