Kansas: Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing race report

McDONALD'S DRIVER RAHAL FINISHED SEVENTH IN THE ROAD RUNNER TURBO INDY 300 AT KANSAS SPEEDWAY; DOORNBOS LED BUT A PENALTY LIMITED HIS FINISH TO 12TH - McDonald's driver Graham Rahal earned his highest finish on an oval after starting from pole...


- McDonald's driver Graham Rahal earned his highest finish on an oval after starting from pole but the timing of the final caution period forced him to make an extra pit stop and he finished seventh after running in the top-three the first half of the 200-lap Road Runner Turbo Indy 300 on the 1.5-mile Kansas Speedway and top-five the last half. Rahal and teammate Robert Doornbos' front row start was the first for the team since Sebastien Bourdais and Bruno Junqueira started on the front row in the 2006 Champ Car race in Milwaukee, which was won by Bourdais. At the start of the race, Rahal held the lead for the first seven laps before he dropped to second place for the next nine. He reported to the team that he was fighting understeer in Turns 3 and 4 and they planned to make a tire pressure adjustment on the first stop. Helio Castroneves ran into the back of Vitor Meira and brought out the first of three cautions from Laps 15-20. The field utilized this caution to make their first stop and Rahal returned to the track in third place but moved into second when teammate Doornbos was penalized for hitting Rahal's tire while leaving his pit box. Once the race resumed on Lap 21 he held second place until Lap 58 when Tony Kanaan passed him exiting Turn 4 where he still struggled with understeer. He temporarily moved back into second for one lap before his second pit stop on Lap 69 and returned to the track in fourth place after losing a position to Ryan Briscoe in the pits. He held fourth place until his next stop on Lap 99 during the caution for Raphael Matos who crashed in Turn 4. He lost two positions in the pits to Helio Castroneves and Dario Franchitti and returned to the track in sixth place. On the restart he lost one position to Ed Carpenter but not only regained that one but also passed Franchitti on the following one to run fifth. He held the position for the following 47 laps before his next stop. The team began the countdown with 10 laps to go before his stop on when it was time for him to enter the lane to come into the pits he followed the directions given in the drivers meeting. As he was closing in on the pit entrance a car shot past him, across the race track and into the wall which brought out a caution and closed the pits. Dario Franchitti was behind him on the lane to enter the pits and lost control of his car under braking. Rahal had to enter a closed pit the next time by on Lap 153 as he was out of fuel and needed a splash to continue until the pits opened on the following lap. When they opened, he returned to the pits on Lap 154 for a full fuel load and new tires and returned to the track in ninth place. On the second lap after the restart he lost a position to Carpenter and ran in 10th place but regained ninth on Lap 172. His next target was Dan Wheldon and he closed the gap with each lap until he passed the Englishman on the high line of the track on Lap 177. It only took him seven laps to close on Hideki Mutoh before he passed him on the high line of the track on Lap 184 for seventh place. He set his sights on Marco Andretti next and temporarily closed on him but had to settle for a seventh place finish by the time the checkered flag came out on Lap 200. Dixon won the event while Castroneves finished second and Kanaan finished third. Rahal collected 27 points to move up to an eighth place rank with 72.

Following are his post race comments:

"We had a pretty good start," said Rahal. "On the first lap we pulled away. It was just Dixie (Dixon) and I moving our way forward trying to pull out a gap. I was struggling a bit in Turns 3 and 4 and that's where I got passed the three times I was passed. Late in the race I discovered the high line and that's how I got around everybody because me car was pretty good in three and four, up top. I need to definitely think about that earlier next time. It's a lesson learned. Having to do the splash and go there at the end for what was to be our last stop really cost us four spots so realistically we were looking pretty good. I think we have outright speed but we just need to make sure we have it for the whole race.

(On Dario's accident:) "I didn't see that, I have no clue what happened. I'll go talk to him but all of a sudden I saw out of my right rear mirror the thing just went straight and I was like 'Whoa, what happened there?' I signaled that I was coming into pit lane by putting two wheels over the white line and I did it right off Turn 2 and then I came back out to the white line and ducked in. I hit the braked once I ducked in pretty late -- later than I have ever hit the brakes going into a pit lane. And all of a sudden I see this flash going by and straight into the fence. With the speed he was carrying he wasn't going to make it anyway whether I was there or not.

