Rahal hopes to be humming same tune from Barber as a year ago

Updated: 

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – For Graham Rahal, the sweet song that was his 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season came in tune at Barber Motorsports Park. The Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing driver is hoping the melody replays again starting with this weekend’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.

Practice began with today’s promoter test day, a pair of sessions each 1 hour, 15 minutes in length. Sebastien Bourdais, in the No. 11 Team Europa – KVSH Racing Chevrolet, led the first session with a fast lap of 1 minute, 7.3399 seconds (122.958 mph). The 90-lap race is scheduled for Sunday (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN and Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network).

CLICK HERE: Practice 1 results; Visor cam lap around Barber Motorsports Park with Josef Newgarden

Rahal, driving the No. 15 Honda, was seventh on the speed chart in Practice 1 with a lap of 1:07.7729 (122.173 mph). Barber Motorsports Park is where Rahal’s charge into championship contention a year ago shifted into high gear, when he qualified eighth and stormed through the field late in the race to finish second. It wound up the first of eight top-five finishes for the son of the 1986 Indianapolis 500 winner.

“Our race in Barber last year was one of the most competitive for us the entire season,” Rahal said. “It started off a string of podium finishes for us and I am hoping that will happen again this year.”

Rahal remained in title contention, sitting second in points heading into the 2015 season finale at Sonoma Raceway, until an 18th-place finish there dropped him to a career-best fourth in the championship.

The comparisons heading into this year’s Barber race are eerily similar. Through three races, Rahal has one top-10 finish both last year and this. He is currently ninth in the standings, one place better than a year ago. He has accumulated 59 points, three fewer than this time last year.

Rahal trails championship leader Simon Pagenaud by 75 points. A year ago at this time, he was 62 behind another Team Penske driver, Juan Pablo Montoya.

“It's been a rough start to 2016 for our team and I feel like we've been right there performance-wise,” Rahal said. “We just haven't maximized the opportunities. Hopefully in Barber we can make it happen. Last year kick-started our season, we need to make it happen once again.”

Promoter test day action continues with the second practice session from 4-5:15 p.m. ET, which will be streamed live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com and include timing and scoring. Action on Saturday includes practice from noon-12:45 p.m. ET (streamed live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com) and Verizon P1 Award qualifying at 4 p.m. ET (live on NBCSN).

Verizon IndyCar Series activities Sunday include the final warm-up session from 11:30 a.m.-noon ET (stream on RaceControl.IndyCar.com) and the race on the picturesque 2.3-mile permanent road course.

All three levels of the Mazda Road to Indy are in action this weekend as well, with Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda each running two races over the course of the weekend. All MRTI sessions are streamed live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com.

Rank

Car

Driver Name

C/A/E/T

Time

Speed

Diff

Gap

Best Lap

Total Laps

1

11

Bourdais, Sebastien

D/C/C/F

01:07.3399

122.958

--.----

--.----

10

23

2

41

Hawksworth, Jack

D/H/H/F

01:07.4662

122.728

0.1263

0.1263

8

17

3

26

Munoz, Carlos

D/H/H/F

01:07.6138

122.460

0.2739

0.1476

9

27

4

28

Hunter-Reay, Ryan

D/H/H/F

01:07.6570

122.382

0.3171

0.0432

16

23

5

14

Sato, Takuma

D/H/H/F

01:07.7184

122.271

0.3785

0.0614

8

19

6

5

Hinchcliffe, James

D/H/H/F

01:07.7245

122.260

0.3846

0.0061

25

25

7

15

Rahal, Graham

D/H/H/F

01:07.7729

122.173

0.4330

0.0484

8

19

8

22

Pagenaud, Simon

D/C/C/F

01:07.7838

122.153

0.4439

0.0109

9

15

9

19

Filippi, Luca

D/H/H/F

01:07.7963

122.131

0.4564

0.0125

12

26

10

9

Dixon, Scott

D/C/C/F

01:07.8498

122.034

0.5099

0.0535

9

17

11

7

Aleshin, Mikhail

D/H/H/F

01:07.8627

122.011

0.5228

0.0129

11

23

12

2

Montoya, Juan Pablo

D/C/C/F

01:07.9628

121.831

0.6229

0.1001

8

15

13

21

Newgarden, Josef

D/C/C/F

01:07.9876

121.787

0.6477

0.0248

15

22

14

27

Andretti, Marco

D/H/H/F

01:07.9948

121.774

0.6549

0.0072

5

19

15

12

Power, Will

D/C/C/F

01:08.0212

121.727

0.6813

0.0264

8

15

16

18

Daly, Conor (R)

D/H/H/F

01:08.1412

121.512

0.8013

0.1200

24

27

17

3

Castroneves, Helio

D/C/C/F

01:08.2085

121.392

0.8686

0.0673

10

11

18

83

Kimball, Charlie

D/C/C/F

01:08.3329

121.172

0.9930

0.1244

10

21

19

8

Chilton, Max (R)

D/C/C/F

01:08.3362

121.166

0.9963

0.0033

11

24

20

98

Rossi, Alexander (R)

D/H/H/F

01:08.5240

120.834

1.1841

0.1878

10

26

21

10

Kanaan, Tony

D/C/C/F

01:28.0351

94.053

20.6952

19.5111

4

6

(R) Rookie

(C)hassis: D=Dallara | (A)erokit: C=Chevy, H=Honda | (E)ngine: C=Chevy, H=Honda | (T)ire: F=Firestone

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