Newman/Haas Racing Drivers Rahal & Mutoh Hope to End Season on High at Homestead GRAHAM AND HIDEKI ON ONE OF THE MOST CHALLENGING OVALS OF THE SEASON Both drivers agree that the variable-banked 1.5-mile Homestead Miami Speedway is one of the...
Newman/Haas Racing Drivers Rahal & Mutoh Hope to End Season on High at Homestead
GRAHAM AND HIDEKI ON ONE OF THE MOST CHALLENGING OVALS OF THE SEASON
Both drivers agree that the variable-banked 1.5-mile Homestead Miami Speedway is one of the most challenging of the season. This is the sixth race this season on a 1.5-mile oval (and the fourth consecutive). Graham Rahal and Hideki Mutoh agree that this is one of the most challenging ovals of the season. "Homestead-Miami Speedway, while it looks pretty straightforward because it's really only two corners, is an extremely tricky track," said Rahal who will pilot the No. 02 Quick Trim entry. "The corners are obviously very, very high speed but fairly tight and fairly high-banked. It makes it very difficult to figure out what setup works for the car. What the car wants to do in the middle half of the corner versus what it wants to do in the second half of the corner are two completely different things and we've always struggled to get it to do one in the same. Because of that Homestead is probably the most challenging of the 1.5 mile circuits." Hideki Mutoh, who will pilot the No. 06 Formula Dream/Panasonic entry agreed. "Homestead and Motegi are the most difficult 1.5 mile ovals we go to. In Homestead, the banking is quite high but Turns 3 & 4, especially on the exit of Turn 4, are difficult because the turn is much tighter so it makes this oval more difficult than other ovals."
HIDEKI'S HISTORY AT HOMESTEAD INCLUDES HIS OVAL RACING DEBUT
This year's event will be Mutoh's third IICS race here and fourth overall after having competed in the 2007 Firestone Indy Lights race where he started and finished third in his oval racing debut. In 2008, he started seventh and finished 24th after a brush with the wall after 32/200 laps. In 2009, he finished sixth after starting 19th. "My first oval race ever was at Homestead in Indy Lights in 2007," recalled Mutoh. "I was very nervous for my first oval race ever. I tested for only one day at Homestead then I raced there. I was very conservative in the race. I really didn't push until the last 10 laps and then the yellow came out. I was just driving around; I didn't fight but I had a car that could have won. I just didn't have enough experience to push too hard. I was very pleased to qualify seventh in my first Indy car race at Homestead in 2008. Compared to my teammates I had the most downforce because it was only my second Indy car race and still earned a good starting position. I made my Indy car debut at the last race of 2007 in Chicago but Homestead felt like my first race again. I had a lot of downforce on the car so I was happy to qualify as high as seventh. In the race, I touched the wall on the exit of Turn 4. I was behind two cars and, compared to Indy Lights, being in an Indy Car was totally different and I just lost the downforce. I lost control and went wide on the exit of Turn 4 and brushed the wall and bent the suspension and that was the end of my race. In 2009, I had a big crash in Motegi, which was the race before Homestead, and I was still not well at Homestead. We did the same thing for qualifying and ran a lot of downforce and we were 19th. But I had a great race car and I was able to pass many cars and had good pit stops so I passed people on track and in pit lane. Physically it was very tough because there weren't any yellows and the strategy worked out."
GRAHAM'S HISTORY AT HOMESTEAD
The Cafes do Brasil will be Rahal's second Indy car race here. In 2008, he missed the season-opening race here due to a crash in Turn 2 on the final day of a two-day test on Tuesday night of race week in what would have been his oval racing debut. The team was unable to repair the car in time for race weekend and Rahal watched from the spotter's stand. It was the first race after the reunification of open wheel racing and the team did not have a backup car. In 2009, Rahal qualified sixth and finished 11th. "It was tough weekend for us last year. We struggled in practice and kind of threw it together for qualifying and did obviously fairly well with a sixth place start. But for the race it was back to the same story; the car was really hard to driveand we struggled to make headway. We fell back in the field and got back up near the top-10 simply because other cars had fallen out. It was a very demanding, really tough race because it was green the entire race. That was difficult because there was really no chance for us to work on the car under yellow to make it better. Martin (Pare, race engineer) and I have been talking and there are several different things that he wants to try that he thinks were, in the past, pointing us in the wrong direction. It's been a place that has been tough for us. I had my first crash there in 2008 and for whatever reason that place has been very challenging for us."
