RAHAL'S ROOKIE LIGHTS TEAM FINDING ITS FOOTING COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Anyone who says the feeder series that make up the rungs on the open-wheel racing ladder are less than a stern test of a team's talents and resources need only visit a few of the...
RAHAL'S ROOKIE LIGHTS TEAM FINDING ITS FOOTING
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Anyone who says the feeder series that make up the rungs on the open-wheel racing ladder are less than a stern test of a team's talents and resources need only visit a few of the CART teams with transporters parked in the Indy Lights paddock. Chances are, next to the toolboxes and stacks of Dayton tires, they'll find a goodly supply of midnight oil.
Late nights seem to be part of the program for teams trying to establish a foothold in CART's expanding farm system. Team Rahal has first-hand experience, having launched a PPG-Dayton Indy Lights effort this season that thus far has produced mixed results.
After a strong drive that looked like it would end in a podium finish in the team's debut race, driver Mike Borkowski lost control of the Textron Automotive Lola entering the fourth turn at the Homestead Motorsports Complex oval. The car wasn't the only thing damaged in the resulting crash.
"I think it hurt our ego a bit," said Indy Lights Team Manager Bill van de Sandt. "We'd run well in testing and been fast right off the trailer, and that likely gave us a false sense of security. It probably would have served us better the struggle a little more our first time out. Since then, though, we've done more struggling than I care to recall."
Despite the best efforts of a talented young driver and crew, the results since the season opener have been less than stellar. A retirement in Long Beach, a testing accident and a trio of troubling runs on the series' short oval tracks sent the team back to the drawing board.
The new plan that emerged seems to be working. A points-paying finish in Detroit and subsequent respectable runs have the team back in the mix.
"It's fair to say we've made a great deal of progress of late," Borkowski said. "We've cut our gap to the front runners in half, and I think we're headed in the right direction. We're still struggling - no question - but we're definitely headed in the right direction."
That's good, because the international talent pool that has made Indy Lights its playground in recent seasons is not about to dry up. And the championship chase is only going to get tougher in the remaining races.