2022 will be a year of optimism for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. As the team moves into a new race shop on the northside of Indy, they also move in two new drivers for full-time efforts alongside RLL staple Graham Rahal. The team confirmed in October that Jack Harvey would move over to RLL for the 2022 season and beyond, with backing from grocery store chain Hy-Vee. The second addition to the full time stable is Christian Luungard, a 20 year old former Formula 2 driver. He will pilot the #30 entry for the team with backing from multiple sponsors including Shield Cleansers and People Ready. Graham Rahal will drive the #15 for a ninth consecutive year.
The 2020 Indianapolis 500 winning team struggled for consistency in 2021. Rahal was in contention for wins at both races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May before the bad luck that plagued the entire season reared its ugly head. Graham had a run off on lap one in the grand prix, but a late charge found him a 5th place finish. At the Indy 500, he had the lead heading into the pits on lap 119 when during the out lap, his back rear tire flew off, putting his #15 Honda into the wall and ending his day. The team fielded a third car in its lineup for select races with Santino Ferucci bringing home the best finish of 6th at the Indy 500 while Christian Luungard qualified 4th in his only start at the second IMS Grand Prix event. Oliver Askew snagged a top 10 in one of his three starts for the team.
For whatever the reason, it also seems that Graham has the worst luck. He had the only podium for the team last season and showed consistency across all forms of track on the schedule with a third in Texas, fourth at Laguna Seca and five fifth place finishes on the season. He’s certainly knocking on the door to return to victory for the first time since Detroit in 2017. Rahal finished on the lead lap in all but two races during the 2021 season.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: Qualifying wasn’t a strong point for Rahal over the last two years. He only managed one fast six in 2021 with an average starting position of 13th. Rahal improved his position in 12 of the 16 races while gaining the most positions (15) at the first Belle Isle event at Detroit. If Graham can qualify better in 2022, there is no doubt he will see better results over the course of the season.
PROJECTION: Graham will find victory circle again in ‘22. Places like the Indy Grand Prix, Texas and Belle Isle will be circled on the calendar for the 33 year old. With Rahal, it seems he just needs to break through for one win and more will come. I have Graham Rahal as a strong contender for a top five championship finish and taking a step to more wins.
Harvey makes the move to Rahal Letterman Lanigan after running with Meyer-Shank for all or part of the last five seasons. Harvey takes over the 45 with Hy-Vee sponsorship, a midwest grocery store chain that deserves a tip of the cap for its support of the team and bringing the Iowa Speedway back to schedule for a double-header this summer. Randy Edeker and Hy-Vee have done a great deal of activations inside their stories with the RLL team and will continue that with their new location coming to Zionsville, IN. Harvey struggled in 2021. A best result of fourth, he had nine results of 15th or worse leading to a 12th place finish in the standings. A new team should invigorate Harvey in 2022, getting back to the potential he has shown in past seasons.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: Stringing consecutive races together of quality finishes. Only once in his career has Harvey strung together three straight top 10s. Harvey struggled last summer, starting at the IMS Grand Prix, finishing outside the top 15 in seven consecutive races. In races that he qualified well, he rarely backed it up with a good result. He finished 17th or worse in three of his four top five starts. Harvey has the talent to get his first career win and I see no reason for him to not be refreshed and in contention in his first year at Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.
PROJECTION: Harvey will end the season with a few podiums and even his first career pole. He’s only led 7 laps in his career, I think that will more than triple this season. The 45 showed great support as a third car to the stable in 2021, although in 2022, Harvey and the 45 will technically be the second team.
Lungaard as mentioned was impressive in his one and only IndyCar career start at the second Indy GP in 2021. He qualified fourth, leading two laps en route to a 12th place finish. The impressive run convinced the team that he was the driver in 2022. The Danish driver will start his first full IndyCar season at the age of 20.
PROJECTION: Lungaard will be the 2022 season rookie of the year. His biggest challenge of course will be his first taste of oval action. He will be fine at Iowa and Gateway, very technical tracks with plenty of steering. How will he react to high speed ovals like Indy and Texas. Texas will be his biggest learning curve by far with limited practice time unlike the Indy 500.
Sometimes when a team adds an additional car it takes a year or two for it to get up to speed. As much as Graham Rahal will miss Takuma Sato as a teammate, getting younger and even flying under the radar could mean results. I am excited for the new look of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing in 2022.
CHAMPIONSHIP PROJECTION ODDS
GRAHAM RAHAL +1300
JACK HARVEY +2800
CHRISTIAN LUNGAARD +5000
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