NHLR drivers Rahal and Doornbos welcome road courses McDonald’s driver Graham Rahal and teammate Robert Doornbos have been looking forward to this weekend’s Camping World Grand Prix at the Glen since the start of the 2009 IndyCar Series season. The 11-turn, 3.4 mile permanent road course is the first of its kind on the 17-race schedule so far this season and both drivers are excited to get back on a road course for Round 9.
“I would say that everyone on the entire team is looking forward to some road races,” said Rahal, who is looking to carry momentum from his highest finish of the season to date of third last Saturday in Richmond where he became the first transition team driver to earn a podium on an oval. “We have momentum on our side and I think that over the next few races the opportunity for a win for our team is very high. We ought to be amongst the best on the road and street courses.”
“It has been a very hard and tough start to the season for myself and the team and we have shown strong signs of competitiveness in qualifying but the results we were hoping for on Sundays haven’t come yet and with the second half of the season starting in Watkins Glen I’m feeling our luck will change,” added Doornbos, who set the second fastest lap on the first day of testing at the Barber Motorsports Park road course in March. “It’s nice for me to race on road courses and street courses for the next few events because that’s were my experience comes from. But honestly I am feeling more comfortable on the ovals and am starting to understand the set up of the car better so I know that with the combination of both types of racing this is the championship were I want to be! The only road course experience I have with this car and the team is from our pre-season test at Barber and we were competitive there, on the top of the timesheets. But that’s testing and now we are racing and there are some very strong teams and drivers out there so it’s going to be hard work and play hard!”
The Watkins Glen round will be the first of three consecutive road/street course races and five of the next six events will take place on this type of track. Although Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing (NHLR) has achieved success on each of the different type of tracks they have competed on in their 27 seasons, success on the road and street courses – which many consider the ultimate test of man and machine due to the physical demands on each – makes up the bulk of their success. In total the team has earned 80 of their 107 and 90 of their 109 poles on road and street courses.
“I’m looking forward to starting the road and street course stretch off at Watkins Glen,” said Rahal who became the youngest pole sitter in series history with his starting position at the 2009 season-opening race on the streets of St. Petersburg. “It’s a physical track with lots of elevation changes and very high commitment corners. This always makes it tough for any driver, but also a lot of fun! Road courses are challenging from a drivers standpoint because they combine all aspects of driving talent. It is harder to get the maximum out of a car on a road course versus being on an oval. I think that road racing ultimately highlights the best drivers in the series.”
“On ovals you are very much dependant as a driver from what your car is capable of doing, so the difference between the top teams and smaller teams is bigger and the driver has little he or she can do to change this,” said Doornbos, who hopes to top his best start of the season of second place in his oval debut in Kansas here this weekend. “But on a road or street course the driver can work hard with the engineers to tune the car around his preferred set up and try to stay close to the limit and actually get more out of what the car on paper is capable of doing. And physically there is no doubt that it’s going to be tougher than racing on ovals but that’s what we are paid to do, to stay fit and I take my fitness very serious!”
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