Graham Rahal

The 14th round of the 2023 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season returns home with today’s Gallagher Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

Graham Rahal led a front row lockout for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing and captured his first NTT P1 Award since 2017 for Race 1 at Belle Isle in Detroit. The Ohio native, driving the No. 15 Code 3 Associates Honda, put down a flying lap of 1 minute, 10.1132 seconds around the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course to become the ninth different pole winner of 2023. Teammate Christian Lundgaard, who was the pole sitter for the GMR Grand Prix in May on the IMS road course, qualified second, .1154 of a second behind. It was the first time RLL qualified 1-2 since 2019 at Barber Motorsports Park.

SEE: Starting Lineup/Tire Choice

Coverage for the 85-lap contest will begin at 2 p.m. ET on USA, Peacock and the INDYCAR Radio Network.

Eyes on the Skies

While rain overnight may have drifted away by 8 a.m. Saturday, the clouds have remained hovering around the track. There is a slight chance of rain returning at the time of the green flag, with a 50 percent chance of rain returning by 3 p.m. and hanging around for three hours.

A wet race could change the complexion of the race, as all running so far this weekend has been in the dry.

Newgarden’s Steep Climb Gets Steeper

After qualifying 19th, Josef Newgarden’s climb has become even steeper after INDYCAR officials announced a six-position starting grid penalty on Saturday morning due to an unapproved engine change.

Newgarden, second in the championship race at 84 points behind leader Alex Palou (513-429), must try to charge forward from 25th on the grid. Palou qualified ninth, but is set to roll off eighth after Jack Harvey, who originally qualified eighth, also received a six-spot grid penalty for an unapproved engine change.

The No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet was in violation of the following:

“Rule A fifth (5th) Engine is eligible to earn Engine Manufacturer points if a Full Season Entrant has completed the Full Season Entrant Engine Mileage with its first four (4) Engines. Otherwise, a fifth (5th) or more Engine does not earn Engine Manufacturer points and will be considered an Unapproved Engine change-out.

“According to Rule, the penalty is a six-position starting grid penalty on road and street course events and nine positions at oval events and will be served at the series’ next event, which is the Gallagher Grand Prix, today, at IMS.”

The engine swap comes after a challenging Friday, which saw Newgarden 24th in opening practice followed 14th in final practice, in addition to the subpar qualifying outing.

DeFrancesco Resetting Expectations

Devlin DeFrancesco delivered a flying lap of 1:10.3938 (124.733 mph) to qualify a career-best fifth in the No. 29 TRUBAR/Jones Soda Honda for Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport. The effort not only put the Canadian ahead of all three teammates at Andretti Autosport, but he also outqualified all of Chip Ganassi Racing and Team Penske.

DeFrancesco has shown pace early in races, especially during the dawn of summer. One of his previous standout performances was a 24th-to-14th charge on Fourth of July weekend at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, where he knocked on the door of the top 10 and held off teammate Romain Grosjean before fading late.

The sophomore driver has consistently improved and could be poised for a breakout performance in what has already been the best weekend in his young NTT INDYCAR SERIES career.

Rahal’s Resurrection

After failing to qualify into the field of 33 in the 107th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge in May, Rahal found himself on the grid as a substitute for an injured Stefan Wilson. Even then, though, a problem ahead of the green flag put him multiple laps down to put an exclamation point on a rough Month of May.

Now, by claiming the pole for today’s 85-lap race, there is a surge of confidence and focus as he aims to end a win drought that dates to 2017. Rahal’s last win was the second race at Belle Isle.

Since then, Rahal has watched the likes of former and current teammates Takuma Sato and Lundgaard find victory lane. Sato scored four wins, including the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge in August 2020, during his tenure with the team from 2018-21. Lundgaard, who joined the team full time last year, claimed his maiden NTT INDYCAR SERIES last month in Toronto.

Rahal has been quick beyond qualifying this weekend, also leading opening practice.

“I don't know what it is about Indy, but we all talk about it as a living being, that it kind of writes its own story,” Rahal said. “I say it every year: In this large book that's gone on a hundred-plus years now, a lot of people have had the chance to have their chapter. Some people like Helio have several in the book. You just hope it's your time.

“Clearly this weekend is very different than the ‘500,’ but it doesn't mean that it doesn't carry a lot of significance and importance to our team and to me personally. I've seen plenty of the hate, plenty of the can't do it, can't compete with the kids, can't whatever. To be able to silence some of that, and I thought we did a bit at Mid-Ohio, but it's nice to see a good step forward finally in the car the way I want it to drive. It's starting to come together.

“The mystique of Indy and the things that happen and all of that are alive and well, but the reality is we still had to make it happen this weekend or today. Everything is kind of slammed in here. We've done a pretty good job so far.”