Chicagoland: Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing preview

McDONALD'S DRIVER RAHAL AND TEAMMATE SERVIA LOOKING FORWARD TO HOME RACE AT THIS SATURDAY'S PEAK ANTIFREEZE & MOTOR OIL INDY 300 AT CHICAGOLAND SPEEDWAY JOLIET, Ill. (August 27, 2009) --- With three races to go in the 2009 IndyCar Series season,...

McDONALD'S DRIVER RAHAL AND TEAMMATE SERVIA LOOKING FORWARD TO HOME RACE AT THIS SATURDAY'S PEAK ANTIFREEZE & MOTOR OIL INDY 300 AT CHICAGOLAND SPEEDWAY

JOLIET, Ill. (August 27, 2009) --- With three races to go in the 2009 IndyCar Series season, a win at this weekend's 200-lap Peak Antifreeze & Motor Oil Indy 300 on the 1.5-mile Chicagoland Speedway would not only help the team end the season on a high-note, it would also enable them to celebrate a win at a "home" event for the Lincolnshire, Ill-based team as well as their Oakbrook, Ill.-based sponsor McDonald's. Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing (NHLR) drivers Graham Rahal and Oriol Servia are excited about the team's chance to earn a strong finish this weekend.

"I think we have the potential to get our first win of the season this weekend," said Rahal, who is only 34 points out of fifth place in the standings in ninth with 301. "It's important for us to get a good finish with McDonald's being here and it being a home race for the team. That's key, that's our Number One goal. I feel very confident that our first win on a 1.5 mile oval will come this year. I think that we can do it if everybody dots all the "i's" and crosses all the "t's." We should be looking pretty good for this race knowing that we were so strong in Kentucky."

"Being a home race always adds something specialto the event for the team," added Servia. "Not only does everyone have an extra bit of motivation but it also makes it especially sweet if we are able to earn a top result. Having therace on Saturday night adds another party effect on it that suits the occasion perfectly."

The PEAK Antifreeze & Motor Oil Indy 300 will be the ninth IndyCar Series event conducted at Chicagoland Speedway. While NHLR competed four times at Chicago Motor Speedway in Cicero, Ill. from 1999-2002 with one win (Cristiano da Matta) and two podiums (2nd -- Michael Andretti), it will only be their second race at this track. Last year Rahal started 14th and ran as high as fifth but mid-race contact in the pits with Buddy Rice and contact with the wall on the final lap 0xdb6d most likely due to a compromised part from the pit contact -- led to a 19th place finish. Justin Wilson started 21st and finished 11th.

"It was a good race for us last year," Rahal said of running in the top five. "It was probably the first time last season that our car was super-competitive on an oval. We made it a long way in the race and we were running extremely well until we made contact with Buddy Rice in the pits. The car was extremely comfortable and fast so that gives us high-hopes for this year especially coming off the last oval race in Kentucky where we ran well with the new aero package and we were even better at Chicagoland last year than at Kentucky. The race will be extremely, extremely close at Chicagoland this year. There is no doubt about that."

Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing has earned 27 of the 107 wins and 19 of their 109 poles on ovals. The most recent oval win came at the Milwaukee Mile in 2006 by Sebastien Bourdais and their most recent pole came earlier this season at the 1.5 mile Kansas Speedway by Rahal, who became the youngest pole sitter on an oval in series history. Servia will make his first start for the team on an oval in the IndyCar Series after having competed in two ovals races for the team in 2005 where he finished on the podium both times with a third place finish at the Milwaukee Mile and second place start and finish at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. He is looking forward to the opportunity to drive on an oval again with the team.

"I have been very impressed by the progress Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing has made on ovals," said Servia. "Seeing both cars on the front row in Kansas was an amazing accomplishment. I have always felt at home on ovals. I especially enjoy driving on short ovals but at the same time I always felt that the strategy needed at a super speedway suits me very well. All of that, combined with the speed that I know the car will have, makes me eager to jump in the car. As a former Champ car group we have shown what we can do in road and street races and I think we are all very confident of what we can do on ovals and this weekend is a perfect opportunity to show it."

Last year at Chicagoland Speedway Servia started the race 12th and was disappointed with a 17th place finish after his car was damaged when it was hit by debris which forced an unscheduled pit stop. He is hoping to greatly improve his finishing position here and is expecting a close race based on watching the previous oval race at Kentucky from the sidelines.

"Last year the Chicagoland race for me was a big disappointment because as a team I believe we came with the best car we had all season for a super speedway and had a good chance to finish in the top six in the points but early in the race a piece of debris from another car hit my mirror and basically destroyed our chances," said Servia. "Kentucky was a very exciting race and I don't expect Chicago to be any different. I am sure we will see a very close race with many cars having an opportunity to win it. I am truly excited about that as I believe we will be one of the contenders."

Honda Performance Development has allotted 20 presses of the overtake assist button (up from 10 at Kentucky) for 12 seconds each for the race this weekend, the second on an oval with this feature. The overtake assist option, instituted for the race at Kentucky Speedway, provides a 5-20 horsepower boost based on fuel setting and 200 RPMs (for a total of 10,500) for each time the system is engaged. A button is on each steering wheel. There is a 10-second recharge period between presses. Both drivers are expecting that Honda's new overtake system will make an impact again and Servia is looking forward to using it for the first time on an oval.

"The Push to Pass was good at Kentucky; it allowed me to catch up to the front pack in the last 12 laps," said Rahal, who finished fifth there after starting 10th based on point standings due to qualifying being cancelled. "Hopefully this time around we'll start a lot closer to the lead pack so I won't have to worry about coming from so far behind."

"Well I guess I will have to learn it (push to pass) through the race but it seems like it has become another good tool to have that plays an exciting role at the end of the race," added Servia. "Using it at the right time is very important as the time it takes to recharge can cost you the position you just got."

In the battle for the IndyCar Series championship, only 20 points separate the top-three with Ryan Briscoe, 497, Dario Franchitti, 493, and Scott Dixon, 477, in a battle that is about as close as it could be.

"The title fight couldn't be more exciting," said Servia. "It has become impossible to predict who will win the next race or who will be the most consistent. Not only do we have the usual contenders with Penske and Ganassi but we have new cars every weekend with a chance to win which makes the points allocation vary a lot every race. I think it is great for everybody involved and, more importantly for the fans, that it has become as competitive as it is right now."

"On the title front, I think Dario will probably win it because I think his consistency all year will probably get him there," predicted Rahal. "He struggled a little bit more on the ovals than (Ryan) Briscoe or (Scott Dixon) Dixie but I think he's looking pretty strong to finish on top."

-credit: nhlr

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Justin Wilson , Michael Andretti , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Oriol Servia , Graham Rahal , Sébastien Bourdais , Buddy Rice , Ryan Briscoe , Cristiano da Matta