NEWMAN/HAAS/LANIGAN RACING RETURNS TO TEXAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY FOR THE BOMBARDIER LEARJET 550k; TMS HAS BEEN A BIG PART IN THE TEAM'S PROGRESS ON OVALS FORT WORTH (June 3, 2008) --- Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing (NHLR) will head south for their second...
NEWMAN/HAAS/LANIGAN RACING RETURNS TO TEXAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY FOR THE BOMBARDIER LEARJET 550k; TMS HAS BEEN A BIG PART IN THE TEAM'S PROGRESS ON OVALS
FORT WORTH (June 3, 2008) --- Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing (NHLR) will head south for their second event at Texas Motor Speedway (TMS), site of Saturday night's Bombardier Learjet 550k. The 1.5-mile, high-banked track has served as a baseline for the team's ongoing goal of closing the gap on ovals to their fellow IndyCar Series (ICS) competitors that have utilized the current racing package since 2003. Data gained while running at TMS has helped the team measure their progress on ovals since they joined the ICS in 2008.
"The Texas track is bumpy so you need a good setup of springs and dampers for mechanical grip," said Craig Hampson, senior engineer at NHLR. "However, at the big speedways in the IndyCar Series, your car speed is mainly dictated by aerodynamics so these tests have been invaluable to try andevaluate various items on the cars. At each of these tests we've been running alone, so the results were not clouded by traffic or tows. The information gathered has been very useful."
Data gained from their first race here in June of 2008 was compared to data from the team's test at TMS in October 2008 and the information showed that gains had been made over the five oval races since they first competed at TMS. When it was determined that ICS rookie Robert Doornbos would team with McDonald's driver Graham Rahal, NHLR scheduled another test at TMS on April 8, to acclimate the rookie to the high-banked oval and the data indicated even more progress over the off-season. The following weekend the team competed at the 1.5-mile Kansas Speedway oval and the results spoke for themselves. Rahal became the youngest pole winner on an oval in series history while Doornbos out-qualified longtime ICS teams and started second in his oval racing debut.
"Texas has played a big role in our development on ovals," said Rahal, 20, who earned his highest oval finish of fourth place in his 12 oval races to date last weekend in Milwaukee. "We tested there a couple of times and we could see the pace and the progress that we made. We're looking forward to going back to TMS and giving it another shot. I think I have adjusted to ovals quite well. I feel a lot more comfortable this year than I did last year. Every time I race it helps me with the transition and we are able to get the cars to work better with the changing conditions in each race. The more racing we do on ovals, the more comfortable we get. Racing is the biggest thing that can help us make sure we have a competitive car and one that is comfortable in traffic during the race."
"With the banking it was an amazing experience when we tested there," added Doornbos, 27. "It went really well, it was a good test. We found a lot of good stuff for the car that we can use throughout the season. It will only be my fourth race on an oval so I hope to learn as much as possible before the race and I'm sure I will gain even more experience in the race. I was able to get up to speed quickly when we tested there in April and I'm sure there will be plenty of excitement when everyone is on track together."
The IndyCar Series has held races at Texas Motor Speedway since 1997 and the track has featured the closest racing in series history. In 19 races on the 1.5-mile oval since 1997, 13 have been determined by less than one second. Six races had a margin of victory of less than one-tenth of a second on the tracks that features 24-degree banking in the turns.
"I'm looking forward to going back to Texas; it's a crazy race but it's certainly very competitive there," said Rahal who finished 11th here last year. "We showed that we have the pace this year when we raced at Kansas, which is very similar to Texas, and also at Indy and Milwaukee, and I think that it's going to definitely help us get better results. Racing is very close at Texas Motor Speedway so we have to make sure we are far up in the field and very competitive."
After starting second in his oval debut in Kansas, Doornbos led two laps before a pit penalty forced him to the back of the field but he charged back to finish 12th. In Indianapolis, he was again on the pace but two crashes prior to Pole Day forced him to qualify on the third day which set positions 23-33. He brushed the wall during the Indy 500 while struggling with the handling of his race car and finished 28th. His third different type of oval at the Milwaukee Mile again provided valuable experience. He started 12th and finished 14th and after the race remarked that he thought he should run well in Texas as he felt the track would suit his driving style. He's looking forward to another challenge this weekend.
"I hear that the race at Texas Motor Speedway is one of the most exciting ever and that your heart will be racing for sure because you can drive three abreast and it's very close racing," said Doornbos. "It's one of the most challenging ovals we race on during the season. I look forward to that now that I have a bit more experience on the ovals."
After five of 17 races this season, Rahal is ranked eighth in the point standings with 114 while Doornbos is ranked 15th with 85 and is only three points behind fellow ICS rookie Raphael Matos in the Rookie of the Year standings. Of the team's 107 victories, 27 have come on ovals while 19 of their 109 poles have been earned on the same type of track. For NHLR to earn their first ICS oval win in Texas would provide further evidence that the second most successful active open wheel team will be a contender every weekend.