2009 IRL Team Reports: Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing

IRL Team reports for the 2009 IRL season

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2009 IRL Team Reports: Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing

Postby mlittle » Sat Apr 04, 2009 9:59 am

~~~DOORNBOS AIMS TO REPEAT PODIUM EARNING DEBUT IN MUCH ANTICIPATED RETURN TO U.S. BASED OPEN WHEEL RACING; LOOKING FORWARD TO HONDA GRAND PRIX OF ST. PETE INDYCAR SERIES OPENER

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (March 31, 2009) --- The moment Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing (NHLR) driver Robert Doornbos has been waiting for has finally arrived. This weekend's Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg IndyCar Series 2009 season opener marks the Dutchman's much anticipated return to open wheel racing in the United States since he finished third in the 2007 Champ Car World Series standings and won Rookie of the Year.

"The time to go racing is finally here!" said Doornbos, 27, who planned to compete in the Champ Car World Series in 2008 but the late reunification of open wheel racing put his plans on hold. "I have been looking forward to driving for Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing for a while now and it's exciting that it is finally time to start the season. My desire to get back to open wheel racing in the US was mega, it was really big. Even though I had a couple of opportunities to go back to Formula One as a test driver, I really wanted to race because I had such a good time in 2007. Obviously the success was nice as well and it really motivated me to be here and be able to fight for wins and championships with Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing in 2009."

Upon his arrival to the U.S. racing scene in 2007, Doornbos commanded attention right away when he finished second to Will Power in his Champ Car debut in Las Vegas for Minardi Team USA. He went on to finish on the podium in five of his first six races including his first of two wins in Mont Tremblant in Round 6. He also finished second in his A1GP debut in China in Nov. '08. Although this season will pose a new challenge for him as he makes his racing debut on an oval in Round 3 at Kansas Speedway, he is approaching the season the same way.

"To have five podium finishes in my first six Champ Car races is something I am proud of and a feat not accomplished by many drivers," said Doornbos who resides in Monte Carlo, Monaco. "That was a good confidence boost and I am going for the same attitude for St. Pete. Having my debut take place at the Honda Grand Prix of St. Pete street course is great. I have been watching the DVD of last year's race and the course looks amazing on TV. Of course it's good that the team won the race last year and I think our setup is quite competitive. I'm looking to make the most of it. My second win in Champ Car was on the streets of San Jose so I'm feeling quite confident between my past results and the team's performance not only in St. Pete but on streets courses overall."

The 2009 season-opener on the 1.8-mile, 14-turn street course will mark the third time for the team to compete here. In the 2003 Champ Car race here Bruno Junqueira finished third for the team and then-rookie Sebastien Bourdais became the first driver to win the pole in his series debut since Nigel Mansell won the pole for the '93 Australian event -- also while driving for then-named Newman/Haas Racing. Bourdais led 30 laps and also set the fastest race lap but put too much pressure on himself to get back to the front after the team pit him out of sequence and contact ended his race. Justin Wilson started third for NHLR here last year and led 18 laps but Graham Rahal broke through to become the youngest winner in series history in his Indy car debut after holding off veterans Helio Castroneves and Tony Kanaan through two restarts.

NHLR ran limited test miles prior to the start of the 2008 IndyCar Series season due to timing of the reunification of open wheel racing and the arrival of their race cars three weeks before the start of the season. This year the team has not only tested on the Homestead, Fla. oval, they completed their first ever full day of Indy car testing on a road/street course and built that total to four days for rookie Doornbos.

"I am quite happy with the testing and preparation we have done to get ready for the season because we have been quite competitive,' said Doornbos who set the second fastest lap time on Day 1 of the Barber test. "I had a mix of both type of tracks with my oval debut at Homestead and was obviously quite happy to go to (road courses in) Sebring and Barber to work on our setups for the first two race weekends on street courses where I'm looking to maximize our performance at the start of the championship."

Doornbos, the 2007 Champ Car Rookie of the Year, will take part in a four-man battle for 2009 Rookie of the Year honors and the subsequent $50,000 award. His competition on track is 2008 Firestone Indy Lights champion Rafael Matos, former NASCAR driver Stanton Barrett and Englishman Mike Conway. The series will continue its exciting Firestone Fast Six qualifying process and will also introduce the Firestone "alternate" tire program most recently used in the 2007 Champ Car season. Doornbos is excited about both challenges.

"I'm really looking forward to the qualifying process," said Doornbos. "The single-lap flyers are something I am used to from racing in Europe. I have done them in Formula One, A1GP and in the Superleague series. It's a great thing for a driver to try to get the most out of the car and yourself on one lap. It's a huge adrenaline rush. And having the Firestone alternate tire will be good for the championship. I think it will mix it up as it did in Champ Car. In Formula One last weekend the tire difference was quite big so it shows that it can definitely add some spice to the championship."

Not only does Doornbos log many miles through testing and racing, he also logs many air miles. Since leaving his home in Monte Carlo on March 19 for the test in Alabama, he has seen many sights. After two days of testing and four total in Alabama, he traveled to Mexico to concentrate on his physical fitness training before arriving to St. Petersburg on Tuesday, March 31 (today).

On Monday after the Honda Grand Prix of St. Pete he will fly to Portugal for the A1GP event for Team Netherlands (April 12) and will arrive to Long Beach, Calif., on Tuesday before the April 19 Indy car race there. From Long Beach he will make a brief appearance for the IndyCar Series in Phoenix before heading to Kansas Speedway for his oval racing debut on April 26. He will then return home to Monte Carlo for a week of rest before coming to Indy for the month of May and the 93rd running of the Indianapolis 500.

The 2009 IndyCar Series season opens with Round 1 of 17 -- the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on April 5 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla. The 2009 schedule, one of the most diverse in all of motorsports, features races on ovals, permanent road courses and temporary street circuits, all broadcast worldwide through a comprehensive, long-term agreement with Versus and ESPN. All races in 2009 will be telecast in High Definition. Coverage of the Honda Grand Prix will begin with a pre-race show on Saturday from 4-5 p.m. EDT while coverage of the 100-lap race will air from 2-5 p.m. EDT on Sunday. Both broadcasts will air on the VERSUS network.
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Postby mlittle » Sat Apr 04, 2009 10:05 am

~~~McDONALD'S DRIVER RAHAL RETURNS TO HONDA GRAND PRIX OF ST. PETE IN ATTEMPT TO EARN BACK-TO-BACK WINS HERE; TEAM AIMS FOR 12TH SEASON-OPENING WIN IN 27TH ATTEMPT

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (April 1, 2009) --- McDonald's driver Graham Rahal, 20, will enter a race weekend for the first time as the defending champion when he arrives to town for this Sunday's 100-lap Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg IndyCar Series season opener. It will also be the first time in his career that he will compete in the same series two consecutive seasons. In addition to aiming for back-to-back wins for Rahal, Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing (NHLR) will attempt to earn their 12th victory in season-opener in their 27th season of open-wheel competition.

"I really am looking forward to going to St. Pete as the past champion," said Rahal, 20, who became the youngest winner in series history at 19 years, 93 days old with victory here. "It was a great win for me not only because it was my first, but also because it was my first race in the IndyCar Series. It's incredible to win a race, but for it to be your first, and to take the record as the youngest winner was truly amazing! Selfishly, I hope the record stands for a long time. But now you look ahead and I want to get more wins. One win is important to me and important to my career, but I want to have many more."

In their previous 26 seasons of competition NHLR has earned 107 victories and 11 of those have come in season-openers beginning with their first by Mario Andretti in the 1984 season-opener in Long Beach. During their transition season from Champ Car to the IndyCar Series in 2008, the team won twice -- both on street courses (St. Pete and Detroit). They also earned one pole with Justin Wilson for the Champ Car finale on the streets of Long Beach. Rahal is confident that the team will again be competitive on the 1.8-mile, 14-turn course in St. Petersburg and he will have another chance of victory here.

