Rahal and RLL overcome on day 1 in St. Petersburg

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ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. – For Graham Rahal and the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team, Friday at St. Petersburg was a rousing success.

Second place in practice, and a trouble-free day considering the transporter fire that altered the game plan this week, was quite an end result for the driver of the No. 15 National Guard Honda.

“We weren’t planning on using (this transporter) until Long Beach,” Rahal told the assembled media after practice. “You can still smell the smoke at the truck, even though this one wasn’t affected.”

The transporter is a backup but the No. 15 car is still the primary chassis, and Rahal said he just feels in a rhythm at this track.

Additionally, he was pleased with how much the Honda twin-turbo engine has come just since the Barber Motorsports Park test two weeks ago.

“For some reason, I felt at Barber that we lacked something,” Rahal said. “But today, the engine felt totally different than it did two weeks ago. The thing is, we’ll get stronger.”

The team nearly had Oriol Servia, its second driver for the next four races, in a car this weekend. But some lucky last-minute intuition from the boss, Bobby Rahal, was a nice saving grace considering what happened.

“Oriol wanted to, and it was close… but dad said, ‘Something’s telling me we need to wait,'” said the younger Rahal. “He’s still in on debriefs, has the headset on. He’s watching every minute. He’s still the guy.”

Servia makes his season debut next race at Long Beach. Meanwhile for Graham and the rest of the RLL crew, who did well on the first day of the season, it’s onto practice 3 and qualifying on Saturday.

F1 races in Austin, Mexico City hitting financial rough patches

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AUSTIN, Texas — Two of Formula One’s three races in North America are facing financial issues that are raising concern about their future.

Organizers of the U.S. Grand Prix won’t get at least $20 million from the state of Texas for the 2018 race after missing a paperwork deadline set by state law. And new questions lurk about the future of the Mexican Grand Prix after the country’s new president suggested the government may not spend on the race like it has the last four years.

Both races have been popular with drivers and fans, and have enjoyed key dates on the F1 calendar. Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton clinched season championships in Texas in 2015 and in Mexico City in 2017 and 2018.

Officials in Formula One and at the Circuit of the Americas, host of the U.S. Grand Prix, did not immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday.