Rahal and Sato confident of competitive showing at Pocono Raceway

The 2019 NTT IndyCar Series returns to action this weekend for the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway, Acronis partner team Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing hopeful of continuing its good oval racing form.

Both Graham Rahal and Takuma Sato are proven winners around oval circuits, with the team also boasting four wins on 500-mile tracks. Perhaps most tellingly, however, is the fact that Sato secured pole here in 2017 for Andretti Autosport before being involved in an unfortunate multi-car accident.

Although his 2018 showing was not as strong, the Japanese has been consistently competitive this season with third at the Indianapolis 500, pole position in Texas and a strong showing at Iowa.

“We were in pretty good shape last year despite no testing before the race and very little running time on the race weekend due to weather,” said Sato in his team’s race preview. “My race ended very early but Graham had a strong pace during the race so we should have a good baseline. On top of that, we have been very strong on ovals this season, so we are expecting to have a competitive package in Pocono too.”

For Rahal, there is reason to be optimistic too as he consistently led the race at Pocono in 2017 before eventually finishing a creditable fifth.

“I always look forward to the challenge of racing at Pocono,” said Rahal. “I think we have had some great runs in the past there but haven’t been able to fulfill and complete the task. Two or three years ago, Kanaan and I changed the lead every lap for about 40 laps so it can certainly be an exciting race. This year we showed at Indianapolis that we have great pace and had a really good result at Texas Motor Speedway.

“I think we found a lot of good setup information on ovals and I expect us to be competitive. Last year at Pocono I made a mistake on the start and hit Spencer but once the race got going, we were actually right in line and running with Rossi. We stayed with him for all 500 miles which was a good sign that at least our car was competitive. We were a couple of laps down due to the penalty, but we were in the hunt.”

Team boss Bobby Rahal is also optimistic of a strong finish to the season starting at Pocono, with the goal to finish in the top five with four races still remaining.

“I feel this is likely our best chance yet for success at Pocono, but we need to be smart and race well,” added Rahal. “The SIM test should be beneficial. Honda has provided us with a great tool to use and I think we found some great stuff.

“Everyone has worked hard within our organization and we continue to evolve. We have made a big step from last year and have been in the hunt a lot but just haven’t been able to close the deal. It will turn around soon. I want to get into the top-five of the standings by season’s end. We should be able to, just need some good results. We really need a win; we can do it.”

Graham Rahal, Takuma Sato, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda

Fraser Masefield

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