By Josh Farmer, Contributing Writer
AVONDALE, Arizona – The Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing pair of Graham Rahal and Takuma Sato topped the charts in Friday’s Verizon IndyCar Series’ open test at the ISM Raceway.
Rahal lapped the 1.022-mile oval in 19.457 seconds (189.090 mph) during the evening’s three-hour test session. The driver of the No. 15 United Rentals Honda, who turned his first laps with the new aero package on an oval, was pleased with the team’s progress.
“The pace of the team, the pace of the cars, it seems good,” said the 29-year-old from Medina, Ohio. “We haven’t had to change a real lot, we’ve seen a lot of pace. I’m proud of our team, the whole group to put two cars together and we show up, and we’re right on top of the board.”
Rahal’s lap was just a scant .002 of a second quicker than his Japanese teammate, who logged a hot lap of 19.460 seconds. The six-time IndyCar Race winner noted that his new teammate brings a positive aura to their growing operation.
“It’s great to have Takuma,” Rahal added. “He’s a great influence; he’s such a happy guy to have around. His performance is always really good, extremely quick, so for us it is going to help us quite a bit.
“Even on a day like when we are testing, and we are trying stuff back and forth. Our comments and feedback has been much the same and that helps us to develop the car going forward.”
Sato also topped the charts in the afternoon session with at 187.022 mph (19.672 seconds), and echoed his teammate’s sentiments.
“Today we showed a really good start,” said the 2017 Indianapolis 500 winner when he drove for Andretti Autosport. “It’s only testing but I think it is better to be the fastest side and we are really happy.”
“I’m really happy to be back at the Rahal racing team. The new faces, lots of new faces but working extremely tight together. Graham and I share so many things. We have only tested a few days, but we get along really well.
“Both cars are working very closely together and I think Bobby (Rahal, team co-owner) put every single piece with the right person.”
Team Penske’s pair of defending series champions, Simon Pagenaud (2016) and Josef Newgarden (2017), were third and fourth on the combined results, with the latter timing in at 19.525 seconds (188.430 mph) and the former coming in at 19.551 seconds (188.182 mph).
Tony Kanaan, in his first oval outing for the AJ Foyt Racing outfit, completed the top five with a time of 19.590 seconds (187.806 mph).
Kanaan’s rookie teammate Matheus Leist brought out the only incident of the day as he spun in the afternoon session but avoided contact with the wall. The driver of the No. 4 ABC Supply Chevrolet hastily lifted to miss Kanaan, who was pulling out of the pits. The 2017 Freedom 100 winner nonetheless ended the day 10th quickest, the fastest of the rookie class.
Full combined practice results can be seen here: INDYCAR Phoenix Open Test Day 1