Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Graham Rahal in the No,15 Code 3 Associates Honda and his teammate and defending Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato in the No.30 PeopleReady Panasonic Honda say they are aiming to build on the momentum the team has had in the first four races of 2021 as the NTT IndyCar Series heads home to Indianapolis for this weekend’s GMR Grand Prix of Indianapolis on the road course ahead of the 105th running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge on Sunday, May 30.
Speaking to Paddock Eye during a Zoom conference call on Tuesday, Graham Rahal, who finished third in race two at Texas Motor Speedway last time out said:
As I just said, we’ve had a really strong I think opening to the year. Feel like at St. Pete even, that’s our blip, but that shouldn’t have been a blip if you look at the average finish. I think had that not been the case, you’re well into the top five on your average, which would have been great. Should have, could have, would have. Didn’t work out for us.
But we feel like we certainly have made some great gains, that we’ve been very competitive everywhere. We feel like we’re going to be pretty strong this weekend, be able to race really well. Conditions look prime, if I’m seeing them right. 70, sunny, beautiful, perfect. We’re excited about that.
It’s awesome to have fans. Takuma obviously won last year, finished third, Dixie right there. We came across the line three-wide, had nothing to cheer for. That’s just how it was. It is different.
The Indy 500 is the Indy 500 because of the fans, truthfully. Yes, it’s tradition. Yes, it’s the greatest race in the world, certainly in all of our opinion. The fans are what make it that. It’s great to be able to see 140,000 of our best friends out there in a couple weeks’ time.
I think also tip of the cap, yes. I think government helped us get there. But tip of the cap to everybody at IMS, the vaccination drives, everything they did, that made a huge difference to get us where we’re at today. The amount of Hoosiers that were vaccinated at the Speedway, just tremendous. All of us, everybody in INDYCAR was vaccinated at the Speedway or through AMR, INDYCAR. We’re super thankful for that. Very excited to be back.
Takuma Sato heads to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as the defending Indianapolis 500 winner and speaking to Paddock Eye during the same conference call on Tuesday, the former F1 driver who is a two-time Indy 500 champion commented saying:
Yeah, how can we replicate? I don’t know (laughter). But just Graham mentioned that the team get good momentum. Finishes for Graham, which is quite encouraging to see. I was just very excited he had bit breaks. Also, St. Petersburg, the way I finished where it should have been.
Those other races, Barber, Texas, will be a little bit trapped by strategy, some of the unfortunate things. We had a little issue, mechanical issue.
It’s motorsports. I don’t blame that. Just a little we were frustrated for the first few races. If you look at the speed, just the pure speed, I think it’s something very encouraging.
For IMS, honestly Indy 500 I don’t know because now this year we will have updated aero kit, the barge board, the extension for the diffusers is available. Basically is more downforce.
Same idea as Texas. Specification is different. Conditions obviously will never be the same. The tire supposed to be the very similar performance, but we just don’t know.
However, I think over the course of the winter, the team always try to make progress, same as everyone else. But I think we have very good baseline. I’m confident that we can do the competitive job. Santino joined the team. The last test in IMS was quite productive. I’m optimistic to be competitive. But how we can repeat, I don’t know.
The GMR Grand Prix of Indianapolis takes place this weekend and is live on NBC Sports in the U.S and on Sky Sports F1HD in Ireland and the UK.