Graham Rahal earned a third-place finish to give Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing two cars in the top-three of the Indianapolis 500. (Al Steinberg Photo)
Graham Rahal earned a third-place finish to give Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing two cars in the top-three of the Indianapolis 500. (Al Steinberg Photo)

Graham Rahal Adds To Strong Indy 500 For RLL Racing

INDIANAPOLIS – A third-place finish in the 104th Indianapolis 500 would typically be big news for Graham Rahal, but that accomplishment was overshadowed by Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing teammate Takuma Sato, who won his second Indianapolis 500 on Sunday.

“It was a great day for our team, the entire organization and all of our partners,” Graham Rahal said after he started eighth and finished third in the No. 15 Honda.

Rahal’s third-place effort matched his best Indianapolis 500 finish, which he previously achieved in 2011. He was a factor for Sunday’s win, closing in on second-place Scott Dixon in the closing laps before another RLL driver, Spencer Pigot, was involved in a massive crash with the pit road attenuator with less than five full laps remaining.

The race finished under caution and Sato gave team owners Bobby Rahal, David Letterman and Michael Lanigan the victory.

“Congrats to Takuma for a heck of a drive,” Rahal said. “I’m proud of him and thankful for what he has done for our program and all of our partners.

“I thought we had a run at it but just got too loose the last stint. But our United Rentals team was unbelievably good in the pits today and we were able to work our way forward. For us to come home P1 and P3 today means the world to me. Solid day all around.

“We’ve got a championship chase that we’re in now and we’ve got two races in St. Louis next weekend. Hell of a job RLL.”

Rahal’s father and team owner Bobby Rahal scored his second Indianapolis 500 win as a team owner. He also won the race as a driver in 1986.

“We had a pep rally in our garage this morning,” Bobby Rahal said. “I said I’ve never been as pleased with where the team stands as it does right now. The people we have on board, everybody working together. The team results this year already with some good runs by Graham in particular.

“We really feel we’re in a good spot. I told them that. We saw that in qualifying. This gives our team a huge boost because of course we went out, went toe-to-toe with the Andretti team, which is obviously a great team, Ganassi, great team, the McLaren team. This was a tough crowd this year, I think, maybe tougher than normal. We were able to compete and win.

“It’s a tremendous sense of pride for the team. I think probably everybody can’t wait to get to St. Louis.

“What a day for RLL,” Bobby Rahal continued. “Graham drove great. He had to make changes to the car during the stops. The team did an awesome job, made his car more competitive. We thought we were going to make a good run at Dixie (Scott Dixon) a couple times. Traffic came into the way.

“Takuma did a super job. The pit stops for both cars were really good today, gained a lot of spots on that. I guess when it’s time to go racing, we went racing. I’m just really pleased to have two cars in the top three at the Indy 500.

“Not a bad day.”

Team co-owner David Letterman also has tremendous respect for Graham Rahal’s ability as a race driver.

“What I’ve grown accustomed to over the last half a dozen years or so is sort of top third or midfield qualifying, then you turn Graham loose toward the end of the race and he hunts people down and passes them like a crazy man,” Letterman said. “The thing that has become obvious, the engineering improvements whereby the qualifying is better, consistently better, and gives him a better shot at the final hunt.

“If that’s not obvious, if I notice it, it’s got to be something to it. I just want to thank Graham and the teams and the people who actually work and put this operation together. It’s an amazing thing to witness and to be a part of. I’m very grateful to them all.”