On Friday, Rahal/Letterman/Lanigan Racing jumped out of the gates strong. For the first time since 2013, the team would field two full-time entries in the Verizon IndyCar Series. Back is defending Indianapolis 500 champion Takuma Sato as he will drive the No. 30 Honda for the team in 2018. He joins Graham Rahal who will once again pilot the No. 15 Honda.
The reason they remained a single car organization was that team had previously said that they wouldn’t add a second full-time car until they can add a car and driver and not take anything away from Rahal’s program as a result of that move. The second car should add to the other entry, not take from it.
Well, after 12 hours of testing this weekend at the ISM Raceway, it appears that the team may be stronger than ever.
On Saturday, they were at it again, this time Sato leading both test sessions of the day. Sato, circled the 1.022-mile track with a speed of 189.728 mph in the third three-hour session of the weekend, then backed that up with a top speed of 189.855 mph in the final night session.
He was quickest in three of the four sessions and second fastest in the other.
Will Power was the only other driver to eclipse the 189 mph barrier in the first session with the Aussie turning a lap of 189.276 mph in his No. 12 Chevrolet. He was also P2 at night too, this time with a lap of 189.769 mph.
Scott Dixon (188.477 mph), Ryan Hunter-Reay (188.331 mph) and defending Phoenix winner Simon Pagenaud (188.319 mph) rounded out the top five.
In fact, there were five different teams in the top six of the speed chart, four of which Honda powered.
In the final three hour session, Tony Kanaan was behind Sato and Power with a lap of 189.632 mph in his No. 14 Chevrolet. Josef Newgarden (189.399 mph) and Marco Andretti (189.008 mph) rounded out the top five.
Like the first session, there was diversity up front. We had four teams in the top five.
This session also saw a number of incidents. Scott Dixon got into the wall in Turn 2, while Matheus Leist scrapped the wall three times himself.
Honda, has been the manufacturer to beat this weekend and that comes on the heels of them leading zero of the 500 laps turned in the two races since the series returned to Phoenix in 2016.