Iowa: Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing preview

McDONALD'S DRIVER WILSON AND HOLE IN THE WALL CAMPS DRIVER RAHAL READY FOR NEXT STRETCH OF SIX RACES IN SIX WEEKS BEGINNING WITH THE IOWA CORN INDY 250 DES MOINES, Iowa (June 18, 2008) --- Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing (NHLR) made the most of a...

McDONALD'S DRIVER WILSON AND HOLE IN THE WALL CAMPS DRIVER RAHAL READY FOR NEXT STRETCH OF SIX RACES IN SIX WEEKS BEGINNING WITH THE IOWA CORN INDY 250

DES MOINES, Iowa (June 18, 2008) --- Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing (NHLR) made the most of a rare weekend off from competition in the IndyCar Series and returns to action refreshed and focused on the next task -- Sunday's Iowa Corn Indy 250 at Iowa Speedway, the first of six races in six weekends. McDonald's driver Justin Wilson and Hole in the Wall Camps driver Graham Rahal made the most of their off weekend and are ready to get back to work.

"I'm looking forward to getting back behind the wheel of the McDonald's car after a weekend off," said Wilson, who became a first-time father seven weeks earlier than expected on April 12. "I got to spend some time at home with (wife) Julia and (daughter) Jane, who is doing really well. She has doubled in weight since her birth. I have had a bit of practice changing diapers and I think my technique is pretty good but I had time to perfect it! We have also been able to spend some time with Julia's parents who came over from the U.K. and have had some good, quality time together."

"To have an off-week was important for all us because it was good to get out of the rhythm we were in where it gets very repetitive after a while and that makes it tough to stay focused," added Rahal. "It was good to take a step back and take a breather. I tried to play as much golf as possible and did a little bit of swimming and anything else that I could do to relax. It was great but I am ready to get back to work."

The .875-mile Iowa Speedway hosted its first IndyCar Series event in 2007 and although the track will be new to NHLR and its drivers, longtime series competitors don't have the advantage that comes with multiple years of experience on the track although its fair to say they still have more overall knowledge of the racing equipment. The shortest track run so far this season was the one-mile oval in Milwaukee and Rahal was a contender for his first ever Champ or Indy car pole but was narrowly beat by Marco Andretti and started second. He ran in the top-three for most of the race until contact ended his day. He is looking forward to the new experience that running at Iowa will afford but admits he doesn't know what to expect.

"I think it's going to be a very tight race track with 27 cars," said Rahal, whose top oval finish this season is 12th at Kansas Speedway. "The traffic is going to be pretty tight; even more so than on the one-mile oval in Milwaukee. Obviously it will be a pretty tough race but I'm looking forward to it and to continuing to learn. It will be cool to do three types of oval racing -- the high speed oval, the super speedway and these shorter types of circuits like in Iowa. I don't know really what to expect but overall I feel pretty comfortable on ovals in general."

The upcoming six week stretch includes three oval races (Iowa, Richmond, Nashville) and three on road or street courses (Watkins Glen, Mid-Ohio, Edmonton) and that diversity appeals to Wilson, whose top starting position this season is pole on the streets of Long Beach in a Champ Car and his top finish is seventh place at the Milwaukee Mile oval.

"I think we are learning a lot of valuable lessons on the ovals right now," said Wilson. "I also think we have not shown our true potential yet, but we will. It just takes time to work everything out. I personally like the diversity of racing on road and street courses, short ovals and speedways as you have to be a very complete driver to win on all these disciplines. I'm exciting to get on with the next phase of the season."

Only twelve of the 27 drivers entered in this weekend's Iowa Corn 250 competed in the IndyCar Series race here last year so the series has added four hours of testing on Friday prior to the official start of the weekend on Saturday. Rahal believes every minute of track time is helpful.

"We are going to try to get closer on our setups; I think we're still quite a ways off and its time to catch up,"' said Rahal. "I wish we would have been more competitive (on the high-banked track) in Texas and the 1.5 mile tracks but we're moving on to a circuit that will be a place that is more like Milwaukee where we were pretty competitive. We're gaining experience every time we are on track but in racing there is always something more to learn and ways to keep improving no matter how competitive you are. We just need to be able to do it in double time because we are new to the series."

Paternity leave has been a theme at the McDonald's team (aka Happy Meal team) this season as Wilson and wife Julia welcomed their first child in April and crewman Kyle Sobczak and his wife welcomed their first in late May. Wilson's race engineer Mike Talbott will miss the Iowa race to be with his wife, who is due to give birth to their second child any day. His fill in? Senior engineer Craig Hampson, who was race engineer for four-time Champ Car champion Sebastien Bourdais, will replace Talbott this weekend before returning home to also await the birth of his second child.

JUSTIN WILSON, No. 02 McDonald's Dallara/Honda/Firestone: "I'm looking forward to getting back behind the wheel of the McDonald's car after a weekend off. I got to spend some time at home with (wife) Julia and (daughter) Jane, who is doing really well. She has doubled in weight since her birth. I have had a bit of practice changing diapers and I think my technique is pretty good but I had time to perfect it! We have also been able to spend some time with Julia's parents who came over from the U.K. and have had some good, quality time together.

"The break has also been very, very worthwhile for the team. The guys have been busy working on every area. They have had time to strip the car completely, tidied a lot of things up and improved a lot of things. They were able to work on car build and take the car completely apart and put it back together the way they wanted. I think we are learning a lot of valuable lessons on the ovals right now. I also think we have not shown our true potential yet, but we will. It just takes time to work everything out. I personally like the diversity of racing on road and street courses, short ovals and speedways as you have to be a very complete driver to win on all these disciplines. I'm exciting to get on with the next phase of the season.

"We're going to have a slight change this weekend as my engineer, Mike Talbott, is going to stay home with his wife, who still hasn't had their baby. Craig Hampson is going to be my engineer for Iowa and he is very experienced so the transition should be fine. I'm looking forward to working with him."

GRAHAM RAHAL, #06 Hole in the Wall Camps Dallara/Honda/Firestone: "To have an off-week was important for all us because it was good to get out of the rhythm we were in where it gets very repetitive after a while and that makes it tough to stay focused. It was good to take a step back and take a breather. I tried to play as much golf as possible and did a little bit of swimming and anything else that I could do to relax. It was great but I am ready to get back to work.

"I think its going to be a very tight race track with 27 cars. The traffic is going to be pretty tight; even more so than on the one-mile oval in Milwaukee. Obviously it will be a pretty tough race but I'm looking forward to it and to continuing to learn. It will be cool to do three types of oval racing -- the high speed oval, the super speedway and these shorter types of circuits like in Iowa. I don't know really what to expect but overall I feel pretty comfortable on ovals in general. We are going to try to get closer on our setups; I think we're still quite a ways off and its time to catch up. I wish we would have been more competitive in Texas and the 1.5 mile tracks but we're moving on to a circuit that will be a place that is more like Milwaukee where we were pretty competitive. We're gaining experience every time we are on track but in racing there is always something more to learn and ways to keep improving no matter how competitive you are. We just need to be able to do it in double time because we are new to the series."

-credit: nhlr

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Justin Wilson , Graham Rahal , Sébastien Bourdais , Marco Andretti