Graham Rahal hopes to build on consistent 2015 at Barber

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On paper the first three races of Graham Rahal’s season to date, with one Top-10 finish and two P11 finishes, might not seem overly impressive. But consider the environment in which they’ve occurred.

Rahal races for Rahal Letterman Lanigan, a one-car team co-owned by his father, Bobby, that is running consistently near the front of a field dominated by the multi-car teams of Penske, Ganassi and Andretti. This is after team restructuring in the offseason.

With the Verizon IndyCar Series heading to Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala. this weekend, the team could have reason to believe they’ll be able to move higher on grid for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.

“We had a really good test at Barber,” Rahal said in a release two days of testing in March at the 17-turn, 2.3-mile permanent road course. “Obviously the conditions were cooler than what we will see this weekend but all in all I feel pretty good about our ability to be competitive at the Honda Grand Prix of Alabama.”

At the two-day testing session, Rahal’s fastest lap in his No. 15 Honda was 1:07.6203. That put him at P7 for the entire weekend and gave him the fastest time among the Honda powered teams. The next highest was Foyt driver Takuma Sato in P10 at 1:07.6638.

Rahal goes into Barber as one of eight drivers in the field to have competed in all five IndyCar races at the track, beginning in 2010.

In those five races, Rahal’s best finish, and his only one in the top 10, was P4 in 2012 with Chip Ganassi Racing.

Sunday will also be Rahal’s second race with Steak ‘N Shake as his primary sponsor. The first was last weekend at Long Beach where he finished 11th after starting eighth.

“The Long Beach race was frustrating but I feel like we can have a strong rebound,” Rahal said. “We won’t find out until we get on track but certainly at the test we were right up there so I’m hoping we can have a good show on the weekend because we need the points.”

Rahal is currently 10th in points after three races, 57 behind Juan Pablo Montoya.

“Since it’s only a two day event this year we have to be right on top of our game in the practice sessions and qualifying,” Rahal said. “We definitely can’t miss a beat.”

X44 Racing win 2022 Extreme E championship as Abt Cupra score first race victory

2022 Extreme E Uruguay
Extreme E
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Abt Cupra Racing’s Nasser Al-Attiyah and Klara Andersson scored their first win in the Extreme E Energy X Prix in the 2022 finale in Uruguay as Lewis Hamilton’s X44 Vida Carbon Racing drivers Sebastien Loeb and Cristina Gutierrez survived a chaotic finale to edge the 2021 champion Rosberg X Prix team of Johan Kristoffersson and Mikhaela Ahlin-Kottulinsky, by two points.

“There are so many emotions,” Andersson said in Extreme E’s coverage. “I’ve been waiting for this for so long. In my second race, first full weekend to be at the top of the podium: it’s big.”

Andersson was behind the wheel at the finish.

Rosberg Racing entered the event with a 17-point advantage over X44, but the standings were close enough that four teams remained in contention in Round 5.

“It’s a crucial weekend for us,” Loeb said in Extreme E’s coverage prior to the race. “We are not in the best position to win the championship, but the only thing we can do is try to win the race and score as many points as possible.”

The top two title contenders each crashed in qualification and were relegated to the Crazy Race, Extreme E’s version of the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ). For the moment, they had the steepest hill to climb, but then the other two championship contending teams, Chip Ganassi Racing and Acciona Sainz Racing failed to advance from their heats.

Only one team advances from the Crazy Race, so the X44 drivers were in a must-win situation to simply keep hope alive.

More: Extreme E 2023 schedule

Ahlin-Kottulinsky and Gutierrez ran wheel to wheel into the first turn at the start of the LCQ.

The Rosberg racer experienced crash damage in that turn that damaged her front steering, but managed to limp back to the pits at the end of her two-lap stint. The team attempted to fix the steering, but incurred a penalty for having too many mechanics in the pit area.

Meanwhile, Gutierrez took the early lead, but knew she would need to sit through a five-second penalty for an incident earlier in the weekend. The female half of the gender equal pair erased the penalty by entering the Switch Zone with a five-second lead before turning the car over to Loeb.

That was all the nine-time World Rally Championship titlist needed to give him the advantage needed to win the Crazy Race.

But the championship was not over yet. X44 Racing needed to finish third or better in the five-car finale to earn enough points for the title and after advancing from the LCQ, they were forced to take the worst grid position.

A chaotic start to the Finale saw Loeb run as high the lead and low as fourth after getting pushed off course during his first lap. And that is how he entered to Switch Zone.

On her first lap, Gutierrez slammed into Molly Taylor. With one lap remaining, X44 and Gutierrez were still in fourth and the title hope was quickly evaporating, but it was announced halfway through the lap that the third-running Andretti United team would suffer a penalty for a Switch Zone infraction. The seven-second deduction for Timmy Hansen braking too late in the zone made the difference in the title.

Coming off a disappointing Copper X Prix when Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour crossed under the checkers first, but were relegated to fifth by penalty, the McLaren pair scored their first podium of the season in second.