McDONALD'S DRIVER RAHAL RETURNS TO HOME TRACK FOR THE HONDA INDY 200 AT MID-OHIO SPORTS CAR COURSE; ORIOL SERVIA RETURNS TO TEAM THAT BROUGHT HIM THE BEST RESULTS OF HIS CAREER LEXINGTON, Ohio (August 6, 2009) --- Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing ...
McDONALD'S DRIVER RAHAL RETURNS TO HOME TRACK FOR THE HONDA INDY 200 AT MID-OHIO SPORTS CAR COURSE; ORIOL SERVIA RETURNS TO TEAM THAT BROUGHT HIM THE BEST RESULTS OF HIS CAREER
LEXINGTON, Ohio (August 6, 2009) --- Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing drivers Graham Rahal and Oriol Servia will both make memorable returns at this weekend's Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. It will be McDonald's driver Rahal's much-anticipated return to his home track while new teammate Oriol Servia will return to the team with which he earned the best results of his career.
"It feels great to run at Mid-Ohio, because it is so close to home," said Rahal, 20, who was born in Columbus and resides in New Albany, Ohio, one hour from the track. "You get tons of fans and tons of friends and family that can come out and that feels good for me in the race. You think of racing in Ohio, and the Rahal name is very prevalent. For me to be representing that these days, and to get the opportunity to go race there, nothing feels better for me, and I'm certainly looking forward to it. I think that we as a team ought to be very competitive. I think the race will be a good one for us, our car has been very competitive on the road courses all year and I don't see a reason why we can't put the McDonalds car in victory lane. If there was a race I'd love to win, other than the Indy 500, Mid-Ohio's the one."
Graham is proud to carry on the racing legacy his father Bobby started at this track, where he made 16 starts (1983-98) during the CART days and posted eight top-three finishes, including victories in 1985 and '86. Graham has many fond memories of long weekends here with his siblings and friends during that time. Those memories also include the occasional joyride on golf carts, much to the chagrin of security. After competing here a few times in lower formulas, he will return this weekend for his second major league event at this track and hopes to build on the knowledge gained here last year as well as during this season.
"Getting to do a home race is quite exciting," said Rahal who would like nothing more than to earn his third IndyCar Series pole here as well as his second series victory and first this season. "Growing up, I came to Mid-Ohio and the Cleveland street course, which were the two closest courses for me. When I would go to dad's races, I used to always take all my buddies. I have a lot of fun memories and this is only my second Indy car race here, but I've raced several other times at this place. It's a circuit that means a lot to my family and to me. To do well there would mean quite a lot because I have a lot of friends and family who are coming here for that event, so to do well in front of them shows that I'm no slouch. I feel that I've got all the potential to be one of the best there and I think that there's no reason that we can't make that happen."
The younger Rahal has had his own share of success at the 13-turn, 2.258-mile scenic road course. In 2005 he raced in the Formula Atlantic class and won the same national title that his father claimed 30 years earlier in the SCCA National Run-offs at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. He hopes to add another title to his resume in a few years but his current goal is a top-five season-ending rank in the IndyCar Series standings. He started 14th here last year and was in eighth place when he spun and ultimately finished 16th. He qualified fifth at the previous road course in Watkins Glen but had to start 15th due to a technical issue. He is currently ranked ninth in series point standings with 235 and is hoping that a good result this weekend will help him close on fifth place Danica Patrick, who has 285.
"Mid-Ohio is just a great circuit," said Rahal. "There are a lot of elevation changes. It's very physical which makes it very exciting. It's just a lot of fun. It's tough to get the car right. You really have to push hard and it's not something that happens too easily without mistakes so it takes quite a lot of effort but at the same time it's a very good time. It's a very demanding circuit, so I'm looking forward to it."
In NHR/NHLR's previous 22 races here, they won three events (Michael Andretti 1990-1991, Mario Andretti 1984), six poles (Mansell 1993; Mi. Andretti 1992, 1991, 1990; Ma. Andretti 1986, 1984) and 11 podiums (2nd -- C. Fittipaldi 2002, Tracy 1995, Ma. Andretti 1990, 1988, 1983; 3rd -- C. Fittipaldi 2000, Mi. Andretti 1996, 1989). Last year , Justin Wilson qualified fourth here and led two separate times before contact while trying to lap a car limited his finish to 11th place. Rahal and his new teammate Oriol Servia will attempt to pick up where Wilson left off and bring the team their 108th win overall here.
Every driver who has competed for the team for at least a full season has achieved success and although Servia only drove for the team for a partial season in 2005 he was able to post his most successful year to date with seven podiums in 11 starts, including his first series win at the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve in Montreal and his first pole in Australia. This weekend's race will mark the sixth major event for him here and he is not only looking forward to his return to this challenging track, but also to his return to the team and the cockpit of a race car.
"Mid-Ohio is a very peculiar track with a lot of corners and elevation changes which demands that you find the sweet spot of the car setup," said Servia, a native of Catalonia, Spain. "You don't have to be very far off to be away from the sweet spot but when you get there the car improves a lot with little changes. I'm sure that Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing and I can get there with some hard work."Of his previous five events at this track, Servia's best result came last year despite the fact that both he and KV Racing Technologies were in the midst of their transition season from Champ Car to the IndyCar Series. During 2008, he posted a season-best finish of fifth place, four times including here at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and is looking to build on that performance.
"Last year, I missed being in the Firestone Fast Six by a small amount but then in the race we did find the sweet spot in the car and were moving forward and building up speed," recalled Servia. "By the end of the race we had a car that could have been on the podium but it was a crazy race with the rain. In normal conditions I think we would have been much closer to the front. If we had the potential last year, we should be able to improve on that this year with better weather."
Like Rahal, Servia believes this track is one of the most physically demanding the series will race on all season and he feels he is physically prepared after having spent more time than usual on his fitness program. He can't wait to get back behind the wheel of an Indy car on a road/street course for the first time since the exhibition race on the streets of Surfer's Paradise, Australia in late October 2008.
"I had a lot of free time on my hands so I was cycling, running and kayaking a lot," said Servia. "I'm excited to get in the car again because in the end it's the driving that gives you the best fitness level for driving and I am happy it's happening this weekend. For me, Mid Ohio is one of the most physical places because of the number of corners there are all together. I was at the shop on Wednesday to work on the seat and get fitted for the car and Thursday I am traveling to Ohio and joining everyone for a barbeque at Graham's house. I'm looking forward to spending some time with everyone before the real work begins. On Friday I finally get to do what I really like doing which is getting in the race car and getting comfortable with the setup and going fast."
The 2009 IndyCar Series season continues Aug. 9 with the Honda Indy 200 presented by Westfield Insurance at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 1 p.m. (EDT) by VERSUS. A one-hour qualifying show will be telecast by VERSUS at 6 p.m. on Aug. 8. The race will air live on the IMS Radio Network, XM channel 145 and Sirius channel 211. The radio broadcast also will be carried on www.indycar.com.