Rahal: “We need a good weekend at Pocono”

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Last year’s ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway witnessed the beginning of the end of Graham Rahal’s championship hopes. The American was fresh off his dream home race win at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, and had closed to within nine points of then-points leader Juan Pablo Montoya with two races left in the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season.

Of course, it all went away when Tristan Vautier made a perhaps over-ambitious passing maneuver into Turn 3, collected Rahal, and took them both out of the Pocono race.

This year, Rahal is out of realistic title contention in ninth place with four races remaining in the season, but still only 49 points out of third place.

A strong weekend at Pocono (Sunday, 3 p.m. ET, NBCSN) RLLwould help the driver of the No. 15 Bobby Rahal Automotive Group Honda for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing get some points relief after a year that’s been high on pace but low on luck.

Rahal tested at both Pocono and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the last couple weeks and is confident the RLL team found what ailed them for their big oval package, after a tough Indianapolis 500 earlier this year.

“It was good testing as we did Pocono, and then Indy a couple days later,” Rahal told NBC Sports. “Both of those, we learned quite a lot.

“I’m a little bit worried about our qualifying pace at Pocono. In race trim should be OK. Whenever we tried to trim out… we weren’t building enough speed on straightaways. But we weren’t fully trimmed to the max. It was good info gathering.

“I think we found some of that from an aero standpoint… and why we were so draggy at Indy. The balance wasn’t bad, but I couldn’t suck up on straightaways. When you need to pass, that’s what you rely on.”

Rahal is also hopeful Honda, whose only win in 2016 came at the ‘500 courtesy of Alexander Rossi, will be able to back up its big oval pace and performance again this weekend.

Honda has won the last three 500-mile races; Rahal won at Fontana and Ryan Hunter-Reay at Pocono last year, before Rossi won this year at Indy.

“I hope so. I know [Honda] were strong at Indy,” Rahal said. “But you never know. Chevy never stops developing. We don’t know what they have in store.

“We have to stay strong and have a good solid weekend. We need a good weekend because we haven’t had many this year.”

IndyCar disappointed by delay of video game but aiming to launch at start of 2024

IndyCar video game 2024

An IndyCar executive said there is “absolutely” disappointment that its long-awaited video game recently was delayed beyond its target date, but the series remains optimistic about the new title.

“Well, I don’t know how quick it will be, but the whole situation is important to us,” Penske Entertainment president and CEO Mark Miles said during a news conference Monday morning to announce IndyCar’s NTT title sponsorship. “Motorsport Games has spent a lot of money, a lot of effort to create an IndyCar title. What we’ve seen of that effort, which is not completely obvious, is very reassuring.

“I think it’s going to be outstanding. That’s our shared objective, that when it is released, it’s just widely accepted. A great credit both to IndyCar racing, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, something that our fans love.”

In June 2021, IndyCar announced a new partnership with Motorsport Games to create and distribute an IndyCar video game for the PC and Xbox and PlayStation consoles in 2023.

But during an earnings call last week, Motorsport Games said the IndyCar game had been delayed to 2024 to ensure high quality.

Somewhat compounding the delay is that IndyCar’s license for iRacing expired after the end of the 2022 season because of its exclusive agreement with Motorsport Games.

That’s resulted in significant changes for IndyCar on iRacing, which had provided a high-profile way for the series to stay visible during its 2020 shutdown from the pandemic. (Players still can race an unbranded car but don’t race on current IndyCar tracks, nor can they stream).

That’s helped ratchet up the attention on having a video game outlet for IndyCar.

“I wish we had an IndyCar title 10 years ago,” said Miles, who has been working with the organization since 2013. “We’ve been close, but we’ve had these I think speed bumps.”

IndyCar is hopeful the Motorsports Game edition will be ready at the start of 2024. Miles hinted that beta versions could be unveiled to reporters ahead of the time “to begin to show the progress in a narrow way to make sure we’ve got it right, to test the progress so that we’re ready when they’re ready.”

It’s been nearly 18 years since the release of the most recent IndyCar video game for console or PC.

“(We) better get it right,” Miles said. “It’s something we’re very close to and continue to think about what it is to make sure we get it over the line in due course.”