This weekend's IZOD INDYCAR World Championships at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway is the swansong for the venerable IndyCar package of Honda V8 power and the current Dallara chassis, and as the Rahal Letterman Lanigan duo of Jay Howard (No. 15 Service Central) and Pippa Mann (No. 30) know, with 34 cars battling on the 1.5-mile LVMS oval, it's likely to be a busy one. The field will be the largest for an IndyCar race in 14 years and will boast the most starters for an event outside of the Indianapolis 500 since 1983's CART race at Pocono. For Howard, it will be his fourth race of the season with RLL, following promising outings at Indy and Texas, and he expects this one to be memorable.
“I'm really looking forward to having the 34 cars on the track at the same time,” Howard enthused. “The race weekend will be action-packed for the fans and to be behind the wheel for Service Central is an honor. This whole event is going to be second only to the Indy 500. Randy [Bernard] and IndyCar have really made it into a spectacle and not just another race. I've never raced at Vegas before, but having been at the track in the past, it's going to be really exciting and I'm happy to be apart of it.”
Mann returns for her third outing with RLL this season, and she comes off a valuable weekend at Kentucky where she earned 300 priceless miles of experience, and gained seven spots from her grid position. She is hopeful that having a teammate for this time will pay dividends throughout the weekend.
“The season finale is going to be a great spectacle for race fans, so I'm really looking forward to arriving in Las Vegas for this event,” said Mann. “I've never driven at the track before but with such a wealth of experience at the Rahal Letterman Lanigan team, I'm confident that we'll be able to get up to speed fairly quickly. It's going to be really valuable having Jay Howard as my teammate for this event, and we'll be looking for a strong result to end the year with.”
Team co-owner Bobby Rahal made clear that the race could be key to the team's 2012 plans, too.
“We are pleased to have two cars in the 2011 season finale and we feel that both Jay and Pippa will have a great opportunity to show why they should be considered for full-time rides in 2012,” said Rahal.
Practice gets under way with one session on Thursday afternoon, followed by practice and qualifying on Friday. The teams will not be on track Saturday, but will have a full day of preparation for Sunday's 200-lap battle, which will air live on ABC. The race will take the green flag at 3:45 ET on Sunday afternoon.