Photo: IndyCar

Rahal, Sato keep RLL on top in session two at ISM Raceway

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Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing backed up their strong pace from Practice 1 at ISM Raceway – Takuma Sato topped speed charts in the afternoon – and put Graham Rahal’s No. 15 United Rentals Honda and Takuma Sato’s No. 30 Mijack Honda 1-2 on the board during Practice 2 on Friday night.

Both drivers averaged above 189 mph on their fastest laps, with Rahal’s 189.090 just barely getting the better of Sato’s 189.065.

“So far, so good. The car’s pretty quick on its own. What’s cool is Takuma is right there with us,” Rahal quipped to Katie Hargitt during the streaming coverage for the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.

However, Rahal also added that he and the team are battling some setup issues, despite the strong pace they’ve demonstrated.

“I have some understeer that we’ve been fighting all day, using the outside front tire really, really hard, so we’re working on that. But, when you get in heavy traffic, the rear kind of wobbles around a little bit. So, some of that’s caused by the front catching and releasing and stuff like that, and some of it’s is stuff we’ve got to work on in the back.”

Still, as he detailed in a video on the team’s twitter page, there’s plenty of optimism early on.

“We only used one set of tires all afternoon, and I know many other teams used two, and in some cases, three, sets to try to keep up,” Rahal detailed in the aforementioned video. “So, I’m pleased with our performance, I’m pleased with the pace. We need to work on our car in the long runs a little bit, so we’re going to focus on that tomorrow. But, like I said, we saved a lot of tires, so we’ll have more tires, more time to work on it (on Saturday). But, so far, so good. I’m really proud of this team because to show up and have pace like that is excellent.”

Behind Rahal and Sato, Simon Pagenaud ended up third for Team Penske in his No. 22 Menards Chevrolet, with teammate Josef Newgarden right behind him in the No. 1 Hitachi Chevrolet.

A.J. Foyt Racing’s Tony Kanaan completed a strong first day for the Foyt team, ending up fifth in the No. 14 ABC Suppler Chevrolet.

While the early afternoon session saw sporadic running at times – only Kyle Kaiser did more than 60 laps, with the 23-car field covering 943 laps around the one-mile oval – the night session saw a dramatic uptick in running.

Over half of the field did more than 70 laps of running, with three drivers totaling more than 100 laps. Josef Newgarden led the way in that category, with 123 circuits during Practice 2, while the entire field covered 1,704 circuits, nearly doubling the amount of laps covered from the afternoon.

Practice 2 also saw a number of stoppages for track inspections, though the session was remarkably clean. Matheus Leist was the only driver to find trouble on track, the 19-year-old going for a brief spin exiting Turn 2. However, he did not make any wall contact and ended up tenth at the end of the session.

Results can be found here. Testing continues on Saturday with two more sessions, the first at 3:00 p.m. ET and the second at 8:00 p.m. ET, with steaming again available via IndyCar’s website.

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NHRA: Brittany Force cleared to race this weekend in Phoenix after bad wreck 2 weeks ago

Photo: John Force Racing
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Drag racing is a Force family tradition. So, too, is not keeping a Force family member down.

Just 12 days after the most serious wreck of her six-year drag racing career, Brittany Force and John Force Racing announced late Thursday afternoon that the defending 2017 NHRA Top Fuel champion has been medically cleared and will indeed race in this weekend’s NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in suburban Phoenix, Arizona.

“I flew into Phoenix early this (Thursday) morning and headed straight out to the race track to meet up with my team,” Force said. “I suited up and got belted back into my car that I ran all last season.

“It honestly felt good to be strapped back in and I was surprised how comfortable I was. I’m looking forward to getting back in my car tomorrow (Friday’s first two rounds of qualifying) and getting back in the swing of things with my guys.”

The 31-year-old Force, one of four daughters of 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ John Force, suffered a concussion and bruising after the hard crash she was involved in on February 11 in the first round of eliminations of the season-opening NHRA Lucas Oil Winternationals in Pomona, California.

Shortly after leaving the starting line in a race vs. Terry Haddock, Force’s dragster crossed from the right to left lanes, impacted the retaining wall with a very hard lateral crash, bounced off, spun, went on its side and briefly caught fire after crossing the finish line wheels-up.

While she is still recovering from the bruising, Force feels strong enough to get back behind the wheel. Getting back in the race car could be the best medicine of all, since she has three runner-up finishes in Phoenix, including back-to-back second-place showings in both the 2016 and 2017 national events.

The three-day event kicks off Friday with qualifying rounds at 4 and 6:30 p.m. ET, the same times as Saturday’s qualifying. Final eliminations begin at 1 p.m. ET Sunday.