BEING IN A POSITION TO WIN SEASON-FINALE
Most drivers in the event will be looking to end their season with a strong result and Rahal is no different. "I want to go out there and put myself in a position to win," said the 21-year-old. "It's pretty plain and simple that that is what I need to do. I need to put myself and my team in a position that we can succeed together. Yes there is a championship on the line and others are thinking about their season-ending rank but we're not in that position so we need to do what's best for us. I hope that if we all give 100 percent on that day that we'll get a top-five or top-three."J J EXPECTATIONS AT HOMESTEAD
"We have speed in qualifying so the main focus is to work on the race car again," said Mutoh. "It seems we are getting better and better. Hopefully this time we will have a strong finish, like a top-eight." Rahal has the same expectations. "I would be happy with a top-10 -- at the worst. We're on a top-10 streak here. We had a bad race at Mid-Ohio but other than that, the team and I haven't been out of the top-10. I would really love to challenge for the pole and to run at the front of the race. That's an ideal world for me and that's what we're going to shoot for. I'm in the top-20 in points and we've only done 13 of the 17 race and I would really like to stay there. While that's not a huge testimate because its still only 20th, I think it's pretty impressive given we haven't done the entire season and some others around us have. I'm going to push really hard to make sure I can accomplish that.JObviously it's an important period of time as we look towards 2011.JYou want to show well now."J
SEASON ASSESSMENT BY MUTOH AND RAHAL
"It has been a tough season," said Mutoh, who had two top-five and five top-10 starts in the 16 races so far in 2010. "There were some races that we could have finished in the top-five but we just didn't have luck. We missed some good finishes due to bad luck and other things. After the Indy 500, I wasn't happy with the car balance. The team worked very hard to adjust the car to my driving style. Graham and I have a different driving style and the team needed time to adapt the setup to my driving style and I also needed to adapt to a different balance in the car."J
"There is a lot positive that can be taken from 2010," added Rahal, whose best finish of the season of fifth place came in Toronto, the first of six races he has/will compete in with NHR in 2010. "This season has made me stronger as a driver. I've been able to maximize 99 percent of the opportunities that I've been given. I have run in the top-10 for four different teams this season so I feel pretty good about that. The only thing I'm disappointed with is Mid-Ohio in a big way. It really grounds you and as I move forward with my career I will look back on this season as one I have really learned from."
EXPECTATIONS FOR TITLE FIGHT
Heading into the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, two drivers remain eligible for IZOD IndyCar Series championship.Will Power, who won five times on road courses to claim the Mario Andretti Road Championship, and Dario Franchitti, the Indianapolis 500 and A.J. Foyt Oval Championship winner, will vie for the series title. Power leads Franchitti by 12 points entering the season-finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. It is the fifth-straight season that the IZOD IndyCar Series title will be decided in the final race and both Rahal and Mutoh agree that it will be a close battle. "It has been a great title fight," said Rahal. "Will certainly has arrived; he's done a fantastic job all year. Of course the Ganassi boys are always there and both Dario and Dixie (Dixon) have done a great job. Now it comes down to Dario and Will as drivers really. I tend to think that Will has been strong enough on ovals as of late that he will be just fine. I haven't followed the point scenario enough but if Will has to beat Dario to win the title that might be a long shot. You never know though. Last year we thought we were all extremely competitive at Homestead but the three guys in the championship fight lapped the entire field. Both guys are deserving of the title. I think Will is strong enough. He built up enough of a lead on the road courses that he'll be strong enough to hold it but who knows. It's bound to be entertaining." Hideki agrees that it will be a close battle at Homestead. "It's not a surprise that Ganassi and Penske are fighting for the title again," said Mutoh. "They have done a very good job. At some tracks Penske is very fast and at others Ganassi is very fast. It's hard to say who will win but it seems like Ganassi has a better car for ovals. I like Dario and Will both and they both deserve it so I will be happy with the outcome either way."
RAHAL AND LPGA'S BEATRIZ RECARI SHARE DRIVING EXPERIENCES
LPGA Tour rookie sensation Beatriz Recari and Graham Rahal will share "Driving Experiences" on the range and racetrack on Saturday in advance of the Cafes do Brasil Indy 300. Recari will offer Rahal some swing tips at Keys Gate Golf Club's Driving Range in Homestead, Fla. At 12:30 p.m. ET on Saturday. Rahal then will prep Recari as she takes a spin at speeds approaching 200 mph in a two-seater Indy car at Homestead -- Miami Speedway with motorsports legend and former NHR driver/champion Mario Andretti at 2:30. Recari hails from Pamplona, Spain and lives in Miami. She has three top-10 finishes in her first season on the LPGA Tour (Ladies Professional Golf Association), including fifth at the Mojo 6 tournament after an online fan vote got her a much-coveted spot in the elite field of 16 top players. She is fluent in English and Spanish and is currently learning Japanese so she is looking forward to speaking to Hideki in his native tongue.
Rahal is excited about the event that groups his two favorite passions. "Golf is something I have played all my life. I absolutely love it! I wouldn't give it up for anything. I have fun every time I go out. It's so relaxing for me. It's something I often resort to when I am at home and trying to get a little time to relax. It's something that I love going to do to get my mind off of things. It will be interesting to see who can hit the ball further, me or Beatriz, because I feel like I can drive pretty far but you never know. I'd be surprised if I couldn't hit it farther but we'll see. I've hit the ball well over 300 yards before but that's not saying much. I've hit probably a 365 yard drive before but it depends on how dry the ground is. If its dry you can hit it 250 and it will roll an extra 100 years. I'm looking forward to it. It will be pretty fun. I don't know if my dad exposed me to golf to try to entice me to choose that over racing as a professional career but, if anything, he definitely always felt that golf was what I should be doing over racing cars but that's a dad for you. It might be fun, in the future, to play in some tournaments. During May at Indy, that's one of the things that I enjoy the absolute most. Being able to go out and play and have fun. Its one of the things I have the best time doing."