IndyCar: Rahal focusing on personnel, team chemistry rather than second car

2 Comments

INDIANAPOLIS – Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing is hoping a single-car focus, looking more at personnel enhancements, will serve them best in the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season.

As driver Graham Rahal indicated during Tuesday’s INDYCAR Media Day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, he and the team don’t want to add a second car merely to have a second car.

“I think there’s a plus and minus,” Rahal said. “I will say this.  We started to find a good amount of speed out of the car at the test we’ve been at. The most important thing is that the team has worked extremely well together. That’s what we learned last year wasn’t the case.

“I think we’re pretty cautious about throwing a second car in there and maybe disrupting that,” he added. “We don’t have the finances together to run a second car yet.  We have had a lot of people come to us about it.

“But I think for us to have one team that works extremely well, together with the engineering staff that we have, all the damper work, everything else that we’re doing, we’ll be fine.”

Rahal was teammates with James Jakes in 2013 for the full season. Last year, a second car ran in eight races, four apiece with Oriol Servia and Luca Filippi.

Right now, RLL is one of just two single-car operations on the grid, along with fellow Honda-powered squad Bryan Herta Autosport.

“Sure, it’s going to put a little extra load on our backs. It is a little more difficult at times,” he said.

“As James (Hinchcliffe) said, if you have two guys that work well together, two engineers that work well together, the team is in unison, that’s one thing. But to throw somebody in there, not give it 110 percent, I think that becomes a little bit of a problem.

“Dad was in town last night. We kind of talked about it a little bit because we had a couple people call yesterday. I think we’re very cautious about that. We made a big hire the other day who will be announced soon. We spent a lot of time this offseason trying to put the right people together, which is what we didn’t do in the past.

“We cannot do anything to take that away and all the effort that’s been put in.”

A second car would make sense to run for the Indianapolis 500. But beyond that, it’s doubtful for the rest of the season.

Rahal is working with Eddie Jones as his engineer, and Martin Pare and Mike Talbott have also joined the team this year. He had worked with Bill Pappas (2014), Gerry Hughes and Neil Fife (2013) since coming to RLL. Rahal and Pare have worked together previously.

Eli Tomac, Ken Roczen’s two-man battle in Motocross provides surprises

Rich Shepherd, ProMotocross
Leave a comment

The 2019 Motocross season is one-third in the books and the title battle may have already come down to a two-man contest, while the pair of contenders might just be a little surprising in their own way.

Strictly by the numbers, no one can count Eli Tomac’s early season charge of first- and second-place finishes shocking, but threepeating in Motocross is such an incredibly difficult feat that no one would have been surprised to see him struggle out of the gates either. And in fact, that is precisely what happened.

Tomac came out of the gates slow in Round 1 and was seventh by the end of Lap 1 of Moto 1 – hardly the auspicious start he hoped for. He rebounded only as far as fourth and that ultimately cost him a chance to win the overall. Tomac won Moto 2 to claim second overall.

In Round 2, Tomac found his rhythm and won both Motos and grabbed the red plate. For the moment, he had the momentum with three consecutive Moto wins.

Tomac stumbled again in Round 3 – this time finishing only fifth in Moto 1 and earning only 16 points to dig a deep hole that eventually surrendered the red plate to Ken Roczen.

It was at Thunder Valley in Round 3 that a pattern emerged. Tomac would not make it easy on himself early in the day, but was more than capable of winning the second Motos to overcome his deficit.

That Roczen has won this season is also not a surprise in itself. Many believed his ascent to the top step of the podium was way overdue.

That he has run so well, however, was not entirely expected at the start of the season. Since injuring both arms in a pair of accidents, Roczen came tantalizingly close to snapping his winless streak a dozen times. He won heat races during the Supercross season and finished second at Anaheim I, Minneapolis, Dallas, and Seattle earlier this year.

He just couldn’t secure the overall win.

Roczen’s Moto 1 victory at Hangtown might have been the precursor to another disappointing weekend, but once Tomac got into the lead, Roczen zeroed in on the Kawasaki’s back tire and finished second in route to the overall victory.

Roczen lost the overall and the red plate to Tomac in Round 2 at Pala, but he stood on the podium in both Motos. Roczen podiumed twice again in Round 3 while taking that overall victory to regain the red plate in what has become a seesaw affair in the early part of the 2019 season.

Last week, Roczen looked more like Tomac with his desperate struggle in Moto 1 and sixth-place finish. That was the first (and so far only) time this season that he failed to stand on the podium.

Roczen’s Moto 2 win last week was just enough to put him second overall with barely enough points to force a tie at the top of the leaderboard with 176 points apiece.

Meanwhile, Tomac failed to win either Moto with a third in the first race and runner-up finish in the second.

The moral victory and advantage may shift to Roczen this week.

As they have swapped the victory in the first four rounds with Roczen winning the odd-numbered events, he sees this weekend’s Round 5 as an opportunity.

“I’m looking forward to next weekend’s race,” Roczen said in a team press release. “The track is sandy. It’s very similar—actually almost identical—to what I ride on a regular basis at home.”

Tomac and Roczen enter Round 5 with a 32-point advantage over two riders tied for third in the standings.

So far Zach Osborne and Jason Anderson have not been in the same league as the leaders, but it only takes one slip of the wheel to fall out of the points in in a race and allow these racers to close the gap.

Season passes can be purchased at NBC Sports Gold.

Follow Dan Beaver on Twitter