"It does increase the expectations," said Rahal of being able to hold off veterans Helio Castroneves and Tony Kanaan to win by a 3.5-second margin here last year. "It would be great to win two years in a row. That's the idea we're going there with. I want to defend my win and that's what we're going to try to do. It was exciting to have so many guys behind me that I looked up to for so long and to go and win against them was a dream come true. I have been watching them for many years and even to be in a situation to dice it out with them was thrilling. I look forward to doing it again!"

Although last year's St. Pete race was Round 2 in the championship, it was Rahal's debut after he was unable to race in the opening round on the oval in Homestead, Fla. the week before due to a testing crash on Tuesday of race week. The team was unable to repair the car in time for the race so instead concentrated on having it ready for a test on the road course in Sebring the Tuesday before the St. Pete race. Rain limited the team's test to 10 laps but they arrived to St. Pete undaunted. Unfortunately the rain came again on race day but after Rahal was hit by Will Power on Lap 37 and dropped to 23rd, Rahal's engineer Todd Malloy elected to put him on an alternate pit strategy that ultimately worked in the team's favor.

"Last year the weekend was good from the start," said Rahal who started ninth. "Realistically we had a pretty good car and were quick in every session. Qualifying didn't go quite as planned but we were in contention and we had a pretty good car to go racing with. Once the race started we saw the rain, then when (Will) Power hit us everything just played perfectly into our hands and that helped us as much as anything to have a good result."

NHLR ran limited test miles prior to the start of the 2008 IndyCar Series season due to the timing of the reunification of open-wheel racing and the fact that they received their race cars a mere three weeks before the start of the season. This year the team has not only tested on the Homestead, Fla. oval, Rahal and the McDonald's team completed their first ever full day of Indy car testing on a road/street course at Sebring International Raceway in early March and later ran another two days on the Barber Motorsports Park road course. Rahal believes that both he and the team are on a more level playing field this season.

"Experience is huge," said the New Albany, Ohio resident of his first-time events at 14 of the 18 tracks last season. "It allows you to bring more confidence because you know the cars, you know the tracks. Coming from Champ Car and transitioning here last year, a lot of learning has taken place since that move. This season, the entire team comes in with a lot more confidence, knowing that we ought to have a much better shot at being successful and winning races. Last season we didn't have much experience but this year we obviously we have a lot more after having a full season behind us. We're looking forward to going back to these places for our second race at most of them. Hopefully it will be a big advantage for us when we go back to St. Pete. We had a pretty good car last year in St. Pete so I can't expect too much there."

The 2009 event will mark the third time for the team to compete on the 1.8-mile, 14-turn St. Petersburg street course. In the 2003 Champ Car race here Bruno Junqueira finished third for the team and then-rookie Sebastien Bourdais became the first driver to win the pole in his series debut since Nigel Mansell won pole for the '93 Australian event -- also while driving for then-named Newman/Haas Racing. Bourdais led 30 laps and also set the fastest race lap but put too much pressure on himself to get back to the front after the team pit him out of sequence and contact ended his race. In their second event here in 2008 Justin Wilson qualified third and led 18 laps but the rain hindered his strategy before Rahal went on to make history here. Both Rahal and new teammate Robert Doornbos are hoping to add to those numbers both here and at other venues this season.

"The way I look at it, if we can get some victories this year, if we can fight and be in the top five on the ovals, do the same on the road courses, we can finish in the top five in the championship at the end of the year," Rahal added. "That's certainly doable. It's going to take a lot of consistency and a fast car, and I think we can achieve that."

Another history making year would be nice for Rahal and the team. At the Milwaukee Mile oval last year, he narrowly missed out on his first pole when he trailed Marco Andretti by 2/10th of a second over a four lap average to start a career best second in what was the first Andretti/Rahal front row since 1992 in Loudon, NH. Andretti now holds that record but Rahal is optimistic that being able to build on the knowledge he gained last season will help bring him closer to the front.

"This will be the first year that I will have driven the same thing for two consecutive years," said Rahal who progressed from the Atlantic series to Champ Car to the IndyCar Series from 2006 to 2008. "And I think as far as the confidence that it gives you, it's one of those things that once you have an understanding of the tracks, understanding of the cars, you can focus on what it takes and what you need to be more successful and more competitive the next season. I've definitely taken this off-season more serious than ever before and focused on my fitness and everything else to make sure that, as a whole, we have a chance to go out there and win and hopefully fight for the championship this year."

The 2009 IndyCar Series season opens with Round 1 of 17 -- the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on April 5 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla. The 2009 schedule, one of the most diverse in all of motorsports, featuresraces onovals, permanent road courses and temporary street circuits, allbroadcast worldwide through a comprehensive, long-term agreement with Versus and ESPN. All races in 2009 will be telecast in High Definition. Coverage of the Honda Grand Prix will begin with a pre-race show on Saturday from 4-5 p.m. EDT while coverage of the 100-lap race will air from 2-5 p.m. EDT on Sunday. Both broadcasts will air on the VERSUS network.
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Postby mlittle » Sat Apr 04, 2009 10:13 am

Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing
Friday Report


~~~McDONALD'S DRIVER RAHAL IN PRACTICE FOR THE HONDA GRAND PRIX OF ST. PETE; DOORNBOS 16TH

Graham Rahal, No. 02 McDonald's Dallara/Honda/Firestone: "For the whole McDonald's crew it's been a pretty good day. This morning we came out of the box and we were 10th and I think some of the guys were a little worked up but we knew that the car was quick. As Justin (Wilson) just said, even in the first session we couldn't ultimately get our good lap. We got held up a little bit but that doesn't really matter. In the second session we knew we had a pretty good car. It was all about trying to find some little tweaks that were going to help us in the long run. We ran old tires for quite awhile. We were still right up there in the top five so we were pretty happy with that. Then we threw the new tires on and obviously things went pretty well. We got caught behind Danica (Patrick) which kind of hurt us a bit because it seemed like you could be three seconds back and still catch her in a lap so that kind of got me out of my rhythm. I kept having to back up into him (Wilson) and I'm sure that got him out of his rhythm. But we got one good lap in and obviously we're pretty happy with that. There's still a little bit left on the table but overall for the McDonald's team its been a good day."

Robert Doornbos, No. 06 Dallara/Honda/Firestone: "It's nice to be on a street course; I always enjoy it. We are just struggling a bit with the setup. Graham tried something with his setup that was really good so we are going to try it tomorrow. It's great for the team to be fast and show that the car can do it. I need to adjust my driving style a little bit for these cars as well. I'm a bit too aggressive maybe but we will learn. Tomorrow we will be stronger."
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Postby mlittle » Sun Apr 05, 2009 9:57 am

------McDONALD'S DRIVER RAHAL BECAME THE YOUNGEST POLESITTER IN SERIES HISTORY AT THE HONDA GRAND PRIX OF ST. PETE; DOORNBOS TO START 13TH

Graham Rahal, No. 02 McDonald's Dallara/Honda/Firestone: "It's an exciting day for me and a great day for the whole McDonald's team. It's exciting to be here. I obviously love St. Pete. It was good to me last year, and it's great to be on the pole this year. We didn't really know what to expect because we had the primary tires on there while a couple of guys had the alternates (in the Firestone Fast Six). The alternates were consistently faster today. I didn't really know what to think. I'll tell you what, the car was good, the guys were working hard, and it's great to be on top."

Robert Doornbos, No. 06 Dallara/Honda/Firestone: "It's very competitive here and that's why the IndyCar Series is a great series. We started strong this morning and were up to P3 with a good car. The qualifying with the reds caught us out and the balance shifted. We came in and were P5 and just got bumped in the last lap by Tony. It's a long race and for sure we will be strong in the race."
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Postby mlittle » Mon Apr 06, 2009 12:41 pm

Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing
St. Pete Race Report


