Rahal and Lundgaard avoid fire, water, and air(borne wrecks) to land top-10 finishes

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By Lenny Sundahl

photo: Penske Entertainment/Joe Skibinski

Despite a crash that took out Jack Harvey, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing had an overall good showing at St. Petersburg, with both Graham Rahal and Christian Lundgaard avoiding the adjacent messes to finish in the top 10. It was an especially impressive showing for Rahal, who started 20th but finished 6th. “Once we swapped the brakes, the weekend got a heck of a lot better. In the race we were able to challenge. It felt good.”

Christian Lundgaard had less of a fight to get to his finishing position–started 11th, finished 9th–but it was no easier. He said his car “seemed to struggle a bit with getting the tyres to work. So every restart was just misery and survival. Struggled with some brakes, some gear shifts.” Perhaps most agonizingly, his drink system stopped working just before the race!

photo: Penske Entertainment/James Black

Of the two, Rahal came closest to disaster, slowing enough to miss the dreaded turn 3 tyre barrier by inches on an early restart: “I just thought it was all about whoever was going to be smartest going to find themselves in the front and stay off the walls. Luckily I didn’t brush any today, which was an accomplishment in its own. The one error cost me a couple of positions.”

As chaotic as the race was, the RLL cars simply had to stay clean and healthy to get the desired results. Rahal remarked that “all the moves we made, I was holding my breath constantly. We made it through, we got guys to make errors.”

Lundgaard recalled that “we saw, a couple of laps at the end, one of the cars retired with a mechanical [failure]”–that being Josef Newgarden’s late engine fire–“so that was good for us.”

The work heading to Texas next month would start almost immediately. As far as going over the race with the team, Graham and team owner/father Bobby Rahal: “I’ve got about a six-hour drive tonight back to his place, I’m sure we’ll rerun it. It was craziness.”

From Lundgaard’s perspective, there is still more speed to be found: “I don’t think we’re quick enough yet, so we got some work to do.”