IndyCar: Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing 2018 Season Review


Editor’s note: MotorSportsTalk continues to review how each organization in the IndyCar Series performed in 2018 and also takes a look ahead to 2019.

Thus far we have featured Juncos RacingMeyer Shank RacingCarlin Racing, Harding Racing, AJ Foyt Racing, Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser Sullivan, Dale Coyne Racing and Ed Carpenter Racing.

Today we feature Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. 

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing 2018 IndyCar Review

It was a rough season for RLL, one that definitely could have been better. Graham Rahal, son of team majority owner Bobby Rahal, showed some strong moments at times, but issues here and there – either driver mistakes or car/race problemss – hindered him at times.

RLL also welcomed the return of 2017 Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato, who previously raced for the organization in 2012. Sato would go on to earn RLL’s lone win of the season, in the penultimate event of 2018 at Portland, and finished the season in 12th place.


Team name: No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda

Years in IndyCar: 11

Career wins and podium finishes: 6 and 23

Best career finish: 4th in 2015

2018 final standing: 8th

2018 final stats: 0 wins, 1 podiums, 0 poles.

2018 best race finish: 2nd (St. Petersburg)

SEASON WRAPUP: The younger Rahal was on-target to potentially finish the season with a top-5 showing. But three finishes of 21st or worse in three of the last six races dropped him to 8th, the same position he held for those last six races of the season. It was his worst season finish since he was 19th in 2014.

LOOKING AHEAD TO 2019: Rahal has been on a downward slide for the last four seasons, finishing 4th in 2015, 5th in 2016, 6th in 2017 and 8th this past season. Don’t be surprised if there are some offseason personnel changes on the team. It has great promise, but needs some new blood.

QUOTE (after season finale at Sonoma): “What happened in the race (finished 23rd due to battery issues) was our year in a nutshell. … We have had a hard year, but I don’t think I have ever been as proud to work with a group of guys as I am this year. These guys never quit. They focused on doing the best they could, at all times, and busted their butts. I know this is a great sign of things to come.”



Team name: No. 30 Mi-Jack/Panasonic Honda

Years in IndyCar: 9

Career wins and podium finishes: 3 and 8

Best career season finish: 8th in 2017

2018 final standing: 12th

2018 final stats: 1 wins, 2 podiums, 0 poles

2018 best race finish: 1st (Portland)

SEASON WRAPUP: Sato and RLL had high expectations coming into 2018, but the end result was lacking in several areas. Sure, he had the team’s lone win of the season at Portland, but he also had four DNFs (three being crashes, including in the Indy 500, of which he was the defending winner). Sato had hoped to earn at least a top-10 finish for the season, but 3 DNFs in the last six races relegated him to a disappointing 12th place finish overall.

LOOKING AHEAD TO 2019: As difficult as it may be for his fans to believe, the reality is that Sato will be 42 in the 2019 season (birthday is January 28). Prior to his Portland win, there was uncertainty whether he would return to RLL. But now that he’s signed for 2019, the question is how productive can he still be. There’s reason for optimism: he’s coming off his two best IndyCar seasons (8th in 2017 and 12th in 2018). But, in general terms, his performance and that of his team needs to improve significantly.

QUOTE (following the season finale at Sonoma): “It’s a pity to finish the season like this especially for the boys who worked so hard the entire season. Of course, we had a good highlight two weeks ago (Portland win), but we wanted to carry good momentum into 2019. Having said that, it was a good day for myself and the team as we announced we were together again next year. The last race in Sonoma is disappointing but there is a great feeling for next year.  We will work hard on development over the winter and come back strong for 2019. Thank you very much to the entire team. I enjoyed the year.”

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After New York whirlwind, Josef Newgarden makes special trip to simulator before Detroit


DETROIT – There’s no rest for the weary as an Indy 500 winner, but Josef Newgarden discovered there are plenty of extra laps.

The reigning Indy 500 champion added an extra trip Wednesday night back to Concord, N.C., for one last session on the GM Racing simulator before Sunday’s Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix.

After a 30-year run on the Belle Isle course, the race has been moved to a nine-turn, 1.7-mile layout downtown, so two extra hours on the simulator were worth it for Newgarden.

