McDONALD'S DRIVER RAHAL AND TEAMMATE DOORNBOS HOPE TO CONTINUE TEAM'S STREAK OF PODIUM FINISHES IN EVERY REXALL EDMONTON INDY EDMONTON, Alberta, Canada (July 22, 2009) --- Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing (NHLR) has always looked forward to their...
McDONALD'S DRIVER RAHAL AND TEAMMATE DOORNBOS HOPE TO CONTINUE TEAM'S STREAK OF PODIUM FINISHES IN EVERY REXALL EDMONTON INDY
EDMONTON, Alberta, Canada (July 22, 2009) --- Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing (NHLR) has always looked forward to their return to the 1.973-mile, 14-turn City Centre Airport course in Edmonton since the first race here in 2005 which was won by then team driver Sebastien Bourdais. Bourdais started from pole the next year and finished second before another win came in 2007. The team has finished on the podium in every Champ or Indy car race held here for a total of six times in the four events, most recently with Justin Wilson's third place finish in 2008. McDonald's driver Graham Rahal and Robert Doornbos are looking forward to the opportunity to extend that record in this Sunday's Rexall Edmonton Indy.
"Edmonton has been a great place for me," said Rahal who has finished on the podium in two of his three races here. "I love the circuit, its very demanding, fast and fun. I have felt very competitive every time I have competed there and I really hope that streak continues this year and we can give the McDonald's team another win here. Absolutely it is very possible to continue the team's record of finishing on the podium in every race here. I feel very highly that either of our drivers have an opportunity to do great things here, and a win is certainly possible."
Rahal competed here in the Atlantic series in 2006 where he started third and finished second before he moved up to the Champ Car series and raced for NHLR in 2007 where he started fourth and finished third to Bourdais and Justin Wilson, respectively. In his 2008 return here in the inaugural IndyCar Series race at this track, he had big expectations but was hit on the opening lap by Mario Moraes and, after multiple stops to repair that damage, he was later hit by E.J. Viso, who was given a drive-through penalty for avoidable contact. Rahal qualified third at the previous street race in Toronto but second-place starter Will Power ran over his front wing at the start and ended his hopes of a victory there. He is not only looking to turn his luck around at Edmonton this weekend, he is also looking to turn his luck around for the season.
"The track is very physically demanding, and it is tough to figure out," said Rahal, who has earned two poles this season and his best finish is third place on the oval in Richmond. "Being that areas are wide open, it is difficult to find your brake markers and etc. It is a fast place, with areas of high g-forces so it makes it lots of fun. I'm disappointed that the season hasn't been better for us so far. I have been very competitive and my entire team has done a fantastic job but we have had the worst luck that anyone could ever have. I just hope we can end it off well in the remaining races beginning with Edmonton. We have the potential."
Rahal's teammate Robert Doornbos is also hoping to reach the full potential of the team in Edmonton. This track is the third and final one he has raced on before of the 17-race 2009 IndyCar Series schedule. He entered the 2007 race here as the points leader but he qualified and finished 11th for Minardi Team USA after contact with Alex Tagliani while ninth put him one lap down. He is looking forward to his return to the track and getting back to work after a rare weekend off.
"It's great to come back to Edmonton," said Doornbos, who is within seven points of the leader Raphael Matos in the Rookie of the Year standings (182-175), in second place. "In Champ Car I was very impressed with the turn-out of fans even on practice days! It's great for the drivers and sponsors to have a big crowd watching and I hope this year is going to be the same. The track is technical and challenging with some fast bits so we just have to find a good car balance so that we can be strong all around the track! It sounds easy but a lot of hard work will take place to make this happen."
Doornbos narrowly missed making it to the third round of the Firestone Fast Six qualifying at the last event in Toronto and started seventh. After making a great start he moved into third place on the opening lap but ultimately retired due to an electrical failure in the gear shift system. Like Rahal, he has the potential to continue the team's string of podium finishes in Edmonton.
"I think as a team we have had many opportunities this season to be on a podium but we had too many problems," said Doornbos. "To make it happen this weekend in Edmonton we just need a mega set-up for the car from the engineers, mechanics who prepare the car to the max and make it bulletproof and a driver who's very hungry for a podium. The 06 crew has all of these and the potential to pull this off."
As one of the main challengers of NHLR and Bourdais, with Justin Wilson, for the 2007 Champ Car title, Doornbos showed his ability by winning two races and amassing five podium finishes during the title fight on road and street courses and finished third overall. His best start this season of second place came on an oval and best finishes of ninth place came three times on two ovals and a street course. Prior to joining the IndyCar Series in 2008, the team and current drivers had built the bulk of their experience base on road and street courses. Doornbos believes the diversity of ovals, road courses and street courses in the IndyCar Series enable a variety of contenders throughout the year.
"You always have to believe that a win is possible and that is what is great about the IndyCar Series with the races being so exciting, almost anybody can win on these types of tracks," said the Dutchman. "My goals are the same and that is to be successful in Indy cars in the long run. In all the championships apart from Formula One I have been a frontrunner and a race winner and I want to keep doing so in Indy car!"
Not only is it the second time for the IndyCar Series to race in Edmonton, it is also their third race in Canada in general after holding and event in Toronto two weeks ago. However, the team has enjoyed many competitive races in Canada over the years. Of their 107 wins, they have earned a combined total of 15 at events in Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal and Edmonton dating back to their first in Canada with Michael Andretti in the 1989 event in Toronto. In addition, they have a total of 34 podium finishes in Canada. If they are able to carry over their previous success in Edmonton with a win, it would enable the team to extend their record of earning at least one victory every year but one in their 27th season of competition. Doornbos predicts a big celebration if he takes the checkered flag first on Sunday.
"It would be great to win a race this year with Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing and I promise you it will be a BIG party when we do! We have to keep working harder than the rest and make less mistakes, have a bit more luck and we can keep the tradition going! I flew out to Mont Tremblant and did my physical training which was great as there are awesome hiking and mountain bike trails and I also went back to the see the Mont Tremblant race track where I won the Champ Car race in 2007. I picked up some winning energy and now I'm ready for the Edmonton race!"
"I think that the team can win this season," added Rahal, who earned one of the team's two wins in 2008. b^0x001cThere are things we need to improve on, but yes we absolutely have a great opportunity to gain some wins here towards the end of the season. It would mean a lot to me to win again for this team, and I think it would give us a lot of momentum as the season ends and the 2010 season begins. Of the remaining races I think our best chance to win is at Edmonton, Mid-Ohio, Sonoma and Chicago."
This weekend's Rexall Edmonton Indy can be seen on live on Sunday, July 26 at 5:00 p.m. EDT on Versus. The event will get underway with practice on Friday, qualifying on Saturday and the 95-lap race will begin at 4:00 p.m. MDT on Sunday. As always, fans can follow the action from every on-track session via the official website of the IndyCar Series, www.indycar.com. It will also be broadcast live on IMS Radio Network and XM Radio Channels 144 and 145.