NHLR eyes 100th win
In the first season of competition for Newman/Haas Racing (NHR) in 1983, the now legendary Mario Andretti brought the team their first victory on July 31 in only their sixth event as a team. Fast forward to 2007 and the 25th season for the team, newly renamed Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing (NHLR), and the record books will show that Sebastien Bourdais drove to victory on the streets of Houston on April 22 in what was the team’s 99th and most recent victory. For a team that lives by the credo “The best victory is the next one,” the next one will be significant.
“That first win was probably my favorite win for Newman/Haas Racing,” recalled Andretti. “I joined them when they were a start-up team and we had a miserable time with our first car. It was almost hopeless; that car was not supposed to win. And then it did at Elkhart Lake in 1983. The momentum changed immediately for us and we were on a mission forever. It was so much fun.”
Since that first win by Mario Andretti in 1983, the team continued to reach many milestones. Seven championships and 99 race wins by drivers including Mario (18 wins), Michael Andretti (31), Nigel Mansell (5), Paul Tracy (2), Christian Fittipaldi (2), Cristiano da Matta (10), Bruno Junqueira (5), Sebastien Bourdais (25) and Oriol Servia (1) have been recorded since Mario’s first win and the current lineup of Bourdais and rookie Graham Rahal hope to continue the trend.
“There are a whole lot of extremely famous names on the list before me and I’m proud to have contributed my share of wins,” said Bourdais who drove his No. 1 McDonald’s race car to his 25th win for the team at the previous race in Houston and topped a one-two finish for NHLR with Rahal coming in second. “Back in 2003 when I arrived I surely did not expect to score so many wins or be so successful at Newman/Haas. It takes a lot of talent and consistency from management and the team to achieve so much. At the beginning I didn’t know what to expect but I got much more than a team out of it – I got a second family. It’s awesome to share so much on track and off and I hope I can be the one to earn the 100th win for them very soon.”
After the first six seasons of competition against two car teams such as Team Penske, NHR added Mario’s son Michael to the fold in 1989 to create the first father-son racing team and from then on the team has run two cars. Talented and dedicated employees and an all-star list of drivers enabled NHR to become the second most successful open wheel racing team. Team Penske has earned 133 open-wheel wins and is in their 40th season while NHR/NHLR has earned 99 and is in their 25th. However, since NHR/NHLR has been in existence (1983-current) Team Penske has earned 94 wins while NHLR has earned 99 (MTP’s most recent was in St. Pete on 4-1-07) despite only running one car for the first six seasons.
“I think Newman/Haas Racing has achieved so much success because Carl (Haas) and Paul (Newman) have always known the important ingredients of a team,” said Andretti whose first victory for NHR was earned with a commanding 16-second margin of victory. “They never spared any expense to arm themselves with the best people they could find to operate the team. That's their secret and it should be an example for anyone to follow.”
With his second place finish at the Grand Prix of Houston, Medi | Zone driver Graham Rahal, 18, became the youngest podium finisher in series history when he finished second to Bourdais and brought the team their first 1-2 finish since September 2005. Rahal is optimistic of having a good race at Round 4 at the Mazda Grand Prix of Portland on June 10. He earned his first professional win there in the 2005 Star Mazda race and won his second pole in the Champ Car Atlantic series in Portland last year but was taken out of the race on the first lap.
A win by Rahal might not only be the 100th for the team but it would also make him the youngest winner in series history and break a mark currently set by Nelson Philippe for his 2006 win in Australia at 20 years, two months and 29 days old.
“It would be a great accomplishment not only for me personally but the entire team to win the 100th race,” said Rahal who participated in his high school graduation commencement ceremony on Sunday, June 3. “I appreciate the historic significance of the achievements of the drivers who were at the team before me and I think the Medi | Zone team is capable of adding to the win total this season. With the dedication and effort everyone has put in to the new car it would be a great achievement for the team to win yet again.” NHLR PR