'Better Prepared' Bobby Rahal, RLL Racing Ready to Turn the Page at Indianapolis 500

graham rahal indianapolis motor speedway
'Better Prepared' RLL Ready to Turn Page at IndyPaul Hurley
  • Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing wants to put the memory of the 2023 Indianapolis 500 behind it.

  • Team co-owner Bobby Rahal is barely talking about qualifying concerns this week at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

  • Rahal is instead talking about winning the race with drivers Takuma Sato, Graham Rahal, Pietro Fittipaldi and Christian Lundgaard.

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing co-owners Bobby Rahal and Mike Lanigan are not ignoring the elephant in the room this year on the eve of qualifying weekend.

Last year, RLL struggled more than any other team in qualifying, and saw veteran Graham Rahal—who finished third at the 500 just three years earlier—fail to even qualify for the race.


Team co-owner Bobby Rahal still calls that 2023 debacle "embarrassing." Co-owner Lanigan went so far to say, "I cried a lot."

There's no question Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing wants to put 2023 behind it. In fact, Bobby Rahal is barely talking about qualifying concerns this week at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Rahal is instead talking about winning the race.

indianapolis, in during indianapolis 500 practice in indianapolis, indiana photo by james black ims photo
Graham Rahal is smiling at Indianapolis this year after weathering quite a storm in 2023.Penske Entertainment/James Black

"Well, as far as this year, I think we've come here much better prepared," Bobby Rahal said. "Of course that's easy to say in hindsight. You think you're prepared last year, but obviously we weren't.

"A lot of the actions that we took following the race not only have continued for the whole year since then but will continue in the years to come. In other words, this isn't a one-shot commitment or one-shot deal to improve the competition of the team as a whole. We've really strengthened the engineering area, and I think that's already producing results and will continue to produce results. I think that's maybe a difference."

This year, RLL comes to the 500 qualifying weekend with a four-car entry that includes two-time Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato along with Graham Rahal, Christian Lundgaard and Pietro Fittipaldi. Sato won the 500 with RLL in 2020.

"I think we're already several miles an hour faster than we were at this time last year when we did qual sims a year ago," Bobby Rahal said Friday morning. "I think that's a good indicator for us.

"I'm pretty happy with where we are. I have to say, a lot of work has been put in by our team members over the course of the last year. Still being put in. We've probably doubled if not maybe a little bit more our engineering department since that time, done more R&D work than we've ever done before, so I think it will pay off. It is paying off and will pay off."

And that's music to Graham Rahal's ears. Graham is an Indy 500 veteran for sure, having made his first start in the 500 back in 2008. His best finishes were third in 2011 for Ganassi Racing and third in 2020 for RLL.

Last year, after not making the field, he was a late add for injured Stefan Wilson. Rahal went on to finish 22nd for Dreyer and Reinbold.

"It was ugly," said Lanigan when asked about the fallout from last year's 500. "I mean, quite frankly it was embarrassing. Both Bob and I and Dave (co-owner Letterman) totally agreed that we may have gotten a little lackadaisical on the engineering side quite frankly.

"In 2020, we were extremely competitive. Takuma won the race. Graham was in third. I think we got caught sleeping, frankly. Very depressing over the winter. Bob and I totally committed to the resources required to—for this not to happen again, and quite frankly, the sting will not go away until one of these guys are on the podium a week from Sunday.

"We are excited about where we're at with the cars right now. Are we there yet? I don't know if we're there yet, but we're certainly going to be extremely competitive versus last year.

indianapolis, in during indianapolis 500 practice in indianapolis, indiana photo by james black ims photo
Takuma Sato is trying to become the 11th driver in history to win three Indianapolis 500s.Penske Entertainment/James Black

So much of the last 12 months at RLL have been directed at a fresh start at Indianapolis.

"As Dad just said, there's been no breaks, I think, for the organization," Graham said. "This winter has been full gas, I think, for everybody to get to the position that we're at today. It's taken a lot, a lot of long days the last few weeks even to get the cars final prepped and ready to be here.

"Hats off to the mechanics, honestly, because the engineers give them the direction, and the mechanics are putting in a lot, a lot of long hours to get to where we're at, to get the cars together."

Graham turned in the fourth-quickest lap without a tow in practice on Thursday.

"It's clear that there's been gains," Graham said. "For me in particular, I think all week I've made maybe two adjustments on my car so far in race running as well as qualifying, and I can't say that that would have been the case last year. I think it would have been a lot more chasing.

"(Thursday) we dedicated our time to qual sims or at least low downforce running just to see, kind of get a base on where we're at. Clearly we would have liked to be doing some of the race running that others were, but as Will Power questioned why we were doing qual sims and I reminded him what happened 12 months ago and why it was important that we figure that out.

"That's kind of where we're at."