Graham Rahal’s team has changed the chassis, engine, gearbox, and the uprights in search of speed that has eluded the No. 15 Honda. Currently positioned as the second-slowest qualifier of the 10 cars to complete qualifying runs before rain paused the action, the Ohioan wasn’t sure he’d be in the field of 33.
“All I’m saying is my reality at this second is I’m not worried about the race; I’m worried about making the race. I’ll worry about racing from the back next Monday. Today, I’m worried about being able to get in my race car tomorrow,” he said.
Rahal was visibly mystified by the lack of improvement with his car after so many major changes were made.
“Everybody’s had a time where, for some reason, it’s just slow. You can’t figure out why. You scratch your heads and you pour through millions of laps worth of data and try to figure it out. And nothing stands out. It just won’t pull. We switched cars overnight, [and] this car overlays identically,” he said.
Of the three Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing entries this year for Rahal, Takuma Sato in the No. 30 Honda, and Oriol Servia’s No. 64 Scuderia Corsa entry run by RLL, Servia has shown the most potential. Looking at the bigger Honda picture, RLL has been well behind many of their stablemates. Rahal would like to know why.
“I guess that means our build quality between the two is the same, but look at the 64 team with Oriol’s car, it was a late addition [to RLL’s Indy plans], and it’s the fastest of all our cars,” he added. “Why’s that? I don’t know.
“[But] Oriol’s nowhere near an Andretti or Ganassi or a Schmidt car right now. Something that we’re doing is fooling us. We’ve done all the development they have.”
With 35 cars entered for the race, two entries will pack up at the end of Saturday’s qualifying session as IndyCar establishes its fastest 33 cars that will go for the pole on Sunday. As one of the two slowest cars so far, and weather permitting, Rahal is looking for an open window to take big swings at aero setup to see if more speed can be acquired.
“I’m intrigued to trim more, max out the rear wing, which is a stupid thing to do, but I’ve had cars here that just wouldn’t do anything, but you go to one more [negative] degree of rear wing, and it wakes up,” he said. “I do know Takuma, this morning in cooler conditions, tried to trim more, and just went slower, which is kind of what we’d expect to happen, but what else can I do?”
Plenty of variables are still in play; other drivers could go slower than Rahal and push his No. 15 car up the chart to a safe place. But as the American star sees it, there’s a reasonable possibility he could emulate his father and fail to qualify on the 25th anniversary of Bobby Rahal missing the cut for the 1993 Indy 500.
“I don’t know if a 24.5mph or 24.5mph [lap] is going to make it. We’re going to have to see how it all plays out. Trust me, I can see it in the car. Down the back straight, it pulls shift lights and then it stops. We changed engines, it’s not the engine. That’s not it, I don’t think. What else do you do?
“I know most of you thought a team of our caliber, I’d never be saying this. It’s happened to everybody, but I never thought it would be us. But here we are.”