After a long layoff since her IndyCar debut at the Indianapolis 500, Pippa Mann is back in the IZOD IndyCar Series this weekend at the wheel of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing's No. 30 entry, which will be sponsored by NTB (National Tire and Battery)
NTB will be on Mann's car for Sunday's MoveThatBlock.com Indy 225 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, while Big O Tires will be featured on the RLL car at Kentucky and Las Vegas. NTB, which is part of the TBC Retail Group, has sponsored Rahal Letterman Lanigan Indy Car efforts in the recent past with Graham Rahal and Jay Howard with not only NTB, but fellow TBC Retail Group partners Big O Tires and Service Central.
Mann will be making her first appearance with RLL this weekend at Loudon's one-mile oval, although the former Firestone Indy Lights front runner tested there with the team last month.
"I am so excited. Anytime anyone introduces me as Pippa Mann, IZOD IndyCar Series driver, I have to stop myself from giggling," said Mann. "I still can't quite believe that I've made this leap up.
"I'm just so excited to get back into the car and to have the support of the TBC group on board running with the National Tire and Battery brands up there in New Hampshire. It's going to be fantastic. Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing introduced me to Orland Wolford of TBC just under a week ago now. As we were admiring my new car, I think we both thought that the National Tire & Battery Red No. 30 was already looking pretty racy in her new color scheme, but that there was a little something lacking! Luckily, Orland agreed with me, and I can't thank him, TBC Corporation and Service Central enough for coming on board! I am extremely excited to be added to the roster of IndyCar drivers whom they have supported and I am looking forward to representing National Tire & Battery and Big O Tires out on track for the remainder of this season."
"We are thrilled to have Pippa represent the NTB brand in New Hampshire. Not only is she a fine young lady with outstanding skills behind the wheel, she is building a solid reputation as being a go-getter," said Wolford, president and CEO of TBC Retail Group. "We look forward to watching her climb the ranks of racing."
"NTB and all of TBC Retail Group have been great partners to work with in the past, and we are pleased to continue our relationship with this program," said RLL co-owner Bobby Rahal. "We have high expectations for this program and we anticipate that Pippa will work very hard to represent NTB and the TBC Retail Group as professionally as possible."
Rahal (RIGHT) added that he was especially looking forward to returning to NHIS, where he won the first Indy car race staged at the track, under CART sanction, back in 1992.
"I just really enjoyed that one-mile oval. I love the one-mile ovals anyway, but I think at New Hampshire it's a very good one," Rahal said. "Yeah, that's one of the victories on my way to my last championship in '92. I've good memories, but it's good to be coming back. I'm really glad IndyCar is back at that track because I think it produces great racing.
"We had a productive test, I think. Driving an IndyCar on a one‑mile oval is very different, as she can probably attest, than it is to drive at Indianapolis or a high‑banked track. So I thought the day went well, and so we look forward to a great weekend up in the Northeast.
Rahal reiterated that he hopes his team will soon be a fixture on the IndyCar scene once again.
"That's certainly our intent and our goal, to be back in IndyCar on an annual basis," he said. "In the past few years we've not been able to do that because we haven't been able to find the level of funding that is really necessary to put forth a first‑class effort. I see no reason to do it otherwise, frankly. But I think by the performances we've had, for example at Indy this year with Bertrand Baguette, we've shown that the team hasn't lost any of its capability. So, yeah, we definitely want to be back full‑time.
"I think next year will be very exciting with the new car and the new engines. This could be the start of something. I have a lot of faith in Pippa. She's shown that she has the work ethic. She's obviously won races on ovals. I think a one-mile oval will be a big challenge for anybody, especially being the first race there in some time, so it should be a very exciting weekend.
"By having tesedt there and by having another test day on Thursday, I think that's really going to help the drivers like Pippa, because it gives them a chance and that much more seat time."
Mann concurred, adding that her test had convinced her NHIS should be well suited to the current IndyCars.
"It's a really, really cool little track – a one-mile oval that's fairly flat," she said. "There is very little banking in the corners. Compared to somewhere like Milwaukee, the straits are a little longer, the corners are a little tighter and a little more bank. It is going to be a bullring around there.
"I described it when I was writing about it [in her RACER.com blog] that it was like trying to ride a motorcycle 'round and 'round in a laundry room. Now there are going to be 26 other motorcycles out there joining me to ride 'round and 'round in the laundry room, so it's going to be a very busy track.
But, I just think we're going to put on a fantastic show out there. It's very bumpy. It's going to create a lot of difference between the cars. I think we'll see cars that will stay over stints or go up over stints. And I think pit lane is going to be a part of the race. It's a fairly short pit lane, the pit boxes are fairly short so getting in and out of them is going to be interesting."