NBC Sports takes a look through the teams competing in the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series. The surprise team of the 2015 season, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, will be hoping its 2016 campaign doesn’t resemble sequels that fail to stack up to the original.
Team: Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
Engine/aero kits: Honda
Sponsors: Steak ‘n Shake/Hyatt/PennGrade/Mi-Jack (No. 15), Andersen Interior Contracting (No. 16)
Wins: 2 (Rahal 2)
Podiums: 6 (Rahal 6)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 500 (Rahal 490, Servia 10)
Laps Led: 76 (Rahal 76)
Championship Position: 4th (Rahal), 32nd (Servia)
2016 LINEUP (Engineer in parentheses)
15 Graham Rahal (Eddie Jones)
16 Spencer Pigot (Neil Fife)
2015 RECAP (Rahal driver recap)
In one of IndyCar’s single biggest year-to-year turnarounds in recent memory, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing reset its team components and leapt from 19th to what was almost a disappointing fourth place in points when all was said and done. Graham Rahal delivered a career season where he ended a seven-year win drought and also scored six podiums, consistently making up places from his grid spot. Ricardo Nault took over as strategist and other team members just clicked in their new places.
Rahal got more out of the tricky Honda aero kit than anyone else last year, and the team perhaps inadvertently proved what a single-car team could do with all its resources focused on just one driver. KVSH Racing and Ed Carpenter Racing now drop to just one full-time car apiece, albeit more for budgetary reasons.
Meanwhile RLL appears set to run its second car for talented rookie and Indy Lights champion Spencer Pigot in at least three races, although there’s been some murmuring that it could grow into more after the month of May. The key for the No. 15 team is ensuring the 2015 season wasn’t a fluke, and for Rahal to again win races and more importantly, qualify better, so the same number of race day heroics won’t be needed.
Jalek Swoll and Rockstar Energy Husqvarna teammate Malcolm Stewart sustained injury in separate crashes late last week. Stewart missed Anaheim 2 and Swoll will not mount up for the 250 East season opener in Houston on February 4.
“Spent all of yesterday in the ER and today getting surgery so haven’t been able to make an update post,” Swoll posted on Instagram. “Spiral fractured my humorous yesterday and was lucky enough to get into surgery today. Absolutely heartbroken that I couldn’t show all the hard work me, [Mike Brown], [Aldon Baker], and [Joel Perez] were working on truly felt like this year was going to a big one with massive improvements we made but I guess it just wasn’t my time.”
The team announced on Instagram that Swoll underwent successful surgery to repair a broken bone in his arm, sustained in a practice crash on Friday. After missing the division opener, no further timeline has been given for his return.
Swoll made eight starts in the 250 West division last season with a best finish of fifth. In 2021, he scored his first SuperMotocross win in the outdoor Pro Motocross season at High Point Raceway in Mount Morris, Pennsylvania.
Stewart missed Anaheim 2 due to a practice injury. Likewise, the team did not announce a timetable for Stewart’s return.
He showed a lot of speed in the first two rounds before accidents eliminated him from contention in both rounds. He finished 16th at Anaheim 1 and 15th in San Diego, putting him in a points’ deficit that was already going to be difficult to overcome.
Stewart entered the 2023 season with a ton of confidence and believed all he needed was to stack his chips the right way to get this year’s championship.
Husqvarna is now represented by RJ Hampshire in the 250 West division and Christian Craig in 450s.
Hampshire had a rough weekend in Anaheim 2 and finished 11th in the overall standings after scoring a last place result in Race 2 with a bike sidelined by crash damage and a 13th in Race 3 after another fall.
Craig has not yet scored a top-10 on his 450 with a best of 11th at San Diego and Anaheim 2.
The news of these two injuries comes on the heels of the Pro Circuit Kawasaki team losing three of their four 250 riders.
Last week, Pro Circuit Kawasaki announced Seth Hammaker would miss the season opener with a wrist injury. Almost immediately, it was announced Jo Shimoda would also miss the 250 East opener with a shoulder injury.
Chris Blose will serve as a replacement rider in the 250 East division with Carson Mumford scheduled to replace the injured Austin Forkner in the West.