One of my favorite parts of this or any Verizon IndyCar Series season is when one-off or part-time entries appear in the field, and see where they stack up against the regulars.
Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing has Luca Filippi on board its second car, the No. 16 Honda, for two weekends, the two remaining doubleheaders at Houston and Toronto.
He’s got experience at Houston, where last year he scored his first career series top-10 finish in Race 1 and also set the fastest lap in Race 2.
“For me it was a great event because I was competitive all the time, especially Race 1 where I was fighting for the podium and we were caught by a yellow and the pits closed at the wrong moment,” Filippi said in the team’s advance release, heading into the weekend. “But the pace was good and I finished in the top-10 for the first time in an Indy car.
“In Race 2, I had to start from the back of the grid because qualifying was cancelled and it went by entrant points. My pace was strong but maybe I was a little too fired up because I had already finished in the top-10 and I made a little mistake after running as high as 12th and I was probably one of the fastest cars on the circuit. I lost a lap and the race as basically over for me but still I managed to run the fastest lap of the race. I have good memories of Houston which is probably the best place for me to get back in an Indy car.”
Filippi actually praised the back half of the M.D Anderson Cancer Center Speedway at NRG Park circuit, where there’s a transition between surfaces.
“I like the section (of the track) after the back straight where you have a changing of direction and changes of surface. Where you go from concrete, to tarmac and back to concrete. It’s nice and challenging and probably where you can make up the most time from your lap time,” he said.
Additionally, he comes into doubleheader weekends knowing it’s similar to his GP2 history.
“I’m used to doubleheaders from racing in GP2,” he said. “It’s the normal format there although there is only one qualifying session and the race on Sunday is shorter. I like this format better because you have two big events and once you race Saturday you have another chance the day after. It’s challenging, especially for me since I obviously have to get used to the team and the car.”
For Filippi, although expectations will probably be modest since this is his first time back in an IndyCar since this weekend last October, there’s still two targets he could achieve.
If he beats teammate Graham Rahal in either qualifying or the race, he’ll raise his stock once again.
“I think Luca will be very fast and should be right up front,” Rahal said. “I hope he can bring as much to the table as Oriol (Servia)has for us.”
Additionally, Filippi has his first head-to-head shot against Jack Hawksworth, the rookie who’s starred on the road and street courses in the No. 98 Integrity Energee Drink BHA/BBM with Curb-Agajanian Honda entry. Filippi was presumptive favorite for the seat in the offseason before Hawksworth ultimately was named to that ride.