ELKHART LAKE, Wisconsin – Lost in the excitement of Josef Newgarden’s duel with Ryan Hunter-Reay in the KOHLER Grand Prix was what happened a few yards behind them.
Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing teammates Takuma Sato and Graham Rahal turned in their best combined finish of the season, with Sato claiming fourth and Rahal sixth Sunday at Road America. It was Sato’s best finish of the season and Rahal’s third consecutive finish among the top six.
“We had a fast car,” Sato said after his No. 30 Mi-Jack/Panasonic Honda finished 9.3870 seconds behind third-place finisher Scott Dixon. “It’s a shame that we missed the podium. but we need to find a little more speed.”
Rahal’s No. 15 GEHL Honda finished behind fifth-place Robert Wickens, helping Rahal maintain sixth place in the drivers’ standings.
“We were decent,” Rahal said. “We went to the new reds (Firestone alternate tires) on the third stint and probably just went on them too early, probably needed to keep them for the last stint. Overall, the car was decent – not great – we have to continue to work on it. We can be a top-five (or) top-six car, but how do we win?”
Sato had the most active run of the two teammates. On Lap 29, he and Alexander Rossi made contact after they exited Turn 6. Sato waved his fist as he fell behind Rossi, who later encountered tire issues and eventually finished 16th.
“In high-level professional racing, you shouldn’t really be bumping each other,” Sato said. “Obviously I gave him room enough (room), and he came inside. He just couldn’t stop and came into me and bumped me. He did exactly the same thing to Wickens at the start, and I’m surprised the stewards didn’t take action. I’m OK with side-by-side, just don’t touch me. “
Rahal, who opened the season with a runner-up finish at St. Petersburg, on Sunday matched his sixth-place effort two weeks ago at Texas Motor Speedway.
“I shouldn’t be disappointed, but we want to win,” Rahal said. “We have finished in the top 10 in every race this year but one, but at some point we need to improve enough to win these things.”
Sato jumped from seventh to fourth on the first lap and held it to the finish. He remains 13th in the season standings but is only 34 points out of ninth place..
“We struggled at the beginning of the season and lost too much ground, but Graham and I are working close with the engineering side and shared a lot of stuff and picked up speed,” Sato said. “The guys did a tremendous job over the weekend, and we hope to carry momentum to Iowa.”
The Verizon IndyCar Series takes a week off before the Iowa Corn 300 on Sunday, July 8 at Iowa Speedway. Live coverage begins at 2 p.m. ET on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.