~~~McDonald's driver Graham Rahal started from pole for the first time in his Champ or Indy car career for the 100-lap Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg but his chances of earning back-to-back wins here were greatly diminished on the opening lap when he was hit from behind by Tony Kanaan. As the field entered the wide Turn 1, second place starter Justin Wilson pulled slightly ahead on Rahal's left while fifth place starter Dario Franchitti made a daring move on his right heading into the right hander. Rahal was not only squeezed in the process, he was hit from behind by Tony Kanaan which spun him sideways and into the grass. In addition Alex Tagliani ran over the nose of his race car while trying to avoid the melee. The first of seven full course cautions for a total of 28 laps came out and Rahal pitted for a new nose and was topped off with fuel before he rejoined the track at the back of the field in 21st place. As the first round of pit stops began he steadily moved up as high as ninth place before he made his first full pit stop and replaced his red alternate Firestone's for the standard black ones. He rejoined the field in 10th place but moved into eight on Lap 41 after he passed Marco Andretti and Darren Manning. He moved into seventh place when he passed teammate Doornbos who was struggling with rubber buildup on his tires. On Lap 55 E.J. Viso pit and Rahal moved into sixth place. He ran as high as fourth place but struggled with tire wear and lost some positions before he elected to pit one lap earlier than expected and came in on Lap 69 for a new set of Firestone primary tires and fuel. He returned to the track in 13th place and climbed to 10th for a few laps until he moved into seventh on Lap 87 after Doornbos and Wheldon made contact. Doornbos continued but Hideki Mutoh made light contact with Wheldon and Andretti made light contact with Mutoh which moved Rahal into seventh place. He held his position through two more restarts and until the checkered flag. He is ranked seventh in the point standings with 27. Justin Wilson led a race high 52 laps but finished third to Team Penske's Ryan Briscoe and Vision Racing's Ryan Hunter-Reay. Following are Rahal's post race comments:

