IRL: Indy 500: Rahal-Letterman Racing pre race notes

Vasser leads Rahal/Letterman Racing towards Indy success. HILLIARD, OH . . . Miller Lite driver Jimmy Vasser has been through the ups and downs that a month of May can bring at the world famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Vasser's veteran ...

Vasser leads Rahal/Letterman Racing towards Indy success.

HILLIARD, OH . . . Miller Lite driver Jimmy Vasser has been through the ups and downs that a month of May can bring at the world famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Vasser's veteran leadership is one reason that Rahal/Letterman Racing will take the green flag in for the 86th running of the Indy 500 on Sunday afternoon.

"Indianapolis is a race unlike any other," said Vasser, a six time Indy starter. "What you have to try to guard against is changing the way you go about preparing for the race. While Indy commands so much attention, the race itself basically isn't any different than the other 20 races we will run this season. Things can get sideways on you pretty quickly at this place. The teams that are the most successful are the ones that can block out the distractions and stay focused on the task at hand."

"Any month of May has its ups and downs," said 1986 Indy 500 champion Bobby Rahal. "One of the reasons I wanted Jimmy to be our driver for Indy was because of the experience he has at Indy and the intangibles that experience can bring. I can't be happier with the job that Vasser has done to this point."

Scott Roembke, Chief Operation Officer for Rahal/Letterman Racing, has seen firsthand the leadership the 1996 CART champion has brought to the team's first year Indy program. "We have had a very steady workman like month here at Indy and we have been very diligent in our race preparation. During the first week, as our crew was making the transition from our Champ Car program to the Indy program, it would have been very easy to get lost or dismayed by some of the higher practice speeds, but Jimmy exhibited the kind of leadership and maturity that helped keep the team on course. When we made the commitment to come to Indianapolis we knew it would be a challenge and for that reason Bobby felt Jimmy was the driver to bring us back to the brickyard."

"We had three goals coming into the month of May," said Rahal. "We wanted to qualify the car safely in the field on the first day, which we did. We wanted to qualify for the Pit Stop contest, which we did. Our final objective is to run competitively and win the race. We feel we are in a position to accomplish the third and most important goal. Sunday will be a long race and a lot of variables will determine who will win the race. Jimmy's experience will be a factor."

Vasser will be making his seventh start in the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday. The 36-year-old native of California has a pair of fourth place results in his six starts. Vasser is the only driver from CART that has driven in the last two Indy 500s. In 2000 he finished seventh for Chip Ganassi Racing and in 2001 he finished fourth while running a one-off event with Ganassi.


This weekend 1986 Indianapolis 500 winner Bobby Rahal marks the 20th anniversary of his first race at the Speedway. Rahal, driving for Jim Trueman's True Sports team started 17th and finished 11th in his first race at the Brickyard. In 13 career starts at IMS, Rahal captured seven top-seven results including three top-three finishes highlighted by the win in 1986.

"I remember coming to the track back in 1982 and they didn't want to let me in because they didn't think I was a driver. It was wild back them. Just getting into the place with all the traffic was a major accomplishment. Of course the place looked a lot different with the old wooden garages. There wasn't a lot of room in those old garages but they had a lot of character. The whole event was fantastic and for a fairly young driver at the time it made a lasting impression."


When the green flag falls on Sunday Rahal/Letterman co-owner and television icon David Letterman will be realizing a lifelong dream. Letterman, a native Hoosier grew up in Indianapolis and became an avid fan of open-wheel racing.

"To be part of a team racing at Indianapolis is the kind of thing I dreamed about as a kid," said Letterman. "I couldn't hope to be in better company than Bobby Rahal. This is what springtime in Indiana is all about." David Letterman, had casual discussions with Bobby Rahal since they met in 1986 about his interest in getting involved in Champ Car racing. In early 1996, the talk was transformed into action as Letterman became a minority-interest owner in Team Rahal.

"Having grown up in Indianapolis and been in love with racing and its heroes for as long as I can remember, it's literally been a dream come true for me to become this much a part of a sport that has meant so much to me," Letterman said.


Jimmy Vasser's Miller Lite Pit Crew is among the 12 crews that will compete for the 2002 Indy 500 Pit Crew Challenge on Carb Day. The six-man crew is comprised of veteran mechanics four of whom are on Vasser's Shell pit crew in CART.

"I have the utmost confidence in my pit crew," said Vasser who qualified for his seventh Indy 500 last week. "These guys are an experienced group who give me an advantage every time I take to the track. Open-wheel racing is so competitive these days that the difference between winning and losing can come down to how fast your crew gets you in and out of the pits. It would be great for this group to win the pit stop competition and to get some of the overdue recognition that they all deserve."

Rahal/Letterman Racing and its CART identity Team Rahal has a long and storied tradition of pit crew excellence. In 1992 Rahal/Hogan Racing captured the Miller Genuine Draft Pit Stop Competition. Longtime Rahal crew Chief Jim Prescott, now the Race Shop Manager for Team Rahal, led the veteran group that served as the pit crew for Bobby Rahal during his third championship season (1992). In 2001 then Rahal driver Kenny Brack's Shell pit crew captured the Craftsman Pit Crew Challenge signifying their position as the top pit crew in CART.

Rahal/Letterman Racing is the Indy 500 entry of Team Rahal a franchise member of Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART). Shell has been a primary sponsor with Team Rahal in the CART FedEx Championship Series since 1996.


Shell Global Solutions has worked closely with Rahal/Letterman Racing engineers in developing oil products to enhance performance and durability with the team's Indy 500 program. New equipment and a developmental partnership between the engine builder, CompTech, Rahal/Letterman Racing and Shell was critical to ensure maximum performance within a relatively short timeframe.

"Working with Shell's Global Solutions Group has certainly pushed the technological envelop for us," said Tim Reiter, Indy 500 race engineer for Rahal/Letterman Racing. "They have been quite aggressive and it is always great to have a partner who can do that. I believe we are only scratching the surface of where this technology can take us. Someday we will see a significant competitive advantage from this program."

The partnership resulted in new products that provide increased performance for Rahal/Letterman Racing. Engine lubrication, gearbox and bearing products all have been developed and adapted to the rigors of the 500 miles of the famed Indianapolis 500.


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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Jimmy Vasser , Bobby Rahal , Kenny Brack
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing