Via RLL Racing Twitter page

Fresh livery, fresh hopes for Rahal, Jakes and RLL at Houston

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Although it’s been a struggle for most of the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, the team stands a good chance of playing spoiler to the proverbial heavy hitters this weekend. It’s a race promoted by team co-owner, Mike Lanigan.

RLL enters the Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston doubleheader weekend with Graham Rahal riding renewed confidence and momentum in working with new engineer Neil Fife, and James Jakes seeking his third Firestone Fast Six appearance on a street course.

Rahal’s been busy during IndyCar’s month-long break, having participated in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course test and providing invaluable feedback for the series as it plans for the race on the road course there next year.

After only one start better than 15th on the series’ first nine road and street course races, Rahal qualified eighth at Sonoma and should have made the Firestone Fast Six at Baltimore, before his two fastest laps were deleted for causing a red flag. He still started 12th and was a passing demon in the early stages. Additionally, his best result of the year came on a street course, with second place at Long Beach.

“We absolutely had a turn around coming out of Mid Ohio into Sonoma,” Rahal said of the recent surge. “Suddenly our team started to click with (race engi­neer) Neil (Fife) in charge. We found a balance I felt confi­dent in and started to put in some great laps. I wish we could have the ulti­mate results we deserved, but we certainly have been amongst the quickest for the last couple of races.”

Rahal races this weekend in the blu eCigs livery for another race, but with a matte black finish and blue accents, as opposed to a white, blue and black livery he had run earlier this season on his No. 15 Honda. He scored his first IndyCar (then Champ Car) podium at Houston, finishing second to teammate Sebastien Bourdais in 2007.

Jakes, meanwhile, can complete a trifecta of Firestone Fast Six appearances for the first half of doubleheader races this season. He and Dario Franchitti, who scored pole for Race 1 at both Detroit and Toronto, are the only two drivers in the field with that opportunity. Jakes finished a career-best second at Detroit Race 2 and generally has been down on luck and reliability, but not on pace of late in the No. 16 Acorn Stairlifts Honda.

“I think we have to be looking at the top three and nowhere else,” said Jakes, whose best starts this year is second for Duel 2 in Detroit. “We have been compet­i­tive on the street tracks for the most part this season and there is no reason why it should change. I’m really looking forward to the chal­lenge of the weekend and getting a solid result on the final street track of the year.”

Recapping the 2018 Dakar Rally with “best of” video highlights

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EDITOR’S NOTE: NBCSN will air additional Dakar Rally highlights on Monday at 7 p.m. ET.

As it has done so for four decades, the 40th annual Dakar Rally – the most grueling test of man and machine anywhere – produced a number of surprise finishes and also several disappointments for drivers or riders who were expected to do well in the nearly 5,600-mile trek that began in Peru and continued through Bolivia and ending in Argentina.

NBCSN has aired highlights from all 14 stages (actually 13, because one stage was completely rained out) during the Rally’s two-week run, which concluded Saturday.

Here’s some of the “best of” highlights from the overall Rally highlights, followed by a quick guide that gives you wrapups to all 14 stages.

So, without further adieu, here’s NBCSN’s “best of” the 2018 Dakar Rally:

2018 Dakar Rally: Best of cars

2018 Dakar Rally: Best of bikes

2018 Dakar Rally: Best of trucks

2018 Dakar Rally: Best of quads

Lastly, here’s a day-by-day wrapup of how the Rally played out.

MORE: Dakar Rally daily stages schedule, NBCSN broadcast schedule, list of all competitors.

MORE: Stage 14 overall Rally wrapup

MORE: Stage 13 wrapup

MORE: Stage 12 wrapup

MORE: Stage 11 wrapup

MORE: Stage 10 wrapup

MORE: Stage 9 cancelled due to weather, impassible course conditions

MORE: Stage 8 wrapup

MORE: Stage 7 wrapup

MORE: Stage 6 wrapup

MORE: Stage 5 wrapup

MORE: Stage 4 wrapup

MORE: Stage 3 wrapup

MORE: Stage 2 wrapup

MORE: Stage 1 wrapup