"The race started bad right from the beginning for the McDonald's team," said Rahal. "I was conservative on the start and I'm guessing it was Kanaan that punted me. It's absolutely ridiculous and you would expect a guy like that with experience to know it's the first corner of the first lap of the first race of the season. Why make moves like that? From there it was just battling back all day trying to find a way to get the car back up to the front. We certainly inched away at it to get back up to seventh from last place and I'm pretty happy with that but I think the results should have, and could have been better. Our race car was pretty good but it could have been better. The tires were really good but they wore out towards the end of a stint. One was out of balance and started vibrating like crazy. On one set of tires near the end of the stint the car didn't want to turn right what so ever and I lost a lot of positions. I was supposed to come in one lap later but I said 'Hey, I have to come in now.' It had been that way for about 10 laps. We had a couple of little issues here and there but we made it to the end."

~~~Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing driver Robert Doornbos had an eventful debut in the IndyCar Series in today's Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg but drove to an 11th place finish after running as high as fifth in a wild race that saw seven caution periods for a total of 28 of the 100-laps. Doornbos started 13th and moved into 11th on the opening lap as pole sitter and teammate Graham Rahal was hit from behind by Tony Kanaan after the field drove four-wide into the first turn. Rahal spun sideways and went onto the grass while rookie Mike Conway was also involved when he tried to avoid the situation. Doornbos moved into ninth on Lap 3 when Kanaan and Raphael Matos pit. He moved into eighth place on Lap 29 when Alex Tagliani pit and came in for his first stop on Lap 30, one lap early due to tire wear. Once more stops were complete he reclaimed ninth place and moved up to fifth when the front runners pitted on Lap 36 during a caution for contact between Danica Patrick and Raphael Matos as well as the single car accident of Mario Moraes. The green flag flew on Lap 40 and Doornbos dropped two spots while he struggled with a lack of grip due to tire marbles. He dropped another three places and ran in 10th place by Lap 42. He moved up one position to ninth place on Lap 55 when E.J. Viso pitted. He moved into eight place for one lap before he made his next stop on Lap 67. Once that round of stops was completed he took over 10th place on Lap 71 through the caution for Ed Carpenter who crashed. During the caution he worked hard to keep the marbles from his tires and on the restart he passed Marco Andretti and Will Power to take eighth place on Lap 79 and continued into seventh place after he passed Hideki Mutoh on Lap 80. He held seventh place for a total of seven laps through another caution for contact by Scott Dixon and on the restart he planned to pass Dan Wheldon who had the slightly slower primary tires on while Doornbos had the faster, softer alternate Firestone's. As Doornbos was completing his pass, Wheldon clipped his right rear tire in Turn 4 which resulted in the No. 06 car going airborne and upon its return to the ground, the suspension was damaged. He came into the pits and the team worked fast to replace the left rear suspension in order to get him back on track to gain a position from Wheldon who returned but was listed ahead of him in rank. Once he returned to the track he was four laps down to the leaders but was able to move ahead of Wheldon, Marco Andretti and Stanton Barrett by the time the checkered flag flew. He is ranked 11th in the point standings with 19 and leads the Rookie of the Year standings. Justin Wilson led a race high 52 laps but finished third to Team Penske's Ryan Briscoe and Vision Racing's Ryan Hunter-Reay. Following are Doornbos' post race comments:

"It was a very hectic weekend," said Doornbos. "Normally when I make my debut I finish on the podium so it's a shame we cannot hold that up here. We worked very hard this weekend and learned a lot. Starting 13th we knew it was going to be a long afternoon, but anything can happen in Indy car racing. We had a reasonably good first stint but we had to come in early because of a flat spot. In the end it turned out not so bad because it was a good pit stop by the boys and we got out in seventh or something. Then we raced well and raced hard. I made a mistake with the marbles. There were so many marbles on my tires that on the restart I was dropping like a rock. I had no grip whatsoever. I had saved too much fuel and didn't warm up the tires so it was a bit of a mistake. On the second restart I made sure that didn't happen again and passed three or four cars on the restart and went from 10th to sixth or seventh. And then I tried to pass Wheldon because I knew I could have him at the restart again because he was on blacks and I was on reds that had more grip. I went on the inside and got past him and then I think he had nowhere to go and he clipped my rear tire when I was in front. The car jumped up in the air and when it landed it bent the wishbone. I have to say thank you to the boys for getting me out again. They worked hard in the heat to replace the wishbone and I finished three places ahead of where I would have been. Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing will regroup for Long Beach and we will be very strong."

- Next Up...The team will test on Wednesday with Robert Doornbos at Texas Motor Speedway before making their 26th consecutive appearance in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, April 17-19. To date the team has earned six wins, 11 poles and 14 podium finishes in this event. Justin Wilson started from pole for NHLR last year but engine failure on Lap 13 ended his race. Graham Rahal had a podium in sight when he was attempting to take third last year but contact during this pass dropped him back.
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Postby mlittle » Thu Apr 09, 2009 2:13 pm

------NEWMAN/HAAS/LANIGAN RACING'S DOORNBOS COMPLETED A ONE-DAY TEST AT HIGH-BANKED TEXAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY TODAY

FORT WORTH (April 8, 2009) -- Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing (NHLR) driver Robert Doornbos has yet to make his racing debut on an oval in his rookie season of IndyCar Series competition but he added another day of testing at the high-banked, 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway today to aid in his preparation. He will make his oval racing debut at Kansas Speedway on April 25-26 in the Road Runner Turbo Indy 300 before returning to this track June 4-6 for the Bombardier Learjet 550.

"I was very happy to go testing straight away after a race weekend," said Doornbos, who ran over 100 trouble-free miles. "St. Pete is behind us now and we have to focus on a lot of things coming up and the first was the test at Texas Motor Speedway. It went really well in my opinion. It was the first time for me to drive on such a banked oval. We were up to speed very quick; a lot faster than I got up to speed in Homestead so I am getting the hang of the ovals. We found some good things about the setup so the engineers did a great job testing new items. The mechanics worked really hard to turn the car around from a street course car to an oval one. It was sunny but at the end of the day the wind licked up and driving was a bit tricky; I had some small moments. Now the focus changes to the next target which is the A1GP race in Portugal and then back to the U.S. to focus on the race in Long Beach. I'm very busy but also very happy."

"Robert got up to speed quickly and acclimatized himself to the high-banked oval," added Brian Lisles, general manager of Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing. "This was the first time we ran the longer wheel base mandated by the IndyCar Series and we were happy with our lap times. Robert showed plenty of speed for a rookie."

Doornbos will board a flight tonight bound for Portugal and will compete for Team Netherlands in the A1GP race in Algarve this weekend. In his two previous A1GP races in China (Nov. '08) and New Zealand (Jan. '09) he had much success. He started and finished second in his series debut in the sprint race in Chengdu, China as well as set the second fastest race lap. And started eighth in the feature race and set the fastest race lap but finished 16th. In New Zealand, he started second and finished third in the sprint race and started second and finished fifth in the feature race. Fellow ICS driver Marco Andretti was also in those races.

The next round of the 2009 IndyCar Series season will be the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, April 17-19. It will be the 26th consecutive race in Long Beach for NHLR and the team hopes to add to their six wins, 11 poles and 14 podium finishes there. Justin Wilson started from pole for NHLR last year but engine failure on Lap 13 ended his race. Graham Rahal had a podium in sight when he was attempting to take third last year but contact during this pass dropped him back.Robert Doornbos will make his second start in Long Beach. In 2007 he battled pit stop troubles related to the new Panoz chassis as well as gearbox problems and finished four laps down. After being competitive in the St. Pete opener, the team is optimistic of a strong result in Long Beach.
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Postby mlittle » Wed Apr 15, 2009 10:03 pm

----McDONALD'S DRIVER RAHAL AIMS FOR ANOTHER HISTORY-MAKING WEEKEND AT THE TEAM'S 26TH CONSECUTIVE TOYOTA GRAND PRIX OF LONG BEACH RACE; DOORNBOS LOOKING TO CARRY OVER MOMENTUM FROM WIN AND POLE IN PORTUGAL A1GP RACES

LONG BEACH, Calif. (April 14, 2009) --- McDonald's driver Graham Rahal, 20, made history in his previous race in St. Petersburg by becoming the youngest pole winner in IndyCar Series history on April 4. His teammate Robert Doornbos, 27, also ran well in his previous race but it was the A1GP event in Portugal last weekend (April 12), where he won the sprint race from a second place start. Both will be hoping to carry the momentum to the streets of Long Beach for Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing's (NHLR) 26th consecutive event here.

