By David Morgan, IndyCar Contributor
FORT WORTH, Texas – The duo of Graham Rahal and Takuma Sato may have started from different ends of the field in Saturday night’s Verizon IndyCar Series race at Texas Motor Speedway, but by the end of the night both were celebrating a pair of top-10 finishes for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.
Rahal rolled off near the back of the field in 20th place and despite five different trips to pit road throughout the 248-lap event, he was able to lead five laps and crossed the finish line in sixth place, his best finish since a top-five at Long Beach.
“Overall, I can’t complain too much about finishing sixth,” said Rahal. “The Fleet Cost & Care team did a good job with strategy, we did a good job in the pits and the car was pretty good. We were able to make some moves, but as everybody could see, it was hard out there today to get a whole lot done.
“We’ve got to work on the aero package this week and move forward to allow us to follow a little bit easier, but overall, I can’t be too unhappy with that. We salvaged another really good result out of a really tough start. We’ll keep our heads down and move on.”
In addition to the top-10 at Texas, Rahal also comes away from the weekend having inked a new five-year deal with the team co-owned by his father, Bobby Rahal, and sits sixth in points.
“It’s nice to continue the consistency we’ve had in the program,” Rahal added of the contract extension. “All of this is thanks to the sponsors that have given our team the stability to allow me to sign for five years. Obviously, that is a long time.
“For me as a driver, it’s great to have that commitment and it’s great for our sponsors in terms of long term planning and obviously due to their current commitment this was possible. It’s always been a dream of mine to win the Indy 500 with this team, my dad, Mike and Dave. We have been able to win races together and hopefully we will be able to add many more wins going forward.”
As for Sato, he laid down the ninth-fastest time in qualifying, but the tire issues that bit several other drivers in the field also bit him, forcing him to pit road early in the race, dropping him two laps down to the leaders.
Despite the setback, Sato and his team buckled down and worked their way back toward the front of the field, eventually finishing the night in seventh place.
“Tough day,” said Sato. “Obviously today the key was managing tires and unfortunately my first stint, halfway through, we had a huge problem on the rear, so I had to come in to change tires and that put us two laps down.
“After that, I think the team did a great job to walk their way through it. Just two laps back in the end and we fought for the position. P7 is a solid, starting where we were, we wanted to be a little higher, but I think it was a solid day.”
Though they both had their issues, coming away from Texas with both cars in the top-10 has to be seen as a successful night.
“It’s a positive,” Sato added of the dual top-10 finishes between himself and Rahal. “Very positive. We had some difficult circumstances today, but finishing two cars in the top-10, we’ll take it.”