INDYCAR: Here’s what drivers said after Sunday’s IndyCar Classic at COTA

Leave a comment

Here’s what drivers said after Sunday’s second race of the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series schedule, the inaugural IndyCar classic at Circuit of the Americas:

COLTON HERTA (No. 88 Harding Stienbrenner Racing Honda) – WINNER: (About what it means to be not only the youngest race winner in Indy car history, but a race winner in general): “Just to be up with the names of people that have won a race, I’m going to live and die an NTT IndyCar Series winner, which is spectacular in itself.” (About if his strong performance in qualifying gave him a sense that he might win today): “I didn’t think it was going to happen. Seems like Will (Power) and (Alexander) Rossi had a bit of a pace advantage on us. I thought the max we were going to get was third (place) without a caution. Caution came out. We did our best. On the restart, we were quick. We kind of sprinted off. I know we got the quickest lap on that first lap, which was pretty crazy to have the tires up to temp and everything ready.”

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 2 PPG Team Penske Chevrolet) – Finished 2nd:  “I thought we might have had a shot there at the end.  A lot of things played into the race today. We had a little luck and I thought that could play into our favor to race for another win. The PPG car looked good and felt good, it just wasn’t enough there at the end. So, I’m really proud of our guys. I’m proud of Team Chevy. I’m a little disappointed we missed it by a bit, but we’ll go on to the next one. A second place is big for us.  We talked about the fact that you need to have podium finishes if you aren’t winning races and this goes a long way to our championship run.”

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 27 DHL Honda) – Finished 3rd: “It was a pretty good race all in all. We definitely didn’t have the speed for Will (Power), Alex (Rossi) and Colton (Herta), but I’m happy we were able to get DHL and the No. 28 team another podium. Congratulations to Colton. There at the end, he was so fast, it was really impressive, he has really clicked with this track. It was busy – hard not to make a mistake. The car is flying all over the place. It was great being here for our first race and we have to thank everybody from Austin for coming out and making the event great. I think next year we will come back with an even better show.”

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Total Honda) – Finished 4th: “I thought it was a good day. We battled. I thought we got lucky there with that yellow (flag), all of us up front at the finish got lucky a little bit, but that’s OK we’ll take it. Our car had pace all day. We just kept battling, kept battling with the same group, having to fight our race through the same group of guys. Realistically, we were a top-five, top-six car no matter what. Our guys worked hard to get this No. 15 TOTAL Honda to the front. I think the pit stops were really strong. We’ve got a lot of young guys on the pit stops and they did a great job. We’ll put our heads down from here. The great sign is that RLL (Rahal Letterman Lanigan) is competitive. We were competitive at St. Pete, we were competitive here. We couldn’t say that so much last year, so it’s a good start to the year.”

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 18 SealMaster Honda) – Finished 5th: “It’s great to get a top-five finish after the weekend we were having. Great job by the No. 18 SealMaster Honda team. A solid strategy and a good job in the pits. It was a very static race, not much going on. I didn’t really go anywhere. Then, toward the end, some guys decided to gamble, but I had to stop and then try and run fast. The guys ahead of me didn’t go anywhere. We weren’t really very far from them. Then the yellow (flag) came out as we were in pit lane. That’s about as lucky as you are going to get. I feel bad for the leaders because they really didn’t deserve that, but we didn’t deserve the problem we had in St. Pete, so I guess things even out.”

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 98 U.S. Concrete Honda) – Finished 6th: “It was just too little, too late. I think the car took a stint or two to spool up, but once we got there, the car was great. We were able to get gain track position, and ultimately, ended up sixth. I knew in the warmup we were cruising – we knew the race car was going to be good, but the red flag in qualifying caught us out. I think if we could have qualified our car, we would’ve had a better starting position and the U.S. Concrete car could’ve been further up at the checkers. We just need to keep up this pace and move on to Barber.”

TAKUMA SATO (No. 30 Mi-Jack / Panasonic Honda) – Finished 7th: “It was a very exciting race.  At one point it was a shame, but (Jack) Harvey had an issue and he got slowed down and I was boxed in with (Scott) Dixon. If it didn’t happen, I was a pinball right and left.  If it didn’t happen I would have been fifth or higher. We had a failure on the air jack on the last pit stop so we lost a bunch of places.  Considering that, I think the strategy and the yellow helped bring us back to seventh place. For the team, under the difficult circumstances, it was a good weekend.”

