Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Graham Rahal heads into the Verizon IndyCar Series season opening Firestone Grand Prix of St Petersburg this weekend looking to build on the momentum that he has had in recent years.
Rahal ended the 2016 season as the highest placed Honda powered driver ending the year in fifth place and taken victory at the Texas Motor Speedway. Rahal will have primary sponsorship from Steak N’ Shake in 2017 in the No.15 Honda and speaking about the event in St Pete this weekend he commented by saying:
St. Pete has been good and bad for me. After getting the win my first year here, I came back and got pole but there have been ups and downs since then. We’ve had times when we’ve been really strong a St. Pete and we’ve had times when we’ve struggled. Last year is an indication of that. We qualified well, and we ran up front in the race until we got punted. The year before, we had a phenomenal car — a really, really good car actually — and were working our way through but I had a little bit of contact with Kimball, who was having a problem, and got penalized for a nothing scenario. In 2013 we were running good but then had an electrical problem. We need to work hard to maximize what we have, and work hard to start off this season really good because if we want to be champions, it has to start at St. Pete.
Following one win, four podiums and eight top five finishes in 2016 and is hoping for a competitive start to the new season having ended both the 2015 and 2016 seasons as the highest placed Honda driver so there is definitely an advantage to being a single car team.
The circuit at St Petersburg has been recently repaved and speaking about heading to St Petersburg for the first race, Rahal commented by saying:
St. Petersburg is definitely one of my favorites of the entire year and a great place to kick off the season. It will always hold a special place in my heart because it’s where I got my first win and my first pole position. One of the main challenges for St. Pete this year is that we don’t know what we’re going to get because it’s been repaved so it’s going to be a whole different situation. I’m ready to go, ready to get behind the wheel of the Steak ‘n Shake Honda! It’s been a long off season. There’s always a lot of build-up so by the time March finally rolls around, no one can wait to get started. I’m just ready to get out there, get the wheels turning and get going. I’ll be the first to say it’s been a busy off season. We’ve done a lot, gotten through a lot of meetings and great sponsor pitches and everything else but it’s time to go racing and I can’t wait.
Rahal Letterman Lanigan have tried to keep some continuity in terms of the team for 2017 saying:
We’ve tried to keep the consistency and create stability in terms of the team. We had one mechanic leave but we’ve replaced him with a couple of really young guys that I think are going to be great additions to our program. The engineering department is pretty much as it has been. We have added Tom (German), who I think will be a great addition to what we have been doing. He’s been able to confirm a lot of the things we have done and let us know if we’ve been headed down the right path or not, which has been great. Tom is a great addition but there is a lot of work still to be done. Our guys are working hard to try to stay ahead of the curve. The competition is only going to get tougher so we need to be on top of our game. Everyone is working very hard to put our team in the best position for success this year. IndyCar racing nowadays is extremely tough but I think a guy like Tom really does bring a wealth of experience from many other organizations. Other than that we aren’t changing anything. We’ve got a great group and there is no reason to fix what isn’t broken so to speak. Everyone is ready to go racing, everyone is determined and excited to get on track.