In their 25 previous races here, NHLR has won six races, earned 11 poles and finished on the podium a total of 14 times with Mario and Michael Andretti, Nigel Mansell, Bruno Junqueira and Sebastien Bourdais, who won three of the past four races here. In contrast, eight of the 17 races on this year's IndyCar Series schedule will mark only the second time for the team to compete at those venues. Although experience on a specific track is always an asset, both drivers are cautiously optimistic that the team's 25 years of experience will come in handy on the 1.968-mile, 11-turn Long Beach course.

"The fact that the team has had so much success in Long Beach will really help us but at the same time a lot of these other guys have some experience at Long Beach and the teams know the track whether they raced here last year or haven't in a few years so its not a huge, huge advantage," said Rahal, who will make his third major open-wheel start at this track and fourth overall after competing here in the Atlantic Series. "I expect it to be more competitive than ever this year. It's going to be a tough fought battle this weekend for sure."

"The fact that the team has had good results in Long Beach is a great confidence boost and that, in combination with a truly motivated Bobby D, and we should be up there again then!" added Doornbos, who hoped to follow-up his win in the A1GP sprint race in Portugal with a win from pole in the feature race but an electrical fire on the grid forced his retirement. "I found out that the Indy car is a different animal than the Panoz so the set-up we ran in Long Beach in the Champ Car won't be close. Your driving style has to adjust to the car so the set-up does as well. We should be strong and I think it's going to be competitive again but for sure we will work to get an NHLR car at the front...preferably both of us."

In the 2008 Champ Car finale here last year, Justin Wilson brought the team its 11th pole here but engine failure on Lap 13 ended his bid to win a seventh race for the team at this track. Although Rahal qualified ninth he charged to the front with a competitive race car and pulled ahead of third place runner Franck Montagny in Turn 10 but Montagny's right front tire hit Rahal's left rear and sent him into a spin. A last-lap move after he battled back to seventh resulted in a 13th place finish. Despite the result Rahal knows the team can produce a competitive race car and he is confident he can start closer to the front after improving his performance in qualifying sessions.

"We had a pretty good race in Long Beach last year despite starting pretty far back,' said Graham, who would like to be the first Rahal to win in Long Beach after numerous second place finishes by his father at this track. "We made up a lot of positions and I got past Montagny for third and then he hit me in the left rear and spun me out so it was kind of like this year's St. Pete season-opener where it was a catch up game for us. Then I made a mistake on the last lap so I didn't finish which was very disappointing after the progress we made. Overall it was a pretty good race for us -- competition wise. Historically Long Beach has been one of my favorites. I've always had some success there during my weekends and I think that this year will be no different. In fact, I think this year should be our best year yet based on how competitive we were in St. Pete."

Doornbos is looking forward to his return to this track after competing here in his lone Champ Car World Series season in 2007. Five of his first six Champ Car races resulted in podium finishes including Round 6 in Mont Tremblant where he won. Of those first six events, the only venue where he failed to finish on the podium was on the streets of Long Beach. He's looking forward to his return here and expects the event to be even bigger now that a unified open-wheel series will race here for the first time since the split.

"In the 2007 Long Beach event, we had a strong race where I was aiming for my second consecutive podium after Las Vegas but the gearbox broke in the new Panoz," said Doornbos of the race he started sixth and finished 13th. "It was a big shame. It's a mechanical sport so things like that unfortunately still happen. It was a great event in 2007 and I'm sure it will be even better with a unified IndyCar Series!JIt's a big event and with F1 having raced there in the past, even a lot of people in Europe follow and know about this race."

As the most famous street race in the United States, there are many events surrounding race weekend. Rahal is looking forward to kicking off a busy race week with an overnight stay on a Navy aircraft carrier as part of Operation Home Front, a non-profit organization which "provides emergency assistance and morale to our troops, to the families they leave behind and to wounded warriors when they return home."

"It's going to be a busy week," said Rahal. "I'm going on a Navy ship on Tuesday and Wednesday then on to Long Beach for appearances at the gala and an Izod event. Then I have a dinner for a road racing driver association and one for my personal sponsor Gehl. I'm certainly looking forward to getting out there and getting the weekend started. It's a great event and I think it will only get stronger from what I can see. It will be better than ever."

Since holding its first event 35 years ago, the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach has established itself as one of the most famous street races in the world. Equally historic and famous is the street race held in Monte Carlo, Monaco where Doornbos resides. He enjoys racing on both layouts although the commute home is considerably different.

"On comparison of Monte Carlo and Long Beach -- They are both fast and tight street courses so there is everything that makes a driver happy!!! The only difference for me will be that I can't walk home at night as I would in Monaco. I really look forward to the race and to be strong there," added Doornbos.

The 2009 IndyCar Series season continues with Round 2 of 17 -- the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 19 on the streets of Long Beach, Calif. The 2009 schedule, one of the most diverse in all of motorsports, featuresraces onovals, permanent road courses and temporary street circuits, allbroadcast worldwide through a comprehensive, long-term agreement with Versus and ESPN. All races in 2009 will be telecast in High Definition. Coverage of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach will begin with a qualifying and pre-race show on Saturday (check your local listing for times) while coverage of the 85-lap race will begin at 3:30 p.m. EDT on Sunday. Both broadcasts will air on the VERSUS network.
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Postby mlittle » Sun Apr 19, 2009 10:47 am

McDONALD'S DRIVER RAHAL 10TH FASTEST IN PRACTICE FOR THE TOYOTA GRAND PRIX OF LONG BEACH; DOORNBOS 14TH

Graham Rahal, No. 02 McDonald's Dallara/Honda/Firestone: "Overall it was a pretty good day. It seems like a bunch of guys ran new tires at the end and went a little bit quicker and we didn't really get a new tire run at all. When we tried to go out, I was locking my tires like crazy so I really only got two laps on new tires, both of which I locked up in Turn 1 and blew the run away so I just pitted. We didn't really get a new tire run and we're still pretty happy with where we are. We would have run quicker there at the end but I was behind Wilson and he ran wide and I had to slow up. I think the McDonald's team is competitive but we still have a little ways to go. It's tight and it's going to be tough. There is a lot of knowledge we bring from our Champ Car days of running here but it (Indy car) seems to be different. The car feels completely different here than the Champ Car. Although technically it should be the same, being an open wheel car, it is quite a bit different."

Robert Doornbos, No. 06 Dallara/Honda/Firestone: "We started off strong this morning. I haven't seen this track for two years and by the third lap this morning we were P1 and stayed there for most of the session. It was looking good and we ended up sixth. We made some changes over lunch and we had a clutch issue so in the afternoon run it was slipping and burning. It was not a very good run, that's why we are not very fast. We tried different downforce levels and I think we know where to concentrate our work for qualifying. It's very competitive. Two-tenths of a second more and you are in the top-three. I think we know where to find that two-tenths. The downforce level is less in an Indy car than the Champ Car I drove here in 2007 so the braking points are different and you have to change your mindset about where they are now in an Indy car. I also just came from a really high level of downforce in an A1GP car so it's an even bigger adjustment. We just have to work with it and improve the mechanical side."
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Postby mlittle » Sun Apr 19, 2009 12:28 pm

McDONALD'S DRIVER RAHAL TO START SEVENTH IN THE TOYOTA GRAND PRIX OF LONG BEACH; DOORNBOS TO START 15TH AFTER DIFFICULT SESSION

Graham Rahal, No. 02 McDonald's Dallara/Honda/Firestone: "It's obviously disappointing that we didn't make it through to Round 3 of qualifying. After putting the McDonald's car on pole at the last race we had expectations of making it to the last round. I think we had to pace to do it but weren't able to. We had pretty much the same pace on old tires as we did on new. You expect to have a big gain on new ones but we had nothing when everybody else gained quite a bit. That's how it goes sometimes. We have our work cut out for us tomorrow starting seventh because it's not easy to pass here. It's so close its going to be hard to get by people. Our hope is that the car stays underneath us and we can move up through the field. We're pretty good on old tires which bodes well for us but we've got to hope we can save fuel better than these other guys and get by them in the pits. It's possible but we've got to figure out how to make it happen now. I think the difference between the alternate tires is quite a bit more here than it was in St. Pete. Honestly I would say the alternates are about seven to eight-tenths of a second quicker. That will be a big part of the race tomorrow especially if they can hold on, used. I and think they can."

Robert Doornbos, No. 06 Dallara/Honda/Firestone: "Qualifying didn't go well at all. Some mistakes were made and we just need to raise our game. Running out of fuel in qualifying is not ideal. At this level you cannot afford mistakes. Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing is a great team and I am a strong driver and we should be the perfect combination. We put ourselves in a difficult position starting so far back for the race and now we have to get ourselves out of it."