PATRICIO O’WARD (No. 31 Carlin Chevrolet) – Finished 8th: “I think it was a pretty good race for us. We ended exactly where we started (eighth) and didn’t go backwards, so I’d say that was a successful day. We ran a clean race and we were right on pace, but after that yellow came out we needed one more lap under yellow to be able to push as hard as we wanted to. I was having to save a lot of fuel to make it to the end, so it was just impossible to keep Marco (Andretti) and Takuma (Sato) behind me coming full power. I know the No. 31 Carlin Chevrolet had a top-five finish in it today and even though we couldn’t make it happen, it’s nice to know that we have the pace and can be fighting up front with the veteran drivers. Huge congrats to Colton (Herta). I’m really happy for him – I know this means a lot to him.”

ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 27 NAPA Auto Parts Honda) – Finished 9th: “The NAPA AUTO PARTS car was awesome. Will (Power) and I were in a league of our own. For the first two-thirds of the race, it was just me and Will (Power) – especially in the third stint, we were both fast and were able to gap ourselves from the rest of the field. It was going to be a pretty awesome race between the two of us there on new (Firestone) reds, but never got the opportunity with the yellow. From there the day was kind of over. It’s unfortunate we never got a shot to play it out. We’ll move on and focus forward on the races ahead.”

JACK HARVEY (No. 60 AutoNation / SiriusXM Honda) – Finished 10th: “The whole team did a great job to make up all those positions. It was nice to be on the good end of the yellow flag, which put us in a competitive position with about 10 laps to go. If you had asked me this morning, I wouldn’t have thought we would have finished 10th. Towards the end I thought we had great pace and I think we showed that we belong in the top 10. For me, I just want to keep getting these types of results. So far it’s two races and two top ten (finishes) so I can’t complain.”

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda) – Finished 16th: “Starting side-by-side with (my teammate) Marcus (Ericsson), we decided to split the tire strategy. It’s funny – coming into the last stint, we converged almost identically. We didn’t have quite as good pace on the blacks (Firestone primary tires), but the Arrow car felt really good on the (Firestone alternate) reds. Marcus and I pitted, I think, from seventh and eighth almost together near the end with sticker reds. There were a couple of guys in front of us with scrubbed reds and they definitely were falling off more than our (tires) were, so we were looking at a solid top 10, maybe even flirting with a top five today. Which, given where we started, would have been a great result. Unfortunately, I got caught up in the incident with Felix (Rosenqvist), and it’s unfortunate, we had a really good battle back and forth, so it shows that Circuit of The Americas can put on a good race. Ultimately a bit of a racing incident in Turn 19; I feel bad for Felix – he was having a good race as well. Proud of the Arrow SPM boys. Not the result we wanted, certainly, but from where we started, I think we rebounded nicely. Had we not gotten caught up in that incident, and had Marcus not had a problem in pit lane, I think both cars would have been toward the top of the leaderboard.”

MAX CHILTON (No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet) – Finished 21st: “Another long day at the office for us. It was just an extremely unlucky day for the No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet. We lost a few spots right out of the gate and then we had a very long pit stop trying to get the car going again after running out of fuel. It just wasn’t our day at all, but I’m a big fan of the track at Barber, so I’m looking forward to hopefully finding a little bit of luck and coming out with a good result.”

ZACH VEACH (No. 26 Gainbridge Honda) – Finished 22nd: “Overall, it was a pretty disappointing day. We had pace all weekend and unfortunately, on the start got the bad end of a racing deal and pushed off the track. We got back on track behind then had to replace a tow link on the right front and that kind of set our fate for the rest of the day. It’s disappointing for the Gainbridge crew – we had the pace to be up front but a racing deal ultimately took us out.”

FELIX ROSENQVIST (No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) – Finished 23rd: “We had good speed in the NTT DATA car and we just couldn’t get where we needed to in the race. I made a mistake and spun which didn’t help. Then (James) Hinchcliffe and I got together and I got knocked out. I’m not sure what happened exactly, but I’ll have to look at the replay. But there were things I learned for sure and we’ll come back stronger at (Barber).”

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet) – Finished 24th: “Yeah, it feels like an input shaft. I just released the clutch snap and I could kind of hear it grinding together. I’m massively disappointed, man; like you lead all those laps and worked so hard all weekend to put yourself into position. If the yellow (flag) didn’t get us, the driveshaft did.  Another hole at the beginning of the season. But the guys have done a great job. We’re quick every weekend. Oh, I just want to have a good run, man. I just want to have a normal run in a season without this sort of crap.”

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter.

Graham Rahal’s ‘Weighty Issue’

Leave a comment

MONTEREY, California – Graham Rahal admits that he can’t wait until the day he doesn’t have to worry about his weight. Being a 6-foot-2, big-boned individual can have its advantages, but not when it comes to fitting into an IndyCar.

That is why the son of 1986 Indianapolis 500 winner and three-time CART IndyCar champion Bobby Rahal has begun a body shaping therapy known as “Sculpting” that uses lasers to trim away body fat.

