Wednesday, February 24, 2016

2016 Verizon IndyCar Team-By-Team Preview: Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing went from cellar dweller in 2014 to legitimate contender, throwing punches with the big boys in 2015. The team put all their chips on Graham Rahal and it paid off. The team carried the Honda flag while Andretti Autosport was a sinking ship for the first third of the season. Now the single car effort looks to prove 2015 wasn't a fluke and tries to expand their operation to include another American prospect.

2015 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Review
Wins: 2 (Fontana, Mid-Ohio).
Poles: 0
Best Start: 5th (Pocono).
Final Championship Positions: 4th (Graham Rahal), 32nd (Oriol Servià).

2016 Drivers:

Graham Rahal
The Ohioan's breakout season saw him in the championship fight until the season finale only to have a spin drop him from championship challenger to fourth in the final standings. He took a controversial victory at Fontana but took a popular victory at his home track of Mid-Ohio. Rahal found a way to bring the car home in one piece and avoided trouble most of the season. While other Honda teams struggled, Rahal found a way to the front and stayed there. Now can he do it again in 2016?

Numbers to Remember: 
11.428- Rahal's averaging starting position in 2015, the best Honda driver.

6.5- Rahal's average finish improved by 6.5 positions from 2014 to 2015.

13- Lead lap finishes in 2015, a single season best for Rahal.

Rahal's qualifying struggles are dependent on the improvement on the Honda aero kit. If Rahal can rollover the confidence from 2015 into 2016, there is no reason why Rahal can't find himself in championship contention again in 2016. Rahal will get a victory but I think he falls off just a bit. We rarely see single car teams stay up at the top for an extended period. Perhaps working to get Pigot a full-time ride would be enough to keep Rahal and the entire RLLR team fighting with the big boys. He will be on the edge of the top ten in the championship.

Spencer Pigot
The 2015 Indy Lights champion will get at least a three-race rehearsal with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. The Pasadena, California-native is scheduled to run St. Petersburg and the two Indianapolis races. Pigot won the Indy Lights champion as a rookie driving for Juncos Racing. Along with his Indy Lights title, Pigot won the 2014 Pro Mazda championship and he twice finished runner-up in the U.S. F2000 championship.

Numbers to Remember: 
24- Victories in 72 Road to Indy starts over five seasons for Pigot.

2.1- Average finish at St. Petersburg in 10 starts. He has five victories on those streets and his worst finish is fourth.

1- One of the last 13 Indy Lights champions has finished in the top ten on debut. That was Sage Karam, who finished ninth in the 2014 Indianapolis 500.

Pigot's goals are a lot like Sage Karam's last year at the start of 2015. First, keep his nose out of harms way. Second, get results in his limited opportunity. Third, turn three races into 16. He needs to be at the front if he hopes to expand on his schedule. RLLR has added a lot of associate sponsors this offseason but whether they are enough to cover two cars remains to be seen. Hopefully it is enough but with how difficult the terrain is in IndyCar, it appears Pigot will have to be extraordinary to get a full season this year. The other goal should be to remain calm and keep confidence. Pigot shouldn't let three races define his career. If they don't go well, Pigot needs to remember that it's not enough of a sample size to truly show who he is as a driver.

The 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series seasons commences with Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 13th. ABC's coverage of the race will begin at 12:30 p.m. ET.