By David Morgan, Associate Editor
FORT WORTH, Texas – Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing has its work cut out heading into Sunday’s running of the XPEL 375 at Texas Motor Speedway.
All three team entries struggled in qualifying on Saturday, bringing up the rear of the field with three of the last four starting positions on the grid. Jack Harvey was the quickest of the three in 24th, followed by Christian Lundgaard in 25th, and Graham Rahal rolling off dead last in 27th.
While polesitter Felix Rosenqvist timed in with a blazing fast two-lap average of 221.110 mph, Rahal and his teammates were noticeably slower, as Rahal only managed an average of 218.410 mph during his run.
Afterwards, Rahal didn’t hold back about the performance the team had just put up.
“It’s clear that all three of our cars are exceptionally slow,” Rahal said. “We really have to go back and figure out what the heck we’re doing wrong. There’s a lot of scrub in the car, but I think aerodynamically, we have to be a clear outlier from the rest. Because I’m last, Christian (Lundgaard) is next to me, and we’re three of the back four.
“There’s no excuse with an organization like us to perform that way. I think everybody better have a good, hard look tonight and figure it out. I mean, our race car is okay. It’s going to be fine, but starting 27th, clearly, you’re not looking for a win. You’re looking to get out of here safe. It’s quite disappointing to see the performance. Pathetic is the only word I can use.”
Rahal added that his team made some last-minute changes to the car before he went out to make his run, which in hindsight, only seemed to hinder them further than if they wouldn’t have made any changes at all.
“They trimmed in panic,” Rahal said. “Right before (Scott) Dixon went out, they just started taking wing out of my car. We would have been better if we would have run minus two. We still would have been slow, very slow, but we probably would have been better than what we did.”
To his credit, Rahal kept some positivity about how the team would fare in the race, but was quick to note that they would have a lot of work ahead of them to salvage the weekend.
“(Qualifying) speed isn’t necessarily a reflection of a race car, but generally, slow is slow, so we do need to look. Our issue clearly is much larger than that. We’re three-plus miles per hour off most guys. That’s not a little bit. There’s something quite large that’s not correct.
“We’ll be fine. We race well here. I’m not in any state of panic, but I certainly expect a hell of a lot more out of us than that. I don’t want to put into words what the owners are probably thinking at this very second, but I expect a hell of a lot better performance and work out of all of us than what we just delivered.”
UPDATE: Despite the team’s issues in qualifying, there was some light at the end of the tunnel in final practice, with both Rahal and Lundgaard putting up times in the top-10 during the session. In the final minutes, Lundgaard jumped up to fourth on the leaderboard, while Rahal timed in seventh fastest.
However, the same couldn’t be said for Jack Harvey, who suffered a hard crash halfway through the session, forcing his No. 45 team to a back-up car.
Harvey ran high off Turn 2, making slight contact with the outside wall, which in turn sent him on a bee-line toward the inside wall, making heavy contact. Fortunately, Harvey was able to walk away from the incident, but it will be a long night ahead for his team to get the back-up ready for Sunday’s race.