"It was a disappointing day for the McDonald's guys. I fell like we just can't get any breaks in the race this year. The yellow came out right when we had to pit so we had to come into a closed pit for a splash of fuel and it cost us four spots. We just can't get any luck and unfortunately that is what is killing our chance to finish well right now. We had a pretty solid car today but I discovered the high line late unfortunately because I think if I had discovered it a little earlier I think we would have been able to keep up front and stay in the top-three because the car was much better up there. It was a good start for us heading into the month of May. Again, now we need to figure out how to make it last over a race distance a little better. If we can do that we'll be able to improve our finishing positions."

-Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing driver Robert Doornbos led an IndyCar Series race for the first time today but a pit penalty limited his result to a 12th place finish after he started an impressive second for his oval racing debut in today's 200-lap Road Runner Turbo Indy 300 at the 1.5-mile Kansas Speedway oval. Doornbos made a good start but reigning series champion Scott Dixon passed him for position on the opening lap. He ran strong during the first stint and maintained third place until Helio Castroneves ran into the back of Vitor Meira and brought out the first of three cautions from Laps 15-20. The field utilized this caution to make their first pit stop and Doornbos had a quick one after the team elected to take on only fuel. When he left his pit box he slightly drifted into the outside corner of Rahal's pit box and hit the tire that had been removed from Rahal's car. His quick stop enabled him to return to the track in the lead which he held for two laps until the IndyCar Series officials levied a penalty and he had to drop to the back of the field. He dropped to 19th place for the restart and held the position until he took over 18th on Lap 27. While running in slower traffic he lost touch with the lead pack and dropped one lap down to the leaders on Lap 62. His next stop came on Lap 66 and he returned to 17th place. During his next stint he passed Sarah Fisher and Ryan Hunter-Reay before the field utilized the caution for rookie Vitor Meira, who crashed, to make their next stops. Doornbos pitted on Lap 99 and returned to the track in 14th place, which he held until the next round of stops began and he pitted again on Lap 154 during the caution for Dario Franchitti who lost control of his race car while attempting to enter the pits behind Rahal. Immediately before the stop, Doornbos gained a position after Justin Wilson pit and another one due to Franchitti's retirement and ran in 12th place. He held the position through the restart and until the checkered flag after 200 laps. Dixon won the event while Castroneves finished second and Tony Kanaan finished third. Doornbos collected 18 points and dropped from 11th to 13th in the standings with a total of 59.

Following are his post race comments.

"It was very exciting to have both cars start from the front row and a good feeling for the first lap," said Doornbos. "On the start itself, I think mine was actually better than Graham's because I had to lift at the Start/Finish line not to pass him. The moment I did that I looked in my mirror and saw the red and white Ganassi car and I thought 'He's going to go on the inside so I better try to pass Graham on the outside.' And that went well so I was quite happy with that and I just tucked in behind Dixon and I saw us pulling away, the first three. I started enjoying myself using the bars, using the tools. And then the yellow came out and we did the pit stop and the most unlucky thing happened -- I touched Graham's outside rear tire that was on the ground. I got a penalty and had to go to the back of the field. I felt really bad. I learned so much. I'm more tired than I was when I got through college with so much information coming at me in such a short time frame. The race wasn't difficult physically but mentally it was. I'm really happy that I finished the race and got a lot of passing under my belt. We just need to make it happen in Indy then."

- Next Up...The team will take next weekend off before travelling to Indianapolis for the following three to participate in the 93rd running of the Indianapolis 500. Rookie orientation will take place May 5-6 and the track will open to the entire field on the afternoon of May 6. Rahal was the highest transition team driver to qualify for last year's event and started 13th but made contact after running over marbles while trying to avoid a slowing car. It will be the first Indy 500 for Doornbos and the 17th for the team.

-credit: nhlr

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Justin Wilson , Sarah Fisher , Helio Castroneves , Bruno Junqueira , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Graham Rahal , Dan Wheldon , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Sébastien Bourdais , Robert Doornbos , Ryan Briscoe , Marco Andretti , Vitor Meira