“Honestly, it is no secret, I’m not shy about this, that I’ve struggled with my weight,” the 201-pound Rahal told a group of reporters during INDYCAR’s Open Test at Laguna Seca on Thursday. “I can guarantee you that from a strength perspective and a stamina perspective, there’s very few guys out here that can keep up with me. I’m just not a super skinny build. It’s never been my thing.

“I’ve tried. We’ve kind of looked around. There was some mutual interest from them to look into trying this, see if it works. I’ll be honest. I was always very skeptical of the stuff. Where I’m at, I’ve done one treatment. I can’t even tell you today if it’s something that really works or not.”

That led Rahal to try out the sculpting process that was invented by a doctor who found it with swelling in kid’s cheeks. The “Sculpture” process uses a laser that kills the fatty cells.

“It takes a long time, I think,” Rahal said. “It’s going to take multiple I think to get there.”

Watch Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey on NBC at 3 p.m.

A race driver needs to be thin, yet very strong to have the physical strength and stamina to compete at a high level in the race car. When it comes to the NTT IndyCar Series, it’s even more important because of the size of the cars and tight cockpit.

Additionally, the extra weight can impact the performance of the race car. The lighter the driver, the less weight inside of the car. In INDYCAR, drivers are weighed and for the lighter drivers, lead weight is added to the car to meet a requirement.

But in Rahal’s case, the lead weight ballast has to be reduced and that sometimes throws off the center of gravity in the car.

“The facts are it’s not going to work if you don’t work out, too, and eat well,” Rahal said. “It doesn’t do anything. But earlier this year, man, I had given up drinking completely for three, four months. I was working out every day, twice a day on most occasions. I went to a nutritionist, doing everything. I literally was not losing an ounce. It was the most frustrating period of time for me.

“I am the biggest guy here. Is it ever going to be equal for me? No matter what these guys talk about with driver ballast, it’s a whole different thing, where my center of gravity is.”

That is what led the 30-year-old driver from Ohio to study the “Sculpting” procedure. He realizes he is never going to have the metabolism of some of the thinner drivers, but he needs to maintain a weight that minimizes his disadvantage.

“It is a challenge,” he admitted. “Ricky Taylor and Helio Castroneves (on Penske Team Acura in IMSA) weigh 60 pounds less than me or something. There is no ballast there. That’s a big swing, a lot of weight to be carrying around.

“We have to try anything we can. If you’re going to be serious, try to find the performance advantage and the edge, you’ve got to look outside of the box.

“It is something new for me. But the fight I guess against being an ultra-skinny guy.

“I fly home with most of these guys after races, I see most of these guys a lot of times, they’re sitting there eating In-N-Out Burger, whatever else. Literally I cannot do it. If I do it, it immediately reflects for me. These guys you see them the next weekend, they’re like this big.

“It’s like, (crap), it’s not my build.”

Because of Rahal’s height and size, he chose to step away from the endurance races for Team Penske in IMSA at the end of last season. He was replaced at the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring by fellow IndyCar driver Alexander Rossi.

Rahal complained that the steering wheel actually hit his legs inside of the Acura, making it difficult for him to drive on the challenging road courses. Since that time, Acura Team Penske has moved the steering column up by a few inches, and it no longer impacts a driver the size of Rahal.

For the IMSA season-ending Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta on Oct. 12, Rahal will be back in the Team Penske Acura.

“Back in the (Team Penske) shop three weeks ago, I could actually turn the steering wheel, which I was shocked about,” Rahal said. “My head touched the roof, whatever, I’m used to that. Physically being able to steer, which I now should be able to do better.

“So I’m excited about it. It’s another great opportunity obviously with Penske. But more importantly for me is Acura, Honda. It’s a great thing to be back in.

“But that wasn’t a weight thing. It’s purely size. They just don’t build cars for guys my size. I used to talk to J.W. (Justin Wilson) about that. It’s the facts of life. Even the GT cars. You would think a GT car would be big. I don’t know if I’ve ever been in a GT car, I was comfortable in either. They’re built for small guys. That’s the way it goes.”

Rahal is taller than his father, Bobby, who is also his IndyCar team owner along with David Letterman and Michael Lanigan.

“I blame my dad,” Rahal said. “I do. You can tell him I said that. I told him, ‘It’s a genetic thing. I got good genes in some ways.’

“I told my wife this the other day, I’m very excited for someday when my career ends just to have a ‘Dad Bod,’ be able to let go for a minute, see how things turn out, because this is getting a little bit exhausting.

“We’re going to stay committed through the winter. I try my hardest every year, but I never tried harder this year to be thin. I weigh about the same as last year, but it took so much effort to get there, I just have to think outside the box.”