Rahal frustrated by lack of passing, Munoz at St. Pete

Photo: IndyCar

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – It’s not been a good three-race stretch for Graham Rahal, driver of the No. 15 Steak ‘n Shake Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, dating back to last August at Pocono Raceway in the Verizon IndyCar Series.

At Pocono, Tristan Vautier made an ambitious maneuver that took him out. At Sonoma, Sebastien Bourdais pitched him into a spin.

Sunday, in the 2016 curtain-raising Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, contact from Carlos Munoz into Turn 4 in his No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda triggered an eight-car “parking lot” and helped knock Rahal from eighth place to 21st.

“He’s 10 car (lengths) back or something and T-bones me,” Rahal told NBC Sports post-race, as he finished 16th after starting sixth.

“He says to me, ‘Oh, my bad. My fault.’ Well, yeah, obviously. Everyone knows that.

“It ruined our day. We had a top-three car. We had to take our time as it was difficult to pass.

“I’m frustrated because we deserve better than people being idiots.

“Ultimately, at the end of the year for the championship, days like this can have a huge effect. So yeah, I’m pretty bummed.”

Rahal elaborated on how much harder this race was to pass compared to last year’s, when he also was on a charge and then made contact with Charlie Kimball, but was assessed a penalty for avoidable contact in what was a questionable call.

“Way harder to pass. Without having the underwing on (the cars), it’s hard to follow. We slid around a bit.

“Our last stint showed what we could do. Nobody paying attention then but we were the fastest car on the track (Rahal had the latest fast lap in the field, sixth best overall coming on Lap 94, with only Mikhail Aleshin posting his fastest lap of the day later).

“The whole time, we made up four positions. That’s probably more than what anyone else did from a passing standpoint.”

He advocated for INDYCAR to bring back the undertray, which helps create additional downforce.

“We gotta get the undertray back on. I don’t understand the mentality. It’s common sense in traffic that the wings are not effected… so the undertray is only way to create downforce. When we take those off, we lack the downforce.

“I’d rather they limit the wing angles and give you the undertray back. But then again on a street and road course, why does it make a difference? Put the undertray on, and let’s go.”

For reference, Rahal had only four finishes of 15th or worse year, but is now mired in a three-race rut.

Meanwhile, rookie teammate Spencer Pigot enjoyed a clean and trouble-free debut en route to 14th in the No. 16 RLL/Andersen Promotions Honda.

IndyCar releases schedule for 2023 season

IndyCar schedule 2023
Douglas Stringer/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The NTT IndyCar Series’ 2023 schedule will feature the same number of races and tracks as this season with some minor reshuffling of dates.

IndyCar will open the 2023 season March 5 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida, and will conclude Sept. 10 at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, California. The 107th Indy 500 will take place May 28 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The 17-race schedule will conclude with a stretch of eight races in the final nine weeks.

“The NTT IndyCar Series is on an impactful upward trajectory, making progress at a pace that befits our thrilling style of competition,” Penske Entertainment Corp. president and CEO Mark Miles said in a release. “The 2023 season provides an opportunity to further build on this trend, bringing our sport and its stars to more markets and households and reaching new consumers across the globe.”

There will be 15 events on NBC: 13 races (including six of the final seven) plus Indy 500 qualifying May 20-21. There also are three races on USA Network and the Toronto race exclusively on Peacock. All races on NBC and USA also will have live simulstreams on Peacock.

In partnership with NBC Sports, the 2022 IndyCar season was the most-watched in six years and the most-watched across NBC Sports on record. The 2022 season also was the most streamed season on record.

“We’re very excited for our 2023 NTT IndyCar Series schedule and to build on this past season’s viewership milestones,” NBC Sports vice president of programming Mike Perman said in a release. “In providing comprehensive coverage across NBC, Peacock and USA Network, NBC Sports is once again looking forward to telling the stories of these world-class drivers and this compelling series.”

Notable elements on the 2023 schedule:

–There will be the same balance of seven road course races, five street courses and five ovals.

–St. Pete will be the season opener for the 13th time.

–The Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix will move from Belle Isle to the streets of downtown.

–The NASCAR doubleheader weekend at the IMS road course will shift to mid-August.

–The World Wide Technology Raceway event will move from Saturday to Sunday.

Start times for the 2023 events will be announced at a later date.

Here’s the 2023 IndyCar schedule:

Date Race/Track Network/Platform
Sun., March 5 Streets of St. Petersburg NBC, Peacock
Sun., April 2 Texas Motor Speedway NBC, Peacock
Sun., April 16 Streets of Long Beach NBC, Peacock
Sun., April 30 Barber Motorsports Park NBC, Peacock
Sat., May 13 Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Road Course) NBC, Peacock
Sun., May 28 The 107th Indianapolis 500 NBC, Peacock
Sun., June 4 Streets of Detroit NBC, Peacock
Sun., June 18 Road America USA Network, Peacock
Sun., July 2 Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course USA Network, Peacock
Sun., July 16 Streets of Toronto Peacock
Sat., July 22 Iowa Speedway – Race 1 NBC, Peacock
Sun., July 23 Iowa Speedway – Race 2 NBC, Peacock
Sun., Aug. 6 Streets of Nashville NBC, Peacock
Sat., Aug. 12 Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Road Course) USA Network, Peacock
Sun., Aug. 27 World Wide Technology Raceway NBC, Peacock
Sun., Sept. 3 Portland International Raceway NBC, Peacock
Sun., Sept. 10 WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca NBC, Peacock

*dates and networks/platforms are subject to change