INDYCAR IN DETROITEntry list, schedule, TV info for this weekend

JOSEF’S FAMILY TIESNewgarden wins Indy 500 with wisdom of father, wife

“I really wanted to do it,” he told NBC Sports at a Thursday media luncheon. “If there’s any time that the sim is most useful, it’s in this situation when no one has ever been on a track, and we’re able to simulate it as best as we can. We want to get some seat time.

“It’s extra important coming off the Indy 500 because you’ve been out of rhythm for a road or street course-type environment, so I really wanted some laps. I was really appreciative to Chevy. There was a few guys that just came in and stayed late for me so I could get those laps before coming up here. I don’t know if it’s going to make a difference, but I feel like it’s going to help for me.”

After a whirlwind tour of New York for two days, Newgarden arrived at the simulator (which is at the GM Racing Technical Center adjacent to Hendrick Motorsports) in time for a two hour session that started at 6 p.m. Wednesday. He stayed overnight in Charlotte and then was up for an early commercial flight to Detroit, where he had more media obligations.

Newgarden joked that if he had a jet, he would have made a quick stop in Nashville, Tennessee, but a few more days away from home (where he has yet to return in weeks) is a worthy tradeoff for winning the Greatest Spectacle in Racing – though the nonstop interviews can take a toll.

“It’s the hardest part of the gig for me is all this fanfare and celebration,” Newgarden said. “I love doing it because I’m so passionate about the Indy 500 and that racetrack and what that race represents. I feel honored to be able to speak about it. It’s been really natural and easy for me to enjoy it because I’ve been there for so many years.

“Speaking about this win has been almost the easiest job I’ve ever had for postrace celebrations. But it’s still for me a lot of work. I get worn out pretty easily. I’m very introverted. So to do this for three days straight, it’s been a lot.”

Though he is terrified of heights, touring the top of the Empire State Building for the first time was a major highlight (and produced the tour’s most viral moment).

“I was scared to get to the very top level,” Newgarden said. “That thing was swaying. No one else thought it was swaying. I’m pretty sure it was. I really impressed by the facility. I’d never seen it before. It’s one of those bucket list things. If you go to New York, it’s really special to do that. So to be there with the wreath and the whole setup, it just felt like an honor to be in that moment.”

Now the attention shifts to Detroit and an inaugural circuit that’s expected to be challenging. Along with a Jefferson Avenue straightaway that’s 0.9 miles long, the track has several low-speed corners and a “split” pit lane (teams will stop on both sides of a rectangular area) with a narrow exit that blends just before a 90-degree lefthand turn into Turn 1.

Newgarden thinks the track is most similar to the Music City Grand Prix in Nashville.

“It’s really hard to predict with this stuff until we actually run,” he said. “Maybe we go super smooth and have no issues. Typically when you have a new event, you’re going to have some teething issues. That’s understandable. We’ve always got to massage the event to get it where we want it, but this team has worked pretty hard. They’ve tried to get feedback constantly on what are we doing right, what do we need to look out for. They’ve done a ton of grinding to make sure this surface is in as good of shape as possible.

“There’s been no expense spared, but you can’t foresee everything. I have no idea how it’s going to race. I think typically when you look at a circuit that seems simple on paper, people tend to think it’s not going to be an exciting race, or challenging. I find the opposite always happens when we think that way. Watch it be the most exciting, chaotic, entertaining race.

Newgarden won the last two pole positions at Belle Isle’s 2.35-mile layout and hopes to continue the momentum while avoiding any post-Brickyard letdown.

“I love this is an opportunity for us to get something right quicker than anyone else,” he said. “A new track is always exciting from that standpoint. I feel I’m in a different spot. I’m pretty run down. I’m really trying to refocus and gain some energy back for tomorrow. Which I’ll have time to today, which is great.

“I don’t want that Indy 500 hangover. People always talk about it. They’ve always observed it. That doesn’t mean we have to win this weekend, but I’d like to leave here feeling like we had a really complete event, did a good job and had a solid finish leading into the summer. I want to win everywhere I go, but if we come out of here with a solid result and no mistakes, then probably everyone will be happy with it.”