By Christopher DeHarde, Staff Writer
LEXINGTON, Ohio — Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing is the only other team besides Team Penske and Chip Ganassi Racing to win at Mid-Ohio in the last 11 years and they have an excellent chance to add to that as their two drivers start seventh and eighth for today’s Honda Indy 200.
Graham Rahal won at Mid-Ohio in 2015 and will start ahead of teammate Takuma Sato but both drivers could have advanced higher up the grid with a bit more luck.
Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ James Hinchcliffe set quickest lap of the second qualifying round but went off track in the final corner, causing a red and checkered flag to end round two and prohibiting Rahal and Sato finishing their last timed laps which could have gotten them to the Firestone Fast Six.
Rahal has had a fast car all weekend, topping the time sheet in the third practice session of the weekend after setting the third fastest time in Friday’s afternoon practice session.
“In the second round, the balance was pretty good,” said Rahal. “Clearly I’m disappointed that it turned out the way that it did because I know that we had the speed to advance to Round 3. The Fifth Third Bank car felt really good once I got some temperature in the tires in Turns 5 and 6. I thought, ‘Okay, we’ve got a good shot at this thing.’ The next thing I know, the red flag is out. I’m very frustrated. We’re just going to have to work our way to the front from seventh. A lot can happen in a short period of time so we’re going to have to work our way through it.”
For Sato, he finished fifth last year at Mid-Ohio after starting third and has been all over the time sheet throughout the weekend. He was fourth in the opening practice session and 16th in the second session before coming in ninth in the third practice session.
“We made some setup changes after practice for qualifying and it seemed to be working good,” said Sato. “We were third fastest in our group, which was promising. In the next group, our strategy was interrupted by red flags. It hurt many drivers and we were one of them. It’s a shame we didn’t have the opportunity to set a time to try to advance to the top six. I think we made good progress and we are headed in the right direction though. Hopefully we have a strong car tomorrow for the Honda Indy.”
The Honda Indy 200 broadcast starts at 3:00 p.m. ET on CNBC.