Graham Rahal is optimistic about his prospects for the new season ahead of this weekend’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. The 30-year-old is confident that engineering changes during the offseason will pay dividends in 2019.
“I feel like there are a lot of areas we have improved over the offseason”, said Rahal on the eve of the new NTT IndyCar Series season.
“Preseason testing has gone well, Allen (McDonald, race engineer), Eddie (Jones, race engineer), Tom (German, technical director), the entire engineering staff and team have done a great job banging their heads together and finding some new and exciting ideas for us.”
Rahal: 2019 season a “great opportunity”
The Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team added respected race engineer McDonald to Rahal’s crew on the no. 15 United Rentals Honda.
A 30-year IndyCar and F1 veteran, McDonald has engineered previous IndyCar champion Dario Franchitti and more recently guided James Hinchcliffe and Ed Carpenter to pole position for the Indianapolis 500.
For Rahal, bringing McDonald onboard at the end of 2018 was an essential investment in the team’s NTT IndyCar Series championship prospects.
“We have done a lot of development and I foresee that paying off big for us”, asserts Rahal who finished a disappointed 8th in points last season.
“We have a great opportunity ahead of us, a strong team, great sponsor support, and I have a feeling it should be an awesome year for our program.”
A productive but busy offseason for Rahal
Despite the productive offseason, Rahal – one of the most active NTT IndyCar drivers in terms of sponsorship prospecting and engagement – admitted it will be good to get back into the cockpit this weekend.
“While the offseason has been good, it’s also been busier than in-season for me”, said Rahal. “I am excited to just turn my focus completely to racing and doing our best to go out there and win this year.”
In terms of this weekend’s season-opening race, Rahal is bullish about his chances. Runner-up in 2018 to hometown hero Sebastien AllanBourdais, Rahal is no stranger to victory lane in St. Petersburg. The 6-time IndyCar race winner took his maiden series victory at St. Petersburg back in 2008.
“I’m glad to be going back to a place we did well at last year, and I am hopeful we can do one spot better this time around. I certainly do not see why winning my second at St. Pete isn’t possible!”
The 2019 NTT IndyCar Series starts with practice on Friday, March 8 and qualifying Saturday, March 9. The green flag drops on the 110-lap Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg at 1.30pm (ET) on Sunday, March 9 around the 14-turn temporary street circuit.
The race will be broadcast live on NBCSN as part of IndyCar’s new exclusive deal with NBC. Fans can also watch qualifying on NBCSN and all practice sessions live on the NBC Sports Gold streaming package.