In terms of favorites for Sunday’s REV Group Grand Prix at Road America (12:30 p.m. ET/NBC/INDYCAR Radio Network), you can’t discredit Andretti Autosport, Chip Ganassi Racing and Team Penske. They’ve won all but two races in 2019 and have combined to win all three trips to Elkhart Lake since the NTT IndyCar Series’ return to the historic track in 2016.
But, don’t sleep on Rahal/Letterman/Lanigan Racing though either. RLL is one of those teams that has won a race this year and it happened to be on a natural road course like the one that we’ll race on this weekend in Road America.
Takuma Sato won the April race at Barber as both he and Graham Rahal combined to a front row sweep that weekend. On the season, Sato has two top seven finishes in three tries on natural road courses in his No. 30 Honda. He also has five top eight finishes in his last eight starts on the season too. He finished fourth at Road America in 2018 as well.
“The track is just great; a classic super-fast road course,” said Sato. “There is a lot of great history behind it and we all love to race there. The very fast turns and especially the iconic carousel and heavy braking area after the long straight with low downforce is challenging. Getting the balance right with good grip and how much you can take off downforce, i.e. reduce drag for speed is always a tough one and that’s challenging for both driver and the engineers. The Indy road course was a tough one with tricky conditions and we couldn’t adapt well there, but Road America should suit us more. We have a good base setup from last year and this year’s development should apply in a good way. Barber was a very special moment and perhaps the combination of conditions and characteristics of the track matched great for us, and there is no reason why we couldn’t repeat that in Road America.”
Then there’s Graham Rahal. He has two top 10 finishes in three tries on natural road courses as well to go along with a top eight finish in all three tries at Road America. He also has five top 10 finishes in his last six tries on the season. That gives the second generation driver big aspirations for Sunday’s race.
“I have high hopes for the race at Road America,” said Rahal. “I think Takuma (Sato) and I have a lot of the same things in mind (for the car setup) and we are eager to get out there and see what we can do. It’s challenging to get the lap right due to the track length. You can get so many sectors perfect and then make one mistake and it’s very costly. With the long straights, every corner and every mistake carry a big lap time penalty if you get it wrong. We will be looking to avoid that. Road America is set up perfectly for racing and in particular Indy car racing. We love racing there as it was always a huge family event.”