Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Graham Rahal in the No.15 United Rentals Honda and Takuma Sato in the No.30 Panasonic Shield Cleansers Honda are looking forward to the start of the 2021 NTT IndyCar Series season this weekend at Barber Motorsports Park where they will kick off the team’s 30th anniversary year of NTT IndyCar Series competition.

Both drivers had a busy off-season as Graham Rahal and his wife Courtney welcomed their daughter, Harlan into the world, and speaking about that news among other things, Graham said:

“The off season was good,” said Rahal.  “For me, it was quite busy with the baby coming and adjusting to that new life. I thought it was nice to have a little bit of an extended off season. I thought INDYCAR played it right with the schedule due to Covid and tried to give us a little more time to adjust and ultimately the first three races we go to, those states are open now for business which helps us from a fan perspective, so I’m pleased with that. As far as the team, these guys never stop working. The car I drove for the Indy test was a brand-new tub and it took a lot of work to get it to the point that it’s at; the boys have done an excellent job. It was kind of nice to have the off season as well for them to be able to take time on things like this. They never stop. They work awfully hard to make sure that when we go racing, we put our best foot forward and have the best equipment and we’re all pretty fortunate for that.”

Takuma Sato said:

“The off-season was extremely busy,”. “As you could imagine, I was basically all over the place because after winning the Indy 500, that’s what happens. Of course, under the circumstances it was extremely difficult because of travel restrictions but I was very fortunate to have so much support in Japan. Over the course of the winter, I mainly spent a lot of time in Japan but then about mid-January I came back to the (United) States and started working for the new season testing. It was extremely busy but very, very nice to see all the fans in Japan and have a great Christmas time.”

Speaking about the season ahead Rahal said:

“I’m excited to get 2021 started and I think everybody is. “To flip the page back to a bit of normalcy, have fans back at the races, be able to go back to Barber, which we didn’t get to last year. To start it off at Barber, St. Pete and Texas all in a row is going to make for a busy beginning to the year but we’re excited about that. The test at Barber went really well so we do feel strongly, we feel like we should be very competitive and so I’m certainly excited about that. Hopefully we can kick off the season on the right foot.”

Takuma Sato spoke about the new season saying:

“Winter testing is always interesting and always fascinating because there is some development over the course of the winter. “And also, the temperature is quite a bit different for winter testing and then we come to the real race time and it’s going to be spring so it’s always tough, but we always enjoy it. We had two days at Sebring, Texas Motor Speedway and also at Barber, which they did a resurface on the whole racetrack so it’s going to be a lot faster. On the test day we were two-seconds faster than my pole position time back in 2019 which shows how the speed is tremendously different. The setup requirement is a little bit different which is going to be challenging but we hope we’ve done enough studying and we will try to be very competitive and will try really hard this coming weekend.”

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing had a great event here in 2019, the last time we were at Barber as Takuma Sato not only took pole but also took the win while Graham Rahal started the race from second.

“The Barber race in 2019 was good for us. We started one-two so that was tremendous. Unfortunately, on the 15 car, which was the One Cure car that weekend, it was our race; I really felt that way. I know Takuma won but I really felt that it was our race (to win) and we had an issue with the throttle pedal which ultimately took us out. It was a real shame not to be able to fulfill our potential. As I’ve looked ahead at this year, that’s what I keep saying — fulfill our potential and do the job and I know we can. Barber’s a great first opportunity for us to do that at a track that we know we can be extremely competitive at.”

Reflecting on his victory here in 2019, Sato said:

“The 2019 race at Barber Motorsports Park was fantastic. We locked down the front row with Graham and I. It was just a fantastic race. Unfortunately, Graham had a technical issue, so he had to retire but I kept the throttle down and won the race and it was just a beautiful moment. I really enjoyed that day and the No. 30 boys did a fantastic job. Of course, in 2020 we weren’t able to race there due to the pandemic but for 2021 we are starting the season at Barber, so we are very excited.”

Graham Rahal spoke about the 30th anniversary of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing saying:

“I don’t remember very much from the very beginning of the team. “What I do remember as a kid in the late 90’s, early 2000’s, every year was a new car and every year – even though I wasn’t racing, and it wasn’t mine — it felt like Christmas going to the shop to see that new car for the first time. It would come in and be all carbon fiber, no paint scheme or anything on it yet. I specifically remember the Lola chassis of the early 2000’s. They came in and it was the most beautiful thing I had ever laid my eyes on, so I do remember those days vividly. The early, early days I don’t remember as much other than having the trophies show up at the house and dad’s success in 1992 in particular, which was great. I’m very proud of the organization. I’d say I’m prouder of the people within the organization, the people we’ve had over the years has been awesome.”

Takuma Sato said:

“I’m simply very happy to be part of the 30th anniversary season, driving the No. 30 car which wasn’t intentional but a nice coincidence. A few years ago, the team ran No. 15 and 16 for a long time in history. I love the 30 boys and the 30 car. The last few seasons have been successful. This year will be extremely challenging and we’re really up for it. With a new season coming, new sponsors with Shield Cleansers, and new races that came back after the pandemic so it’s going to be good.”

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