After a tough Indy 500 this year, questions surround Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing and how they will respond to this setback.
Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing made headlines on Bump Day for this year’s Indy 500 for all the wrong reasons.
Three of the IndyCar team’s four cars found themselves in the Last Chance qualifying session, with Graham Rahal shockingly failing to qualify for the event after Jack Harvey’s last-second heroics earned him a spot in the race.
While Rahal did eventually compete in the Indy 500 as the replacement for the injured Stefan Wilson, many questions regarding Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s struggles in the race remain unanswered.
In the wake of their disappointing weekend(s) at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, team owner Bobby Rahal announced an “Indy Recovery Plan” in the hope of turning around their performance.
"“We pride ourselves on our performances and the fact that we’ve won races and won Indy 500s and everything else.”"
The team are less than three years removed from their more recent Indy 500 victory, when Takuma Sato won his second Indy 500 in a bizarre 2020 race which was held in August without fans. On top of that, Graham Rahal placed third, giving Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing two of the top three spots in the biggest race of the year.
While Bobby Rahal’s plan will likely improve the team in the future, this year wasn’t the first year in which they struggled in the event.
In last year’s Indy 500, two of the team’s three entries found themselves starting on the last row. In fact, they were the slowest two qualifiers, as the last place starter did not turn any qualifying laps. But unlike this year, they never had to worry about Bump Day due to there only being 33 entries, so not a whole lot was made of it.
Results-wise, the team saw rather similar results last year and this year. Graham Rahal was the team’s top finisher last year in 14th place, while Jack Harvey led the way this year in 18th.
For a team that had been less than two years removed from an Indy 500 victory, one could question why a recovery plan hadn’t been put in place after last year’s race.
Even outside of the Indy 500, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing have seemingly regressed since their 2020 victory. They did not have driver finish inside the top 10 in the championship standings in 2022, something they had done every year since 2015.
For Graham Rahal, it also marked the first time he had failed to finish in the top 10 in the standings since 2014, with his 11th place finish being the team’s highest last year.
Rahal has seemingly regressed even further this year, well beyond just his well-documented Indy 500 DNQ. He currently sits 17th place in the standings and only has two top 10 finishes through six races. If he hadn’t been tapped as the replacement for Wilson, he’d probably be even further down the order.
Additionally, Rahal has hinted at the possibility of leaving his father’s team. And if the man who has been the team’s anchor for years were to leave, it would force the team to search for a new driver for their flagship car.
But even with the possible departure of Graham Rahal looming, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing have a bright spot thanks to another young driver.
Second-year driver Christian Lundgaard has had an impressive start to the 2023 season. He currently sits in 11th place in the standings with a top five and three top 10 finishes through the season’s first six races.
Lundgaard notably had an extremely impressive showing in this year’s GMR Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, taking his first career pole and leading 13 laps en route to a fourth place finish. The 21-year-old Danish driver appears to be the driver of the future for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing and the center of their potential rebuild.
Then there’s the team’s third driver, Jack Harvey. Much like Graham Rahal, Harvey has seemed to take a step back in the last couple years. While he had three solid seasons with Meyer Shank Racing before joining Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing in 2022, he has yet to have a huge breakout moment with the team.
After a 2022 season which saw Harvey score only one top 10 finish en route to a 22nd place finish in the standings, it looked as if he would sink to an even further low on Bump Day for the Indy 500.
Instead, thanks to some last-gasp heroics, Harvey managed to sneak his way into this year’s Indy 500 by seven thousandths of a mile per hour over four laps. He finished in 18th place in the race, but one has to wonder if the Bump Day heroics might be the springboard that turns his season and career around.
But for now, the main priority for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing is the rebuild and recovery plan that has been set in motion. And should the team be able to find success as a result of this plan, there is no doubt they can find themselves once again contending for wins and potentially championships on a regular basis.
With the Detroit Grand Prix coming up this weekend, the team have a great opportunity to quickly turn their fortunes around after two tough weekends at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.