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Postby mlittle » Tue Apr 21, 2009 3:15 am

DOORNBOS FINISHED NINTH IN THE TOYOTA GRAND PRIX OF LONG BEACH WHILE McDONALD'S DRIVER RAHAL WAS IN PODIUM CONTENTION BUT FINISHED 12TH AFTER A PIT PROBLEM

- McDonald's driver Graham Rahal pitted from second place on Lap 55 of the 85-lap Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach but a miscommunication in the pits caused him to attempt to depart while the fuel hose was still attached which brought on two separate penalties and he ultimately finished 12th. He held his seventh place position at the start and until Lap 16 when second place runner and eventual winner Dario Franchitti pit, possibly as a reaction from Mike Conway making contact with the tire barrier and his team was anticipating a full course caution. Only a local yellow was brought out for that incident but Franchitti and Danica Patrick, who also pit with Franchitti, got a break when a full course caution came out when defending champion Scott Dixon and E.J. Viso collided after Viso attempted to squeeze his car between Dixon and the wall. Viso ultimately retired from the event. That put Rahal in fifth place before he came into the pits on Lap 19 for his first stop and to replace his red alternate Firestone tires with standard Firestone's. He returned to the track in 13th place and held the position until Lap 26 when he moved into 11th after Tony Kanaan and Vitor Meira pit.

He moved into eighth when Ryan Briscoe, Robert Doornbos and Ryan Hunter-Reay pit on Lap 26 and into sixth when Marco Andretti and Ed Carpenter made their stops on Lap 32. His climb continued to fifth on Lap 39 when Raphael Matos pitted. He held the position for 11 laps before he moved into third place when Patrick and Kanaan pit on Lap 51. Race leader Franchitti pit on Lap 53, which moved Rahal into second place and he held the position for two laps before his planned stop. Franchitti and Patrick lucked out again when another full course caution came out after each stopped. It was the second one brought out by rookie Conway. When the pits opened, Rahal brought the McDonald's race car in for tires and fuel. His Firestone tires were replaced but once the car was dropped off the airjack, he was waved out by the outside front tire changer before the fuel nozzle was removed. He drug the mechanism a few feet before Team Manager John Tzouanakis radioed for him to stop. He was pushed back so that the mechanism could be removed and then exited the pits.

The miscommunication dropped him back to 15th place but a few laps later IndyCar Series officials ordered him to let three cars behind him pass for track position although it did not change his running place. Officials deemed that he did not do this quickly enough and gave him an additional drive through penalty. From Laps 73-76 a full course caution was out for Moraes who made contact with a tire barrier and Ed Carpenter stopped on track behind him. During this caution seventh place runner Ryan Briscoe of Team Penske ran into the back of Dixon and spun him. This moved Rahal into 12th place which he held until the checkered flag.

The timing of two full course caution periods worked out in Franchitti's favor and he won the event while pole sitter Will Power and 11th place starter Tony Kanaan completed the podium. Twenty-second place starter Patrick was able to move up to a fourth place finish. Rahal collected 18 points to drop two spots to a ninth place rank with 45. Following are Rahal's post race comments:

"I told the guys on the radio that I felt all day that the McDonald's car was the car to beat," said Rahal. "I was hanging with Helio (Castroneves) and Will (Power) easily. I had no problem keeping up with those guys and I felt like we could get one or both of them in a pit stop and if we did that and we got to the front we could control the pace. Once I was on my own and in clean air the car was really good. I felt like if I got on my own I could run the race and it definitely didn't happen. If it was a normal, trouble free race I think a podium would have been absolutely no problem. The pit stop and the penalties killed us. I came in for a routine stop. We just wanted to make sure we got out of here pretty quick because we had some guys that were pretty close. Basically I just wanted to get in and out as quick as I could and when the car was dropped (off the airjack), I was waved out and it wasn't time to go yet because the fuel hose was still attached. The penalty was crap. They told me to let three cars by and I did but then I got a drive through (penalty) because they said I didn't let the cars by quick enough. John (Tzouanakis, team manager) told me on the back straightaway and I didn't hear him but when I did I let them by in Turn 1 so the other penalty was unnecessary. That really hurt us but then we were so far behind because of having to come through the pits that there was no way we were going to be able to catch up."

-Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing driver Robert Doornbos ran as high as third in the 85-lap Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach but the timing of two caution periods negated the team's strategy and he finished in 11th place after starting 15th. On the start Doornbos passed Dan Wheldon for 14th and held his position while pressuring Ryan Hunter-Reay. On Lap 16 rookie Mike Conway hit a tire barrier and brought out a local caution. Second place runner and eventual winner Dario Franchitti and Danica Patrick were called into the pits in anticipation of heading off a full course caution although the series elected to utilize a local yellow in the area of the contact. A few laps later a pivotal moment of the race came when a full course caution came out when defending champion Scott Dixon and E.J. Viso collided after Viso attempted to squeeze his car between Dixon and the wall. Viso ultimately retired from the event.

Doornbos climbed from 12th to fourth during the caution and held his position on the restart on Lap 21. He passed Hunter-Reay for third on Lap 22 before he made his first pit stop during the next full course caution from Laps 24-27 for a multi-car crash started by Mario Moraes that involved Justin Wilson, Darren Manning and Hideki Mutoh. His crew replaced the Firestone alternate (red) tires for standard (black) tires and fuel before he returned to the track in 15th place. He gained a position from Stanton Barrett to take 14th place on Lap 29. Once Marco Andretti and Ed Carpenter pitted he moved up to 12th and closed on Tony Kanaan. On Lap 40 he moved into 11th place when Raphael Matos pitted and held the position for 11 laps before he jumped into eighth place after Danica Patrick, Will Power and Wheldon pit.

He moved up to sixth place as others cycled through their pit stops before another caution period near the pit window came out from Laps 54-57 for Mike Conway who made contact in Turn 8. The timing again hindered the team's strategy and Doornbos made his second and final stop on Lap 55 during the caution and returned to the track in 12th place behind Hunter-Reay. From Laps 73-76 a full course caution was out for Moraes who made contact with a tire barrier and Ed Carpenter stopped on track behind him. During this caution, seventh place runner Ryan Briscoe of Team Penske ran into the back of Dixon and spun him which moved Doornbos up to 10th place.

On lap 82 he again passed Hunter-Reay for position and took the checkered flag in ninth place. He collected 22 points to maintain his 11th place rank in the IndyCar Series point standings with 41. The timing of the full course caution periods worked out in Franchitti's favor and he won the event while pole sitter Will Power and Tony Kanaan completed the podium. Following are Doornbos' post race comments.

"I think we had a very good first stint," said Doornbos. 'I passed three or four guys going into Turn 1 which was nice and then I found myself in the front so I was hoping all of the bad luck this weekend was behind us and we would have good luck with the yellows. The crew was saying 'This can be our lucky shot, keep it up. Your fuel saving is great.' Then the yellows came at the wrong time so I went completely to the back and had to start over again with the fuel saving and passing people. It was fun but I'm just not happy in general with the weekend. Finishing ninth is not why I am here. I hope in Kansas that we have less mistakes and the championship starts there."

- Next Up...The series will meet again next weekend for the Road Runner Turbo Indy 300, April 25-26 at Kansas Speedway.
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Postby mlittle » Sat Apr 25, 2009 12:51 pm

McDONALD'S DRIVER RAHAL WILL MARK HIS ONE-YEAR OVAL RACING ANNIVERSARY AT THIS WEEKEND'S ROAD RUNNER INDY 300 WHILE TEAMMATE DOORNBOS WILL MAKE HIS DEBUT

KANSAS CITY, Kansas (April 24, 2009) --- This Sunday's Road Runner Turbo Indy 300 at Kansas Speedway will mark the first oval race of the 2009 IndyCar Series season as well as the first oval race of Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing (NHLR) driver Robert Doornbos' career. It will also mark the one-year anniversary for McDonald's driver Graham Rahal's oval racing debut. After two street races so far this season, both are looking forward to beginning an oval racing string of six consecutive events beginning with Sunday's 200 lap race around the 1.5-mile Kansas Speedway oval.

"Driving on an oval is definitely different than I expected," said Doornbos, 27, after his first test day on an oval at Homestead-Miami Speedway in February. "It felt like going to a new school on the first day. I didn't really know what to expect but I got a lot of information from the team but you have to do it for yourself. The first five laps I thought 'Oh my god, where did I end up?' But that's because you have to run at a certain pace and once you reach that pace its actually quite fun so we ended the day on a good note and I can go to bed with a smile. I already got the bug and want to go faster and faster so that's a good thing. I will just take it as it comes. It's a steep learning curve but I enjoy it like this."

Doornbos progressed quickly through the ranks of European single-seater series such as F3, F3000 and on to Formula One when he changed his vocation from that of a semi-professional tennis player to a race car driver after meeting former Indy 500 and F1 champion Jacques Villeneuve at the 1998 Belgium Grand Prix. He finished third in series standings and earned Rookie of the Year in Champ Car in 2007 but there were no oval races on the schedule that season. Although oval racing is uniquely American, Doornbos knows that it commands respect around the world for the precision needed.

