Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing are poised for a strong month of May after the success of their two drivers in the last two IndyCar races.
After expanding from a one-car team to a two-car team ahead of the 2018 IndyCar season, making the 2018 season the first season that they had operated as a two-car team since the 2013 season, a lot was expected from Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.
Graham Rahal had been a championship contender in the 2015, 2016 and 2017 seasons as the team's lone driver, earning a combined five victories in these three seasons and finishing in fourth, fifth and sixth place in the championship standings, respectively.
But the 2018 season did not end up going according to plan for the team, which signed Takuma Sato as Rahal's teammate before the season began.
Rahal opened up the season with a second place finish in the race on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida, but he failed to finish higher than fifth throughout the remainder of the 17-race season.
Sato won the season's penultimate race at Portland International Raceway in large part due to his pit strategy to give the team at least one victory in each of the last four seasons, but he only managed to finish in 12th in the championship standings, four positions behind Rahal in an eighth place tie.
Most notably, the team struggled in the Indianapolis 500. Sato and Rahal locked themselves into the 33-car field by qualifying in 29th and 30th place in their #30 Honda and #15 Honda, respectively, on the opening day of qualifying. Rahal was just relieved to qualify for the race, even with only 35 drivers attempting to qualify for it. Oriol Servia, the team's one-off driver for the race, also just barely got into the field by qualifying in 31st in his #64 Honda.
On the second day of qualifying, Sato secured himself a 16th place starting position with a much improved qualifying run. But Servia and Rahal were still mired in 26th and 30th, respectively. Sato crashed early in the race while Servia found himself leading late due to his pit strategy. Rahal did just about the best he could en route to a 10th place finish. Servia ended up finishing in 17th.
But this season, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing appear poised for a strong month of May, as they appear to have a lot better handle on their package than they did at this point last season. This has been on full display in each of the last two races.
Sato took the pole position for the race at Barber Motorsports Park before leading 74 of its 90 laps and only ever relinquishing its lead during his pit stops en route to winning it. Rahal qualified in second place before pit stop issues and mechanical issues resulted in him falling back in the field and ultimately being forced to retire.
Both drivers qualified for and finished the race on the streets of Long Beach, California in the top eight, as Rahal qualified in sixth place and Sato qualified in eighth while Rahal finished in third and Sato finished in eighth.