Recovered from the back injury that sidelined her after an accident in practice at New Hampshire, Pippa Mann returns to action with the Rahal Letterman Lanigan team this weekend at the 1.5-mile Kentucky Speedway oval. This weekend's Kentucky Indy 300 will see Mann revisit the site of her first Firestone Indy Lights win – Mann dominated the Lights event on the tri-oval a year ago, claiming the pole and leading wire to wire to take her first victory.
“I had a great run at Kentucky last year, and we got the car just right for me, allowing me to run away with the race in Indy Lights,” Mann recounted. “However, that doesn't really affect my confidence as much coming back as it would for some other drivers, simply because I tend to take my confidence from the handling of the car.
The Briton tested her No. 30 Dallara-Honda at Kentucky last weekend, and despite suffering through a long morning of rain before getting on track, Mann was able to complete 63 laps and post times that were competitive with the top cars at the test session.
“The test showed we still have a little work to do – the car is definitely fast enough, but we just need to get me and her to 'play nice' a little better together before we go and play with everyone else out there in the race,” said Mann. “I think some people – myself included – have underestimated how big a challenge it is to jump in for just a few races midseason, with a team and people I have never worked with before. Normally you would have plenty of time to get up to speed, but only having a few opportunities really magnifies the situation!”
The Ohio-based RLL squad has had seven top-10 starting spots in 12 starts at Kentucky, including poles by Buddy Rice and Danica Patrick. RLL cars have finished second at Kentucky on two occasions and have earned six top-10 finishes overall, most recently with Ryan Hunter-Reay in 2008.
“After a tough outing in New Hampshire, it was important to get back on track and have a good test day prior to this weekend's event, and I think we accomplished that last week, despite not having a full day of testing because of the rain,” said RLL co-owner Bobby Rahal. “We have had a decent amount of success at Kentucky in the past and we believe that we are capable of having another good weekend there if we work hard and stay focused.”