Mix of nostalgia and focusing forward for Rahal in Pocono

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Bobby Rahal and the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team had a better weekend in Iowa than the month previous. Now, the 1988 Pocono winner returns to the 2.5-mile oval for this weekend’s IZOD IndyCar Series race as a team owner, and hopes that his drivers Graham Rahal and James Jakes can enjoy a second half surge.

“When I won in 1988 that was the one and only victory with a Judd engine in the history of Judd,” the senior Rahal recalled in the team’s advance release. “To be honest, we weren’t the fastest although we qualified well (third). The Chevy’s were much more powerful than the Judd was at the time but it was a battle of attrition and in the end Al (Unser) Sr. and I had a fight.

“He was Chevy-powered and with Penske and the Chevy was very strong at the time but we just outlasted everybody which was somewhat unusual with that engine because we suffered with reliability earlier in the year. In the end we were the last ones standing so to speak.

“What made that race even more special was that earlier in the week we had broken ground on my first automobile dealership in Mechanicsburg, PA. that started the Automotive Group we’ve got going today, and won the race too. It was a special week.”

Jakes ended Thursday’s test after 104 laps in 10th; Graham Rahal 22nd after experimenting with different downforce levels in his 141 laps. Rahal ended the session with a slight brush against the Turn 1, with minimal exterior damage. The team also tested at Pocono immediately after Iowa last week.

“The aero configuration is a little bit different from the test and the weather was different too, it was a little warmer and windy today,” said Jakes. “It’s hard to say how different the car is but I think we had a productive day. We certainly tested a lot which is what we needed to do. Generally on the super speedways we’ve been pretty good so we’ve just got to keep on working hard and make improvements overall. Hopefully we can make some steps and Honda can as well to be in a position to fight right at the top come Sunday.”

“I didn’t feel a ton more downforce (in the car) but I know that there is since last week’s test,” said Rahal. “We struggled with our car a little bit today so to say that I felt it wouldn’t be true. Frankly I felt the other tire was a little bit better for my car but we couldn’t run it with the blistering so we will have to make the most of what we’ve got here. We’ll keep working hard on it.

Marco Andretti confident that fewer tests won’t hurt Andretti Autosport

Photo: IndyCar
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A small point of debate around the 2018 aero kit has been the manufacturer test days that took place through the Fall of 2017 and into the beginning of 2018. Chiefly, the debate has centered around teams who hadn’t participated in those manufacturer test days and if they’re starting the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season at a disadvantage as a result.

Team Penske, Ed Carpenter Racing, and A.J. Foyt Racing completed test days for Chevrolet, with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Chip Ganassi Racing doing so for Honda.

That left teams like Andretti Autosport out of the mix, with some voicing concerns as a result.

However, in a press conference during testing at ISM Raceway last weekend, Marco Andretti explained that he thinks Andretti Autosport should be able to catch up on development, citing the team’s resources – they’re the only IndyCar team with four full-time cars in their stable – and the fact that everyone is still adapting to the new kit.

“I feel like it’s early enough days that, yes, we can catch up,” Andretti said at ISM Raceway. “When there is anything new, a new car, new aero kit, at-track days are huge. We can sim all these things we want. To really get out there and confirm what we’re learning back at the shop is another thing.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay during testing at ISM Raceway. Photo: IndyCar

Andretti continued, “Yeah, I don’t think we should look at it like we’re behind the eight ball. With a four-car team, that’s where we can use it to our benefit. So far so good.”

Teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay, echoed Andretti’s sentiments, adding that while the situation is not perfect, they will need to adapt to it in order to remain competitive.

“Any time you have a new car, to put it into perspective, we’re on track three days on a road course before we get to (the season open in St. Petersburg). That’s a very short amount of time. It’s obviously not ideal, but we’re just going to lace up our boots and get on with it. That’s all you can do.”

Andretti Autosport will have one more team test, at Sebring International Raceway later on in February, before the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

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