Non-championship contenders led the way in warm-up for today’s GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma (6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN). Graham Rahal was quickest for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, with a best lap of 1:16.9608, the only driver to break into the 1:16 bracket.
Behind Rahal, Ed Carpenter Racing’s Spencer Pigot was second, with a best lap of 1:17.6641. Championship contenders completed the top five, with Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon in third and Team Penske drivers Helio Castroneves and Josef Newgarden in fourth and fifth.
Of note, the remaining championship combatants Simon Pagenaud and Will Power were 16th and 19th, respectively.
The session was stopped briefly when Dixon’s teammate Max Chilton spun and stalled exiting Turn 3. However, he did not hit anything and was able to continue on, ending up 12th.
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Graham Rahal went quickest in opening practice for the Verizon IndyCar Series’ INDYCAR Grand Prix at The Glen (1:30 p.m., NBCSN), nipping Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi as on his final lap as Rossi spent most of the session at the top of the speed charts.
Rahal’s quick lap of 1:23.2603 bettered Rossi’s 1:23.4686 by two tenths of a second. Chip Ganassi Racing’s Max Chilton and Scott Dixon ended up third and fourth, with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ James Hinchcliffe in fifth, making it a top five sweep for Honda in the opening practice.
Ed Carpenter Racing’s Spencer Pigot was the quickest Chevrolet in sixth. Championship leader Josef Newgarden was ninth, with teammates and fellow title combatants Simon Pagenaud and Helio Castroneves ending up 10th and 11th respectively.
The session saw no stoppages, although a few drivers had minor incidents. Alexander Rossi had a minor off in the bus stop chicane that saw him run slightly wide into the runoff area, while James Hinchcliffe and Ryan Hunter-Reay had quick spins of their. However, none made any wall contact and all three quickly regrouped and continued on.
LONG POND, Pa – In the second half of the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway, Graham Rahal and Tony Kanaan simply put on a show. Between laps 123 and 150, the two swapped the lead no fewer than 17 times, often doing so entering Turn 3.
It was a masterful display of overtaking from two of the sport’s best drivers, and helped define a day that saw the Verizon IndyCar Series set a record for lead changes at Pocono (42) and record more than 500 on-track passes for position.
However, despite battling for the lead and running strongly all race long, neither driver got the finishes they were looking for. Rahal in particular faded over the last two stints, with fuel strategy from others also dropping him down the order. Rahal could do no better than ninth at the checkered flag.
“We just fell back a bit there,” Rahal lamented while speaking with NBCSN’s Anders Krohn afterward. “We had a really good race car. A little too draggy on downforce. We never got (to take wing out) out at the pit stops. Unfortunately as people saw, we lost a bit of time, then we (pitted) in the middle of a group. It was all about trying to recover.”
Despite the disappointment, Rahal, who led nine laps on the day, remained upbeat and complimentary of the effort from Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.
“Everyone did a great job on the (No. 15 team). Strategy, we’ll see if we could be better. It’s certainly capable of running in the top 3. I didn’t have (Alexander Rossi’s) pace. When we were up with (Tony Kanaan), if that train could’ve kept going, I would’ve been perfectly cool with that. That was a lot of fun.”
Kanaan, who led for 32 circuits, was able to fare better at the finish, coming home fifth. However, he also lamented that a broken wing hampered his efforts.
“That battle with Graham (Rahal) was the highlight of my race – exchanging positions back and forth for the lead,” said Kanaan. “We found out after the race that we had a broken front wing that we didn’t know about. We don’t know how it happened or when it happened. We were so strong at the beginning of the race and I couldn’t understand why we were falling back, but now we know why. Regardless, it was a great battle.”
Rahal remains sixth in the championship, but now trails leader Josef Newgarden by 76 points with three races remaining in a race that quite likely has ended his championship chances for 2017. Kanaan sits ninth in the points standings.
The Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team announced a greater partnership with Fifth Third Bank earlier this year, and will now run the car as a primary livery ahead of the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at Gateway Motorsports Park later this month on August 26.
Graham Rahal will have a slightly revised Fifth Third livery compared to Oriol Servia’s at Detroit, but it still marks another good primary sponsor to have on board the No. 15 Honda this season.
The full release is below.
Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (RLLR) announced (Tuesday) that Fifth Third Bank will be the primary sponsor for the No. 15 Honda driven by Graham Rahal in the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at Gateway Motorsports Park on August 26. It is their second Indy car event as primary sponsor after holding the role for Oriol Servia’s No. 16 entry for the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix Duals. Fifth Third Bank is in its second year as an associate sponsor for the team and extended their partnership for three more years in May 2017.
“We are excited to be a part of the return of Indy car racing at Gateway Motorsports Park,” said Steven Alonso, Group Regional President of Fifth Third Bank. “We are proud to be partnering with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing as a primary sponsor; and are looking forward to seeing Graham Rahal behind the wheel of the No. 15 Fifth Third Bank car at the Bommarito Automotive Group 500.”
“As we announced in May, we are thrilled to have extended and increased our relationship with Fifth Third Bank,” added Bobby Rahal, co-owner of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, with David Letterman and Mike Lanigan. “Having them as the primary sponsor of Graham’s car for the race outside St. Louis is part of that as was having them as the primary sponsor on Oriol Servia’s entry in Detroit. Of the markets the series races in, the St. Louis market is definitely an important one to Fifth Third Bank and we are proud to showcase the company on Graham’s entry there.”
The Bommarito Automotive Group 500 will be televised live on NBCSN at 9 p.m. ET on August 26. Graham Rahal has won two races and earned three podiums and one pole so far this season and is only 58 points behind series leader Josef Newgarden in the standings with four races left in the 2017 championship.
Graham Rahal’s initial record at his home track of the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course left a lot to be desired. In his first six starts, between 2008 and 2013, Rahal had only one top ten (eighth in 2009) and three finishes of 18th or worse.
However, between 2014 and 2016, Rahal enjoyed a run of three consecutive top fives at his home track, including a win in 2015.
In Sunday’s Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio, Rahal enjoyed a strong run that saw him in the top five the entire day before eventually finishing third, extending his top five streak at Mid-Ohio to four in a row and giving him two podiums in his last three Mid-Ohio races.
When asked about the recent run of success at his home track, Rahal credited Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s base setup as well as the race’s position late in the season, making it a vital stop during the championship push.
“You want to do a great job when you come home. So, yes, there’s part of that. I think our guys have just done a good job here and the setups have been strong. You know, it’s just every time we come here, it feels like it’s championship time and we’re pushing, we’re all pushing and at our best at that time. So it’s worked out well for us, but hopefully, we can keep this going,” Rahal discussed.
Of course, the home crowd also helps get Rahal pumped up. “I must say the crowd, the vibe, it’s tremendous here. So thank you so much to the fans that come out,” he said of the atmosphere. “It’s a blast. I mean, it makes me proud too. I know Ohio people are big sports people. I know people from lots of other states come too, lots from Indiana and up north. But it was awesome this week, and the turnout was phenomenal.”
Although Rahal lost a little ground in the championship, falling to sixth behind Will Power, he is still in the hunt, sitting sixth on 395 points, 58 behind new points leader Josef Newgarden.