Rahal expects a race win and to finish year in top five
Graham Rahal says he’s optimistic for Pocono this weekend, but believes Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing could dramatically turn its championship around at any three of the remaining four races.
Despite lying only ninth in the points table, Graham Rahal says that Pocono, Watkins Glen and possibly the resumed Texas race and the finale in Sonoma can all offer a chance of victory – and catapult him back into the top five in the championship.
He told Motorsport.com: “We’re going to try and make miracles happen. I don’t feel too bad about where we are at the moment; we just need to put some good solid races together and move ourselves up in points.
“We’re ninth but we’re really not that far out of this thing. We can turn this around pretty quickly. We’ve had a lot of bad luck that’s gone against us and hurt us so we just need to eliminate that from here on out.”
Last season, Rahal finished the season fourth in the championship with two victories and four other podium finishes. In 2016, he has two podium finishes from the first 12 races.
“We could definitely use a win,” he said. “I’d be really bummed to finish the season without a win, especially after how we went last year. It would be frustrating.
“But I think it’s realistic to aim for the top five in points again. I lost 83 points to [Alexander] Rossi in the championship at the Indy 500, and yet we’re ahead of him in points at the moment.
“If the Indy 500 didn’t give out all those points in qualifying – which is just ridiculous – and not been a double-points race, we’d be fourth or fifth.”
Pocono “should be as good as Indy”
Rahal believes that IndyCar’s fourth race at Pocono Raceway since open-wheel returned in 2013 should not only be a great event but could also offer RLLR-Honda a prime chance to win.
“I think the domed skids changed the handling a bit from last year," he said, "but I’m not sure they're going to turn the world upside down. Every team’s worked pretty hard to get the balance of the cars back to where they need them to be on the superspeedways.
“Indy was a great race so we’re going to see something similar to that. If anything, the cars are a little more draggy at Pocono so there may be even more passing than we saw at Indy. It should be fun.
"And I really believe Pocono is a good chance for us. We had a really encouraging test.”
Asked if he thought Honda cars can be as potent in terms of power and aero as they were at Indianapolis Motor Speedway this year, Rahal said: “Yeah I hope so. I think we can see the same sort of results.
“At the test it looked like maybe the Chevys had a bit of an advantage but that’s hard to say from testing. We just need to keep our heads down and try and figure out what we need to do to go and win.”
Similar optimism for Watkins Glen
The Saturday after this weekend’s ABC Supply 500 at Pocono will see the resumption of the Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway, which was suspended after 71 of the 248 laps due to a total rainout in mid-June.
Rahal remains uncertain how competitive his #15 car will be in late August, commenting that, “Texas may be a good chance for us, but who knows what could happen there? I expect a lot of teams to have improved their cars over where we were all at in June."
However he expects a strong performance at Watkins Glen based on what the team learned at the test last week.
He commented: “Road courses seem to be a good strength of ours right now and at the test the car felt really good. We were running [Carlin Racing’s Indy Lights ace] Ed Jones as well, and the rain came in, so I had less time in the car than the others.
“But we were the quickest Honda in the afternoon and if I’d run sticker [new] tires and just gotten to know the track a little bit better, I think we could have looked very strong.
“We were experimenting with gearing, and we lost two-tenths to Ed down the back straight just because we couldn’t pull the gear. So really I think our pace will be plenty good there.”
Regarding Sonoma Raceway, where IndyCar will hold its season finale for the third straight year, and where Rahal felt last year’s RLLR car was at its weakest, he commented: “I think we’ve improved on the lower grip tracks but again it’s hard to say, because it just depends on the weekend. We’ve been good in some places, bad in others.
“Put it this way, I think we will be better, I think we’ve learned about Sonoma since last year. But you never know – I never want to be over-confident because you can go back there and something’s changed just a little, and you might be way out.”
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