"Testing went well and obviously I don't underestimate the challenge of oval racing," said the Dutchman, who leads the four-man battle for Rookie of the Year. "It might look easy on the outside to some people because it is just turning left but once you understand the speeds that are involved and that the accuracy and respect among the drivers needs to be quite high, it's obvious that it is definitely a big challenge. My goal is to have a mistake-free weekend. We're looking to run in traffic comfortably and a strong, top-10 result would be a great result for my first weekend on an oval."

The 2009 event will mark the ninth time for the IndyCar Series to compete at Kansas Speedway while it will be NHLR's second race here. Last year Justin Wilson qualified 22nd here, led five laps and finished ninth while Graham Rahal qualified 20th in his oval racing debut and finished 12th. Rahal admits that it was a nerve-racking experience last year although the team set realistic goals.

"Was I nervous last year? Yeah, absolutely," admitted Rahal, driver of the No. 02 McDonald's race car. "I think everybody was nervous going into the Kansas race last year because it was our first oval in the series after missing Homestead. The race for us was pretty routine. We just wanted to get through it but we actually had a pretty good result with a 12th place finish, which was just about as good as it was going to be. It was a pretty straightforward race for us; we were just trying to get through the race distance and basically move on to Indianapolis. We really wanted to have as good of a finish as we could but we kept everything realistic."

Of the 17 races on the 2009 schedule, Kansas Speedway is the first of eight that the team will compete at for only the second time in their 27 year history. Although they have a full season of IndyCar Series competition behind them, the majority of the field has five more years of experience with the Dallara-Honda-Firestone racing package. The team continues to work hard to close the gap.

"I think the team has made a lot of improvements on the ovals but it's tough to quantify because we haven't run much on them," said Rahal. "My engineer Martin's (Pare) experience on ovals certainly should help us. I think we need to have a top-10 finish. I would like to say our expectation is to have a top-five finish but I think we need to keep things realistic. I imagine the car setup will be good but how quick it will be is the question. Our car was good last year but there was a difference in overall speed between ourselves and the long-time Indy car teams. A top-10 would be a good thing but a top-five would be a wonderful result for us on an oval. We'll keep chipping away at it and close the gap to other teams on the ovals. Prior to the split this team was one of the best on the ovals and we will get there again soon."

Prior to becoming the youngest pole sitter in series history in the 2009 season-opener in St. Petersburg, Rahal's previous highest qualifying of second place came on an oval in only his third start on this type of track. At the Milwaukee Mile last year, he narrowly lost pole to Marco Andretti by 2/10th of a second over a four lap average to start a then-career best second to Andretti in what was the first Andretti/Rahal front row since 1992 in Loudon, NH. While the road course qualifying he has taken part in consisted of multiple cars on track at the same time, he admits that having all eyes on him took some getting used to.

"Oval qualifying is different because its one car on track at a time," Rahal said. "It's pressure-packed because you know everybody's attention is on you but at the same time I think the road course format of qualifying is just about as tough as it gets but certainly oval qualifying is pretty nerve racking for sure."

"I did single-car qualifying before in Formula One so I have experience with that," added Doornbos. "Obviously this will be slightly different since it's on an oval. The thing I will need to learn as quick as possible is how to extract the maximum qualifying lap on an oval because when it's flat (pressure on accelerator), its flat. There are probably some tricks in the book that I have to find out."

Of the team's 107 victories, 27 have come on ovals while 18 of their 108 poles have been earned on the same type of track. Because the majority of their races have been run on road and street courses over the years, the team's success on those types of tracks make up a larger percentage. Former NHLR driver and four-time champion Sebastien Bourdais brought the team its most recent oval win on June 4, 2006 from pole at the Milwaukee Mile. He called the first win for the team there in 10 years his most important win of the season due to the fact it was their home race and they had struggled at the track in recent history. The next oval win will be even more meaningful.

The 2009 IndyCar Series season continues with Round 3 of 17 -- the Road Runner Turbo Indy 300 at Kansas Speedway. Coverage of the event will begin with a qualifying and pre-race show on Saturday at 6 p.m. EDT while coverage of the 200-lap race will begin at 4:00 p.m. EDT on Sunday. Both broadcasts will be televised on the Versus network. As always all practice and qualifying sessions can be seen via a live timing and scoring and a video feed on www.indycar.com.
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Postby mlittle » Sun Apr 26, 2009 7:20 pm

McDONALD'S DRIVER RAHAL EARNED HIS FIRST INDYCAR SERIES POLE ON AN OVAL FOR THE ROAD RUNNER TURBO INDY 300; DOORNBOS BROUGHT THE TEAM ITS FIRST ONE-TWO OVAL START SINCE 1993 IN HIS OVAL DEBUT

Graham Rahal, No. 02 McDonald's Dallara/Honda/Firestone: "It's a fantastic start for the McDonald's team. First of all, for us to get a pole when we go to St. Petersburg, and then to do it again here at Kansas, I think it's quite a shock. And obviously, in memory of Paul (Newman) it's great for us to have this success early in the season. Now of course, there's still a long way to go, but for us to get our first (oval) pole here, I hope it's a sign of things to come. It shows how hard these guys have worked all winter long."

Robert Doornbos, No. 06 Dallara/Honda/Firestone: "This is my first weekend racing on an oval so definitely tomorrow is going to be an exciting day. I think this qualifying format is enjoyable. I had a good run. I just had a little mis-shift on the first flying lap but other than that it was good. (Fellow Dutchman) Arie (Luyendyk) is a legend and he helped me out today and next month in Indy he's going to help me out even more. Graham has more experience on the ovals (than I do). I've been watching some videos and I think last year, the Ganassi boys ran one-two and pulled away helping each other. I don't think it's a good thing if we're not helping each other because then I'll be sitting in an office in Chicago (team headquarters) probably explaining myself. It's a team effort that we're here. They've worked very hard in the winter. I went out first, then the engineers saw what they could do and improve and he grabbed the pole and now we're second. So I think it's been a great team result and I think we need to thank the boys in the race tomorrow."
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Postby mlittle » Tue Apr 28, 2009 1:55 am

McDONALD'S DRIVER RAHAL FINISHED SEVENTH IN THE ROAD RUNNER TURBO INDY 300 AT KANSAS SPEEDWAY; DOORNBOS LED BUT A PENALTY LIMITED HIS FINISH TO 12TH

- McDonald's driver Graham Rahal earned his highest finish on an oval after starting from pole but the timing of the final caution period forced him to make an extra pit stop and he finished seventh after running in the top-three the first half of the 200-lap Road Runner Turbo Indy 300 on the 1.5-mile Kansas Speedway and top-five the last half. Rahal and teammate Robert Doornbos' front row start was the first for the team since Sebastien Bourdais and Bruno Junqueira started on the front row in the 2006 Champ Car race in Milwaukee, which was won by Bourdais. At the start of the race, Rahal held the lead for the first seven laps before he dropped to second place for the next nine. He reported to the team that he was fighting understeer in Turns 3 and 4 and they planned to make a tire pressure adjustment on the first stop. Helio Castroneves ran into the back of Vitor Meira and brought out the first of three cautions from Laps 15-20. The field utilized this caution to make their first stop and Rahal returned to the track in third place but moved into second when teammate Doornbos was penalized for hitting Rahal's tire while leaving his pit box. Once the race resumed on Lap 21 he held second place until Lap 58 when Tony Kanaan passed him exiting Turn 4 where he still struggled with understeer. He temporarily moved back into second for one lap before his second pit stop on Lap 69 and returned to the track in fourth place after losing a position to Ryan Briscoe in the pits. He held fourth place until his next stop on Lap 99 during the caution for Raphael Matos who crashed in Turn 4. He lost two positions in the pits to Helio Castroneves and Dario Franchitti and returned to the track in sixth place. On the restart he lost one position to Ed Carpenter but not only regained that one but also passed Franchitti on the following one to run fifth. He held the position for the following 47 laps before his next stop. The team began the countdown with 10 laps to go before his stop on when it was time for him to enter the lane to come into the pits he followed the directions given in the drivers meeting. As he was closing in on the pit entrance a car shot past him, across the race track and into the wall which brought out a caution and closed the pits. Dario Franchitti was behind him on the lane to enter the pits and lost control of his car under braking. Rahal had to enter a closed pit the next time by on Lap 153 as he was out of fuel and needed a splash to continue until the pits opened on the following lap. When they opened, he returned to the pits on Lap 154 for a full fuel load and new tires and returned to the track in ninth place. On the second lap after the restart he lost a position to Carpenter and ran in 10th place but regained ninth on Lap 172. His next target was Dan Wheldon and he closed the gap with each lap until he passed the Englishman on the high line of the track on Lap 177. It only took him seven laps to close on Hideki Mutoh before he passed him on the high line of the track on Lap 184 for seventh place. He set his sights on Marco Andretti next and temporarily closed on him but had to settle for a seventh place finish by the time the checkered flag came out on Lap 200. Dixon won the event while Castroneves finished second and Kanaan finished third. Rahal collected 27 points to move up to an eighth place rank with 72.

