AERO Sustainable Paint Technology™ driver Graham Rahal finishes P2 in the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

SAINT PETERSBURG, Florida (March 11, 2018) - Graham Rahal managed to turn around a tough qualifying session into a podium finish at this past weekend's competition on the streets of St. Pete. With sprinkles in the Round 1, Group 2 session, drivers had a difficulty finding the grip of the Group 1 drivers, resulting in a spin for Rahal and two red flag sessions. The team decided to save the tires and accept the 24th place qualifying position, but managed to push back through the field on raceday. The No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda was dressed in a beautiful Alpine White, Cobalt Blue, and Rosso Corsa AERO livery for their title sponsor, United Rentals.

From RLL press release:

GRAHAM RAHAL, No. 15 United Rentals Dallara/Honda/Firestone:  “It was a great day for the United Rentals team.  As you guys could see, running down the inside at Turn 1 was a risky maneuver. I had a shot at Bourdais but I kept saying to myself ‘Just take fourth, just take fourth. Take the points and move on.’ There was a lot of action there. Then I saw Rossi and thought ‘Oh, here we go. This could be perfect.’ And sure enough, bam!  We got a little luck and you have to have that. We haven’t had a good start to the season in a long time. I guess the last time was 2008 when I won this thing. Our whole team did a fabulous job and it was an awesome day for Honda. Our Turns for Troops program which raises money to help our wounded veteran get back on their feet raised $5000-something bucks today so that’s a big thing for us. Let’s move on to the next one and keep adding up the points.”

  • FAST FACTS: Rahal started his season off strong with a second place finish in the 110 lap race after starting 24th. He recovered from Lap 8 contact with Spencer Pigot that put him on an alternate fuel strategy and from then on capitalized on the timing of caution periods, fuel savings to run fourth in the closing stages of the race.  On a restart for a two-lap shoot out, Rahal was fourth but contact between race leader Robert Wickens and Alexander Rossi opened the door for third place Sebastien Bourdais and fourth place Rahal to pass them to take the white flag and checkered under caution to finish one-two.In qualifying, he spun on a wet track in Round 1, Group 2 and was 12th in his group. Once his car was restarted and he returned to the pits, he would only have time for one more timed lap and since his two fastest laps would have been taken away due to bringing out the red flag, the team elected to save tire wear and not go back on track.  He was 12th in his group for a 24th place qualifying position…

    Made his 11th Indy car start at this track.  His best start here is pole in 2009 and best finish is a win in 2008 in his IndyCar Series debut – both history-making moments.  In 2017, he started 10th and passed Rossi and Kimball on the opening lap but contact with Kimball in Turn 3 led to a punctured right rear as well as damage to his sidepod and rear wing.  He pit for tires and the team assessed the damage and once he got back on track he went a lap down.  Once he was cleared to pit for full service, the team changed the rear wing and he returned to the track in 19th place.  He moved into 18th when Pigot had an issue on Lap 29 and then late in the race moved into 17th when Power was black flagged for driving too slow…

    In 2016, he qualified seventh but started sixth after pole sitter Will Power was replaced by Oriol Servia due to a mild concussion and Servia started from the back of the field.  After a mid-race return to green conditions, he was running eighth, but sixth on the same fuel strategy, when Carlos Munoz dove into Turn 4 and hit him from behind which set off a pileup of more than eight cars that blocked the turn.  Once he was restarted, he had to pit for a new front and rear wing and ran 21st. Munoz was penalized for “avoidable contact.” Rahal moved up to a 16th place finish…

    In 2015, he started 15th and gained three spots on the first lap and ran as high as fifth place midway through the race but was penalized for “avoidable contact” after he made contact while trying to pass the damaged car of Charlie Kimball. He dropped to the back of the field and ultimately finished 11th…

    In 2014, the start of qualifying was delayed over three hours after an afternoon storm. Rahal was in Group 1 that ran on a wet track on rain tires. Conditions improved as each of the three rounds took place and teams switched to “slick” tires. Rahal lost control of the car on the slick course and made contact with a tire barrier which brought out a red flag. His two fastest laps were omitted, one of which was sixth fastest and would have allowed him to progress to Round 2 and start in the top-12.  On the opening lap, Rahal charged from his 21st place starting spot to 12th and was in 14th when he made his first pit stop. Different pit strategies played out in a race that saw only 10 caution laps of 110 total. In the closing laps of the race, Rahal was 13th but lost a position to Bourdais with two laps to go and finished 14th…

    He qualified 15th in 2013 for RLL and was in ninth place when the team discovered an electrical issue on Lap 22 under caution that shut the engine off intermittently 6-7 times and dropped him to 21st place. He soldiered on to finish 13th…

    He qualified 11th in 2012 and finished 12th and qualified 12th in 2011 and finished 17th – both for Service Central Chip Ganassi Racing (SCCGR)… He qualified 16th and finished 9th for Sarah Fisher Racing in 2010…

    While with Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing, he won pole in 2009 and finished seventh and in 2008 he qualified ninth, led 19 laps and won in his series debut at the age of 19 years, 93 days old…

    Has six IndyCar Series wins (2008 – St. Pete street course; 2015 – Fontana Super Speedway, Mid-Ohio road course; 2016 – Texas Super Speedway; 2017 Detroit Race 1, Detroit Race 2) and three poles (2009 – St. Pete street course, Kansas oval; 2017 – Detroit Race 1 street) and his highest series season-ending standing is fourth place in 2015.

TAKUMA SATO, No. 30 Mi-Jack / Panasonic Dallara/Honda/Firestone:  “It was a wild race. The start was actually pretty sketchy.  Will (Power) spun in front of us and did a great job to not hit anything.  We gained a position there then we lost it again. After the restart it looked like our pace was okay.  It was a fun battle through the field but then we got hit by Dixon and got a right rear puncture and it also damaged the diffuser. It was a shame after qualifying in the Fast Six.  Then we were running in the middle of the pack and tried to recover by doing a different pit strategy but nothing worked and we finished 12th.  Big congrats to Graham.  He was having a difficult weekend and brought the team a fantastic result. I think we learned a lot.  There are a lot of positives.  We will keep on pushing.”

  • FAST FACTS: Started fifth and ran as high as fourth a couple of times but contact by Scott Dixon while ninth on Lap 34 of 110 forced him to pit to replace a punctured right rear tire and check for other damage which dropped him to the back of the field.  The team tried alternate pit strategy in order to get to the front but he soldiered on to finish 12th in his ninth race here…In his eight previous races his best start is pole in 2014 with AJ Foyt Racing (AFR) and best finish is fifth place in 2011 with KV Racing.  He started in the top-five in four of those eight races and earned two, top-five and five, top-10 finishes. Last year, he started and finished fifth for Andretti Autosport and led two laps.  In 2016, he qualified 11th, started 10th after Servia replaced pole sitter Power and finished sixth for AFR.  In 2015, he started fifth and finished 13th for AFR.  He won pole in 2014, led 33 laps and finished seventh and started second and finished eighth in 2013 – both with AFR.  With RLL in 2012, he qualified 15th and retired in 22nd after an electrical failure.  In 2011, he qualified 11th and finished fifth and in his first race here in 2010, he qualified 11th and retired in 22nd after contact – both races with KV.  After earning his best season-ending finish of eight place in 2017, Takuma is excited about the opportunity to start the season strong after productive off season testing.

NEXT UP:  Round 2 of 17 in the Verizon IndyCar Series will be the Phoenix Grand Prix at ISM Raceway on Saturday, April 7.  During the series open test at ISM Raceway in February, Takuma Sato set the fastest time in three of the four sessions and Graham Rahal was fastest in the other.