Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing head into this weekend’s Firestone Grand Prix of St Petersburg, the final race of the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season aiming to end their strong season on a high note. The team won the Indianapolis 500 with Takuma Sato in August and as a result the Japanese driver finds himself in seventh place in the championship on 328 points having scored one win and one pole this season.
This will be Sato’s 11th visit to St Pete in IndyCar and his best start position here was from pole with AJ Foyt Racing in 2014 while his best race finish here was sixth for KV Racing in 2011. Speaking ahead of the event this weekend Sato said:
“It feels time has passed and it has been a long time since our last visit. We just never knew what was going to happen in the world at that time and it has changed a lot in particular in the US but we appreciate so much that we are able to have a race. St. Pete has been recognized so well for the season opener for a long time so it feels a little different when you realized that it will be our last race of the season. Nevertheless, St. Pete has been one of the greatest tracks and we all love it so I am very happy to go back there. We are so fortunate to be able to race in these unprecedented times because a lot of athletes couldn’t even have the opportunity to perform. The Tokyo Olympics had to postpone to 2021 so everyone involved in our sport did a fantastic job to have our season.
Sunday’s race is the only street course event on the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series schedule and speaking about that Sato said:
“It’s sad that this is the only street race of this year but we all understand and we live under very difficult and challenging circumstances. I always enjoy driving the St. Pete course and we went to the simulator in the spring so we did our prep as much as we could then. Needless to say, we are looking forward to this challenging street race so much. Yes, it will add an element of unpredictability as it’s the nature of the street course race but that’s all good for the show and we think we will be competitive! It was a special season for me and it’s great that we delivered such an amazing race win (at the Indy 500) with the team particularly after our memory in 2012. I like to say big thank you to the entire team, owners, loyal sponsors and fans! It’s hard to believe this is the final race.
Speaking about the Aeroscreen as it will be the first time the drivers have experienced it on a street course, Sato said:
It certainly did a very impressive job for the main purpose for the safety and has proven it’s a great device as we observed several incidents this season, “It added more challenge for driving and engineering but that’s the nature of racing so INDYCAR and the safety team did an outstanding job.
The Japanese driver concluded by discussing the championship saying:
“Regardless of the season-ending position, we have to just focus on doing the best possible job we try to achieve
Graham Rahal goes into the season ending race in St Pete just one place ahead of his team mate Takuma Sato in sixth place in the championship on 354 points and speaking about the championship he said:
We’re sixth in points and could move forward with a really strong weekend. “I’m not so worried about moving backward, obviously that still is a threat but the point is I would rather just take some chances and advance our position and go forward in the championship so that’s what we’re going to try to do. All in all, we’re looking forward to the challenges ahead with one last go this season and will close 2020 off hopefully on a very high note.
Graham Rahal is aiming to end his season on a high following a strong 2020 campaign.
We’re looking forward to St. Pete. We’ve done well there before and have been very competitive there in the past, having won years ago. But also we’ve had some good runs over the last few years. We’re used to St. Pete starting the season off and getting the mojo for the whole year going and obviously this year it’s ending our season but will quickly start our next so we need to make sure we well prepared and do a good job this weekend. It’s critical that our cars are competitive, that Takuma and I work well together and try to close this season off on a really-high note. As far as the No. 15 car this year, I‘m really proud of how everyone has worked together. I think we’ve had a pretty stellar year. Obviously, I would have liked to get the win at Indianapolis but in general I think our guys have done a great job and have been pretty locked in and pretty focused. We’d like to get them a win, would like to finish this year off that way. It’s been since 2017 since we’ve won so we’re pretty focused on trying to make that happen and it would be great to do it in St. Pete.