Bobby Rahal is feeling bullish about expanding the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team to three full-time cars in 2019.
“There’s a couple of good opportunities out there, so I’m much more sure of us having a three-car program next year than I’ve ever been,” he told RACER. “It’s not there yet, but it’s a strong chance, and that’s exciting for us.”
Graham Rahal, seventh in points entering this weekend’s Toronto IndyCar race, is the only driver under contract beyond 2018. His teammate Takuma Sato, up to 12th in the standings after a string of impressive performances that culminated in a podium at Iowa, would need to sign an extension to stay in the second car, and then there’s the question of who might occupy a third Honda-powered RLLR car.
“Other than Graham, we don’t have commitments with anybody,” Rahal confirmed. “And we’d like to keep Takuma with us. After the last couple of races, I think he’s happier about the year so far.”
Of the “good opportunities” to pursue, Indy Lights points leader Colton Herta (in partnership with his team co-owner George Steinbrenner IV) is rumored to be a top candidate. And with his Andretti teammate Pato O’Ward drawing plenty of attention after winning Iowa—matching Herta’s win total of four—plus a number of young IndyCar drivers looking at ways to strengthen their competitive options, Rahal and co-owners David Letterman and Mike Lanigan could have some quality names with various levels of funding to consider.
Rather than pull some of the talented engineers over from the Nos. 15 and 30 RLLR entries to staff a third car, Rahal says they would keep the team’s existing engineering groups intact and hire new staff—possibly skewing a bit younger than usual—to fill out the timing stand.
“In my mind, you can never have too many great people and we’re always on the lookout for more,” he added. “The people we have are doing great jobs in the positions they’re in, so we’d look to add engineers and whatnot for a third car.
“And we’re also looking towards the future; who are the young guys and gals, the really good junior engineers, who will be lead engineers a few years from now? That’s something I’ve tasked our managers with identifying.”