Toronto: Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing preview



TORONTO, Canada (July 9, 2009) --- After one year away, Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing (NHLR) is looking forward to their return to this weekend's Honda Indy Toronto, their 23rd race on the streets of Toronto and first since the 2007 Champ Car World Series race here where the team started from pole. In their previous 22 events on the 1.755-mile street course around Toronto's Exhibition Place, the team has earned seven wins, five poles and 16 podium finishes. Graham Rahal and Robert Doornbos will rely on that experience for a strong finish here.

"Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing has competed in Toronto since before I was even born," said Graham Rahal, driver of the No. 02 McDonald's race car. "Any understanding of the circuit that we can have will help us. Toronto should really play very well into our strengths."

"I think it's great that Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing has so much experience on the racetrack," said Robert Doornbos, who raced here in 2007 and left the event as the Champ Car series points leader. "This will be their first time here with the Dallara but to be honest, at this level, all drivers and teams are so good that everyone will be quick. At the beginning of the year we showed that we have get setup on street courses, so let's hope we'll find a similar setup, and we can run with both cars at the front."

In his two previous races on this temporary street course, Rahal led both qualifying sessions in the 2006 Atlantic Series race and started from pole and in his rookie Champ Car series season in 2007 with NHLR and he started 15th but contact on the opening lap on the tight street course hindered his finish both times. He is looking forward to turning his luck around on the 11-turn course.

"Toronto has always been okay to me finish-wise but I hope to change that this weekend," said Rahal who is ranked ninth in the series point standings with 197, only 41 out of fifth place. "In my Atlantic race there we were dominant. There was nobody even close to us, we had the field covered, or at least we thought. Raphael Matos hit me square in the rear to take me out and that was the end. We got back out running to get fastest lap but that was little consolation for us. Then in Champ Car we struggled in a major way. We never felt competitive or comfortable until the rain came on race day. We started quickly moving up through the field and I caught Sebastien. He was holding me up and I made a stupid rookie mistake by forcing the issue and it ended my day. I think if we had kept running we would have been very strong in the race due to the weather. But in the end I really enjoy racing in Toronto and hope to bring McDonald's a win there."

The Toronto race will mark the return to a street course for the first time in 2009 since Rounds 1 and 2 in St. Pete and Long Beach. Rahal became the youngest pole winner in St. Pete but was hit on the start, dropped to 21st and rebounded to finish seventh. In Long Beach he started seventh but a pit miscue led to two penalties and he finished 12th. After being unable to capitalize on a competitive car with a strong finish, Rahal feels the potential for success in both qualifying and the race is high this weekend.

"Absolutely a pole or win is very possible for the McDonald's team in Toronto and also in Edmonton," said Rahal, who spent the week at his mother's cabin in St. Andrew's New Brunswick, Canada. "We started on pole in St. Pete and it would be great to start up front in Toronto. We ought to be very strong and I cannot wait to get started. It's a very tight street course and that makes it tough to really feel comfortable getting everything out of the car. It's a difficult circuit to learn and therefore hopefully we should have a nice advantage over others."

CART and the Champ Car World Series held races here between 1986-2007 and the team's seven wins, five poles and 16 podium finishes in their 22 events here is an indication of their success. Although those statistics are impressive, the team has been fortunate to be a contender at even more but did not finish in the top-three for a variety of reasons. Michael Andretti's Andretti Green Promotions is now the promoter of the event and the former Newman/Haas Racing (NHR) driver won an event high seven races here, five of which were in NHR-prepared entries (1989, 1991, 1992, 1995, 2000). After those five wins, the team emerged victorious again with Cristiano da Matta in 2002 and Sebastien Bourdais in 2004. Of their five poles here, their most recent came in 2004, 2005, and in the last race run here in 2007 -- all by Bourdais who briefly surrendered the points lead to Robert Doornbos following the 2007 Toronto round.

"The Toronto race in 2007 was great, it was very exciting," said Doornbos, who held a two point lead over Will Power after the '07 event and three over eventual four-time champion Bourdais. "It was a bit messy because of the rain which made it very difficult to drive at this track. Taking the points lead in the rookie season was great.JObviously coming from F1 I had a point to prove to everybody and I really enjoyed the Champ Car season in general. We had a very successful year. To be leading the championship after Toronto in my first year was a great feeling. It's something I hope to achieve with Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing in the future."

After starting his 2007 Champ Car season with five podiums in the first six races for Minardi Team USA, Doornbos came to Toronto fresh off his win in Round 6 in Mont Tremblant, Canada. He qualified 12th and finished sixth despite late-race contact with Bourdais, whom he slid into on the wet, slippery track. Doornbos has been sightseeing in Toronto all week but is ready to get to work and is looking forward to building on his experience at this track.

"For me every race has been a new experience," said Doornbos about the 1.75-mile course which will be only the second track of 10 to date that he has competed on before. "The first half of the season has not been what we were all looking for, and hoping for. I had a solid weekend in Richmond but we messed up a bit in Watkins Glen but we are putting this all behind us and focusing on a very strong second half of the season with some good momentum and hard work and hopefully some great results. The Toronto track is challenging. It's a very bumpy, technical street course. There is no room for error which makes it very exciting for the drivers and the fans.

"Eleven drivers in the IndyCar Series field have made CART/Champ Car starts at this track and although the Andretti and Rahal surnames are synonymous with this event, it will mark the first time that Marco Andretti and Graham Rahal will compete here together. The 11 drivers who have previously raced here can attest to the fact that this was one of the most popular stops on the racing calendar for its 22 previous years.

"The races have always been popular because the crowd support is incredible," said Rahal who will wear a special racing helmet to commemorate his father Bobby's win in the inaugural race here in 1986. "I think with a year removed from the Toronto race, the crowd should be absolutely thrilled we are back and I cannot wait to see how they support it. There are very few places we go in the world that people get as enthusiastic as in Canada."

"The atmosphere of the races in Canada is great," added Doornbos. "The people look forward to the race. Obviously having Paul Tracy and Alex Tagliani in the race is a big help so the fans have a couple of local guys to root for. Canadians are big race fans which always made racing in Montreal with Formula One so enjoyable as well. It was one of the best events of the year in that series."

This weekend's Honda Indy Toronto can be seen on live on Sunday, July 12 at 1 p.m. EDT on ABC. The weekend will get underway with practice on Friday and qualifying on Saturday and the broadcast of the 85-lap race will begin at 1 p.m. EDT on Sunday. As always, fans can follow the action from every on-track session via the official website of the IndyCar Series, It will also be broadcast live on IMS Radio Network and XM Radio Channels 144 and 145.

-credit: -NHLR-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Michael Andretti , Paul Tracy , Graham Rahal , Sébastien Bourdais , Robert Doornbos , Will Power , Cristiano da Matta