Following are his post race comments:

"We had a pretty good start," said Rahal. "On the first lap we pulled away. It was just Dixie (Dixon) and I moving our way forward trying to pull out a gap. I was struggling a bit in Turns 3 and 4 and that's where I got passed the three times I was passed. Late in the race I discovered the high line and that's how I got around everybody because me car was pretty good in three and four, up top. I need to definitely think about that earlier next time. It's a lesson learned. Having to do the splash and go there at the end for what was to be our last stop really cost us four spots so realistically we were looking pretty good. I think we have outright speed but we just need to make sure we have it for the whole race.

(On Dario's accident:) "I didn't see that, I have no clue what happened. I'll go talk to him but all of a sudden I saw out of my right rear mirror the thing just went straight and I was like 'Whoa, what happened there?' I signaled that I was coming into pit lane by putting two wheels over the white line and I did it right off Turn 2 and then I came back out to the white line and ducked in. I hit the braked once I ducked in pretty late -- later than I have ever hit the brakes going into a pit lane. And all of a sudden I see this flash going by and straight into the fence. With the speed he was carrying he wasn't going to make it anyway whether I was there or not.

"It was a disappointing day for the McDonald's guys. I fell like we just can't get any breaks in the race this year. The yellow came out right when we had to pit so we had to come into a closed pit for a splash of fuel and it cost us four spots. We just can't get any luck and unfortunately that is what is killing our chance to finish well right now. We had a pretty solid car today but I discovered the high line late unfortunately because I think if I had discovered it a little earlier I think we would have been able to keep up front and stay in the top-three because the car was much better up there. It was a good start for us heading into the month of May. Again, now we need to figure out how to make it last over a race distance a little better. If we can do that we'll be able to improve our finishing positions."

-Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing driver Robert Doornbos led an IndyCar Series race for the first time today but a pit penalty limited his result to a 12th place finish after he started an impressive second for his oval racing debut in today's 200-lap Road Runner Turbo Indy 300 at the 1.5-mile Kansas Speedway oval. Doornbos made a good start but reigning series champion Scott Dixon passed him for position on the opening lap. He ran strong during the first stint and maintained third place until Helio Castroneves ran into the back of Vitor Meira and brought out the first of three cautions from Laps 15-20. The field utilized this caution to make their first pit stop and Doornbos had a quick one after the team elected to take on only fuel. When he left his pit box he slightly drifted into the outside corner of Rahal's pit box and hit the tire that had been removed from Rahal's car. His quick stop enabled him to return to the track in the lead which he held for two laps until the IndyCar Series officials levied a penalty and he had to drop to the back of the field. He dropped to 19th place for the restart and held the position until he took over 18th on Lap 27. While running in slower traffic he lost touch with the lead pack and dropped one lap down to the leaders on Lap 62. His next stop came on Lap 66 and he returned to 17th place. During his next stint he passed Sarah Fisher and Ryan Hunter-Reay before the field utilized the caution for rookie Vitor Meira, who crashed, to make their next stops. Doornbos pitted on Lap 99 and returned to the track in 14th place, which he held until the next round of stops began and he pitted again on Lap 154 during the caution for Dario Franchitti who lost control of his race car while attempting to enter the pits behind Rahal. Immediately before the stop, Doornbos gained a position after Justin Wilson pit and another one due to Franchitti's retirement and ran in 12th place. He held the position through the restart and until the checkered flag after 200 laps. Dixon won the event while Castroneves finished second and Tony Kanaan finished third. Doornbos collected 18 points and dropped from 11th to 13th in the standings with a total of 59.

Following are his post race comments.

"It was very exciting to have both cars start from the front row and a good feeling for the first lap," said Doornbos. "On the start itself, I think mine was actually better than Graham's because I had to lift at the Start/Finish line not to pass him. The moment I did that I looked in my mirror and saw the red and white Ganassi car and I thought 'He's going to go on the inside so I better try to pass Graham on the outside.' And that went well so I was quite happy with that and I just tucked in behind Dixon and I saw us pulling away, the first three. I started enjoying myself using the bars, using the tools. And then the yellow came out and we did the pit stop and the most unlucky thing happened -- I touched Graham's outside rear tire that was on the ground. I got a penalty and had to go to the back of the field. I felt really bad. I learned so much. I'm more tired than I was when I got through college with so much information coming at me in such a short time frame. The race wasn't difficult physically but mentally it was. I'm really happy that I finished the race and got a lot of passing under my belt. We just need to make it happen in Indy then."

- Next Up...The team will take next weekend off before travelling to Indianapolis for the following three to participate in the 93rd running of the Indianapolis 500. Rookie orientation will take place May 5-6 and the track will open to the entire field on the afternoon of May 6. Rahal was the highest transition team driver to qualify for last year's event and started 13th but made contact after running over marbles while trying to avoid a slowing car. It will be the first Indy 500 for Doornbos and the 17th for the team.
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Postby mlittle » Thu May 07, 2009 11:37 am

ROBERT DOORNBOS SET FASTEST TIME OF ROOKIES IN ROOKIE ORIENTATION PROGRAM AT INDIANPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY; PASSED ALL FOUR PHASES OF ROP

Robert Doornbos, No. 06 Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone: "It's great to come here and drive the right way around the track after running here in 2005 and 2006 in Formula One. I definitely respect this place; the speeds are quite high and it is definitely impressive here. I'm living it up at this moment. I took some laps around the track last night in a Pace Car with Arie Luyendyk, who is sort of my coach this month. He showed me where to go, where to put the wheels. He observed my style in Kansas and said I was smooth which is how he drove his information has been very helpful. The team has been working hard and I think it shows. I'm learning really fast and I will take all of the assistance I can get. We got up to speed quick and I think we can be quite happy with that. I sense more of a European feeling from the track here. There are very long fast straights and fast corners. It's different. I love it!"

* FAST FACTS: Will be his first Indy 500 and third time to drive on this track after running here in the 2005 (Jordan GP test/Friday driver) and 2006 (Red Bull Racing) Formula One events....The Indy 500 will be his second-ever start on an oval. Qualified second in his oval debut in Kansas...Has competed against fellow ICS drivers Marco Andretti (A1GP), Danica Patrick (Formula Ford), Ryan Briscoe (F3) and E.J. Viso (F3000)...Two-time Indy 500 winner and fellow Dutchman Arie Luyendyk is serving as an advisor to Doornbos. Luyendyk won the 500 in 1990 and 1997 and is the only driver from the Netherlands to win the Indy 500 to date...Leads the Rookie of the Year
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Postby mlittle » Thu May 07, 2009 11:50 am

RAIN CANCELLED PRACTICE FOR OPENING DAY AT INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY

OVERALL: With the final scheduled ROP session cut short due to rain that began around 9:30 AM EDT today and continued throughout the day, Thursday's schedule has been expanded to begin at 9:30 a.m. instead of noon. The track will open for all cars at 10:30 a.m. instead of 12 noon.

Graham Rahal, No 02 McDonald's Dallara Honda/Firestone: "It's a bummer that we don't get to run today because we don't get much practice anyway before Pole Day. It's a shame and more so because it's no fun to sit here doing nothing all day. You get up early, excited to go and you get all anxious just to get shot down. I think the car was pretty good for Robert (Doornbos) yesterday so hopefully when we finally get to go out on track, the McDonald's car should be good from the start. I'm looking forward to going out in my brand new McDonald's car. Basically it's an absolutely brand new car that has been at the shop since last fall and all winter the team has been working on it. They have spent a lot of hours working on the body fit to make it as fast and smooth as they could. By the looks of it I think they did a pretty good job because the thing looks fast for sure. I've been looking forward to driving this new McDonald's car for so long and to have to wait another day because of rain is a bummer!"

Robert Doornbos, No. 06 Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone: "I'm actually not too disappointed about the weather today because I had a good run yesterday and there are some practice days left. The team has done a good job to make sure the car is in good shape for when the weather improves. I spent the day making my seat more comfortable, did some interviews and went to the gym here at the track to make sure I keep my fitness level up so the day passed by quick."
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