Chicagoland: Newman/Haas Racing preview

HOME RACE Newman/Haas Racing is based in Lincolnshire, Illinois and this is the closest race to their base on the 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series schedule. RAHAL AIMS TO BE A CONTENDOR AGAIN AT CHICAGOLAND The 2010 race will mark Graham Rahal's...

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Newman/Haas Racing is based in Lincolnshire, Illinois and this is the closest race to their base on the 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series schedule.

RAHAL AIMS TO BE A CONTENDOR AGAIN AT CHICAGOLAND

The 2010 race will mark Graham Rahal's third at the 1.5-mile Chicagoland Speedway. In 2009 he qualified fifth and ran third in the final laps with a shot at the win before he finished fifth. "The race here last year was a really good race for us," said Rahal. "We qualified fifth, ran up front all day and finished fifth but we had a shot at the win. It was a very Chicago-esque race; everybody ran in a pack the entire race. There was a lot going on. We were three-wide for the lead at one point at the end of the race but we ended up fifth but it was a pretty good day. We were pretty competitive last year on 1.5-mile ovals and I don't see a reason why we can start where we left off. A lot of teams have developed their package but where Hideki was in Kansas (fourth) is a pretty good sign of where we will be this year."

CHICAGOLAND AS A BENCHMARK ON INCREASED COMPETITIVENESS IN 2008

Rahal started 14th and ran as high as fifth in the team's first race here in 2008 as a transition team. Mid-race contact in the pits with Buddy Rice and contact with the wall on the final lap -- most likely due to a compromised part from the pit contact -- led to a 19th place finish but the team was still buoyed by their improvements on ovals. "We ran pretty well here in 2008 and got into the top-five. It was the first time we were fairly competitive and ran up front on an oval in our transition to the IndyCar Series so we were pretty happy from that standpoint. But we made contact with Buddy Rice in the pits and that cost us. Then later, Vitor (Meira) crashed in front of me and something came off his car and hit my right mirror then we retired from the race after contact."

RAHAL ON HIS RETURN TO A 1.5-MILE OVAL FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE OCTOBER 2009

"I think it will be an interesting race," said Rahal. "There are more than a couple of us that haven't been on one of these for a while. I haven't been on a 1.5 mile oval since the last race of the year last year at Homestead. No matter how much experience you have, it takes a little running to get into a rhythm. It will be interesting to see if everybody runs in a pack early on. Last year, right from the get-go, everyone ran in a pack."

HIDEKI'S INDY CAR DEBUT CAME AT CHICAGOLAND

Mutoh made his IZOD IndyCar Series debut at this track in 2007 with Super Aguri Panther Racing where he qualified 13th and finished eighth. "My first ever Indy car race was at Chicagoland in 2007," said Mutoh. "The whole event was about having patience. We didn't try that hard to get a good result, our goal was just try to finish and learn what racing an Indy car on an oval was all about. We had a ton of downforce on the car and it was very easy to drive the car. We didn't push very hard. I was very, very nervous for my first race but it ended well with an eighth place finish."

RAHAL & MUTOH ON THE IMPROVED RACING DUE TO THE LATE '09 TECHNICAL PACKAGE

"Certainly the car speeds are much higher after the technical changes that went into effect in Kentucky last year," said Rahal. "The racing definitely got better. Overall it was a pretty good change for everybody. We should see much of the same this weekend. From a driver's standpoint, you are never 100 percent comfortable in the car. It's always tight and edgy which is how the car is the quickest. Some people say 100 percent throttle racing is easy but it is definitely not!" Mutoh added "The technical changes improved the racing from a driver's standpoint. The car is more comfortable to drive. It also made the racing better for the fans, which is good."

HIDEKI ON RACING AT HOME

Mutoh, 27, was born in Tokyo, Japan on 10-6-1982 and resides in downtown Chicago. He chose the city because it offered direct flights to Tokyo and most of the ICS race markets, has a strong Japanese population and the team is based here. It is the first of two "Home races" this season. The Indy Japan will take place September 19. "It's always comfortable and easy to race while you are at home," said Mutoh. "I live downtown and am going to stay in my own bed. It's a positive thing to race near home."

HIDEKI ON CHICAGOLAND EXPECTATIONS

Hideki qualified fourth in his first oval race with the team on the 1.5-mile Kansas Speedway oval but was eliminated from the race with 14 laps to go after trying to pass the slower, lapped car of Simona de Silvestra on a restart from the third caution. There were many lapped cars in the lead pack. Mutoh, who ran fourth until his final pit stop, was in fifth place behind Kanaan with 14 laps to go and Kanaan, Mutoh and Sato were nose-to-tail on the restart. They approached the lapped car of Simona de Silvestro, who was in the middle of the track. Kanaan got past and Mutoh went alongside her on the high side of the track and then Sato put the nose of his car between Mutoh and the outside track wall. There wasn't enough room and Sato's left front tire hit Hideki's right rear tire and the two made contact with the wall. Because he and the team ran strong on that 1.5-mile oval, he feels the team should run well again this weekend. "We haven't been on an oval in a while but once the first session starts everyone will be up to speed pretty quick," said Mutoh. "There will be a lot of three-wide, close racing like last year. I think we can pick up where we left off at Kansas, which is similar to Chicagoland. Texas is a 1.5 mile oval but the high banking makes it not as similar as Kansas and Chicagoland are. Now I also have a teammate which will be very good. We struggled a little in Kansas although we qualified and ran fourth. Having a teammate will allow us to react quicker and make the most of the track time."

MUTOH SIDELINED BY EQUIPMENT FAILURES IN PAST TWO EVENTS HERE

In 2008 Mutoh moved to Andretti Green Racing where he qualified 11th and finished 22nd at Chicagoland Speedway due to an electrical problem. In 2009 he qualified 13th and retired in 22nd place after contact in Turn 3 due to suspension failure. "I was fighting for Rookie of the Year in the 2008 race and we ran in the top-10 but we had an electronic problem so I retired from the race," recalled Mutoh. "I was very nervous watching the rest of the race because I was fighting Justin (Wilson) for Rookie of the Year and he was having a pretty good race. I had my fingers crossed that it would work out and it did. I only won it by very few points. Last year here, we tried new suspension parts and one broke on the back straight and the next second I was in the wall. It was the same failure that happened to Tony (Kanaan) in Indy."

RAHAL & MUOTH ON QUALIFYING CHANGES

Instead of the usual four-lap qualifying average to set the starting grid, the IZOD IndyCar Series has implemented a change for the Chicagoland race due to the large number of cars entered this weekend that will see each car set two timed laps and that average will determine their starting position. "I don't think it changes anything really," said Rahal. "We are doing less laps but that doesn't change the approach. There is less stress, the less number of laps you do. At the same time you may hang it out a little more because there are less laps and the tires hang in there." Hideki had a different opinion. "I think this will make qualifying more challenging. We can trim the car more for more downforce. Only running two timed laps instead of four will let us attack more because with four laps, you use more tires. Either way, qualifying is still difficult but it will be less stressful to hang it out for two laps instead of four."

-source: nhr

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Graham Rahal , Buddy Rice , Simona de Silvestro
Teams Panther Racing