IndyCar: Graham Rahal looking forward to racing 3 ovals in a row

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Graham Rahal’s mind has been going around in circles lately.

Or more precisely, ovals.

With four of the remaining six races on the Verizon IndyCar Series schedule being on ovals – starting with Saturday afternoon’s MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway – Rahal is looking forward to going round-and-round again.

“We have some big races coming up, obviously,” Rahal said in a media release. “There are three oval races in a row and it’s big for us from the points standing perspective because we’re in the thick of this thing.

“Ovals haven’t been our strong point up to now, but we’re really trying to turn it around and get some good runs in the next few races.”

While he finished fifth in last month’s Indianapolis 500, Rahal’s second-worst performance thus far this season was two races ago, when he finished 15th at Texas.

“All in all, there are a lot of positives that came from what we learned and also from mistakes we made, like the downforce level we decided to run in the race at Texas,” Rahal said. “We just have to keep learning from things like that and I can guarantee we won’t do it this time around.”

Now, over the next four weeks, Rahal is starting straight ahead at Fontana (2 miles), Milwaukee (one mile) and Iowa (7/8 mile).

“These three oval races are completely different,” Rahal said. “We have a 500-miler at Fontana, then one on a flat oval in Milwaukee and a flat, short, high-banked oval in Iowa – and you run different wing packages so they are each different.

“From a mindset standpoint, all oval races are very similar, though. Five-hundred mile races are a little different due to the length, but they are all very similar in the way that you approach them.

“The experience we gained on the ovals in Indy and Texas should help us a lot on the setup and with knowledge of the aerodynamics of the car and what we need to be competitive at Auto Club Speedway.”

In the midst of one of the best seasons thus far of his career, there’s a lot more still to gain for Rahal, who is currently fifth in the IndyCar standings, 91 points behind series leader Juan Pablo Montoya.

“We certainly hope to be very competitive at Fontana,” Rahal said. “We have proven to be a contender all year and we need to just keep going down that path and putting ourselves in a position to win.

“Obviously it’s not going to be easy as we’ve seen all season. But I certainly hope we can get ourselves into a position where we can contend with all those frontrunners and, if nothing else, stay fifth in the championship, which is the key at this point. We’ve got some good guys behind us, but I feel like they are guys that we can beat.”

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Jo Shimoda joins Seth Hammaker, Austin Forkner on injured list; Musquin remains out

Shimoda injured
Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media
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Bad news continues to come out of the Monster Energy / Pro Circuit Kawasaki team as they announced Jo Shimoda injured his shoulder in a practice session and will not mount up when the Monster Energy Supercross 250 East division opens in Houston, Texas on February 4. A timetable has not been given for Shimoda’s return, but a press release from the team references multiple weeks.

“I’m doing my best to focus forward on my return to racing,” said Shimoda in the release. “Our goal was to compete for the 250 Supercross Eastern Regional Championship and I know we had been doing the right work to make that happen. Unfortunately, this crash will cause me to miss the start of the season, but I still aim to be back on the track racing for wins before the end of Supercross.”

Shimoda is joined on the sidelines by teammates Seth Hammaker and Austin Forkner, who also suffered injuries in recent weeks.

The news of Hammaker’s sidelining came just two days ago. His wrist injury is sufficient to require surgery, so he too will miss multiple weeks. Hammaker was scheduled to compete in the 250 East division alongside Shimoda.

Forkner was involved in a Lap 1 crash in the 250 West season opener at Anaheim. Multiple injuries, including an ACL tear, will sideline him for the remainder of the season. He described the injury and its aftermath on Instagram.

Forkner will be relieved by Carson Mumford, but not before that rider’s wrist has healed sufficiently. He is scheduled to debut with Kawasaki in Oakland for the rescheduled Round 2 Supercross race on February 18.

Shimoda finished fourth in the 2022 Supercross 250 West division and was second in 2021 points in 250 East. In 2021, Shimoda won his first Supercross race at Salt Lake City. Last year, he scored one podium and six top-fives in nine starts.

Shimoda finished second in last year’s outdoor Lucas Oil Pro Motocross season, where he added two more SuperMotocross wins including the Unadilla Nationals that kicked off a four-race streak of first- or second-place results.

Kawasaki is not the only team facing injury. Red Bull KTM initially reported Marvin Musquin would be out for the San Diego round with a wrist injury and “maybe more”. This week it was announced he will miss this week’s Triple Crown race in Anaheim and “at least the next several rounds.”