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.”

NEOM McLaren Formula E announces Jake Hughes will join Rene Rast for 2023 season

McLaren Formula E Hughes
McLaren Racing

Doubling down on their commitment to electric auto sports, McLaren Racing announced Jake Hughes will join Rene Rast to compete in the 2023 Formula E Series (FE), which completes their driver lineup.

The NEOM McLaren FE team was formed by the acquisition of the Mercedes-EQ Formula E team that won the 2021 and 2022 championships with Stoffel Vandoorne and Nyck de Vries behind the wheel.

“Today’s announcement feels like a long time coming,” said Ian James, managing director of NEOM McLaren Electric Racing in a release. “Since May this year, when we first announced McLaren Racing’s entry into Formula E, we have been working tirelessly to get in place the best possible team and structure for sustainable success.

“On the one hand, we have been working on the retention of the amazing talent that already was in place before going into the transitional phase. I’m proud to say I think we’ve done a great job on that front.

“On the other hand, we have been focusing on putting in place new processes and new talent – and the latter includes the drivers.”

The driver lineup clasps the two hands together.

Hughes brings 10 years racing experience in single seater cars, including a role with the acquired Mercedes-EQ team as a reserve and development driver for the past two seasons. He is the 2013 BRDC Formula 4 champion and has multiple wins in Formula 2, including two in 2020.

Announced in August, Rast joins the team after earning two podium finishes and six top-fives in 22 career Formula E starts for Audi Sport ABT before returning to the DTM Series last year. Rast’s best finish in Formula E came in the Puebla E Prix when he finished second to teammate Lucas di Grassi by less than a half second.

McLaren’s commitment to Formula E comes one year after they entered the Extreme E rally series in 2022 with Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour in the driver lineup. After a modest start to the season, the McLaren XE drivers crossed the finish line first in Round 4 in Chile, but were assessed a time penalty that dropped them to fifth. Last week in the season finale in Uruguay, they held onto a hard-earned second place finish.