3 quick takeaways from Katherine Legge to RLL announcement

On Thursday, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing announced that they will indeed put a fourth car out there in the Month of May for the Indianapolis 500. Most thought it was going to be Ryan Hunter-Reay’s name attached to the press release. Instead, it was a bombshell in the effect of Katherine Legge.

Here are my quick takeaways.

Can Legge Get Up To Speed

The last time Katherine Legge was in an NTT INDYCAR Series machine was back in 2013. That year’s Indy 500 was the last that we’ve seen of her. Now, a decade later, she’s back. The question is, in an era that is even more competitive now than it was then, can she get up to speed enough to be one of the fastest 33 qualifiers?

Right now, we have 32 drivers entered. We didn’t feature any bumping last year with 33. Can we get at least 2 more entries to come around this year? There’s room for it and I predict that we do.

So, with that said, can Legge make the race?

Her qualifying speed in 2013 was 223.176 mph. That’s her best four-lap average in her two year history here. It was 221.624 mph a year prior.

Last year’s speed to get into the race was 226.851 mph. That was the 32nd qualifier. Stefan Wilson had no official time because with 33 cars for 33 spots and a qualifying day mechanical issue, he never made an attempt.

With bumping involved the year prior, it took a four-lap average of 228.353 mph to make it in. Can Legge get her RLL entry up to that speed?

RLL qualified well in 2020 and 2021 for Indy, but last year, 2 of the 3 cars on the final row belonged to them. Legge’s pair of starts are 30th and 33th.

That’s why this topic is a thing.

She’s raced since 2013, just not in an INDYCAR.

Good To Have A Female Back On The Entry List

Last year was the first time in nearly a decade that we saw multiple female racers in an INDYCAR race. That was a giant, positive step forward, after a large step backward in May for which featured no women in the Indy 500 field. Now, we know we at least will have one woman back and hopefully a path to get at least one more.

It took 61 years before we finally had a woman be able to qualify for the Indianapolis 500. The first Indy 500 took place in 1911 and other than both World War’s, the race has always been around here in the Circle City each Memorial Day or Memorial Day weekend.

But, it wasn’t until 1977 to when we finally saw the first female join the ranks of  ‘500 participants. Janet Guthrie was the pioneer to pave the path for females that auto racing wasn’t just a mans sport, women should be included too. There’s a great documentary about Guthrie and her racing career, but the historic 1977 race was big for not just Indy, but for all women across the board.

Unfortunately, the list of females to have been able to race in the biggest sporting event in the world is limited. As we sit here today, nearly 800 drivers have ever raced in the Indy 500.  Unfortunately, only nine of those drivers are female. That’s right, only nine women in the history of entire of the world has ever strapped herself into an Indy Car on Memorial Day weekend here at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

That’s why last year was unacceptable that none were on the grid. It’s also why this coming May is a step back in the right direction to ensuring that females know that they have a place here and can be a race car driver if they dream it.

Last year was just the second time since 1999 that no women were in the Field of 33. Guthrie started it in 1977 and raced in 1978 and 1979 too. It took 13 years before we’d get another female in Lyn St. James. She’d race six straight years but 1998 and 1999 were the only years after that we’d not have a female participant.

St. James and Sarah Fisher were here in 2000 as it was St. James’ seventh and final Indy 500 start but Fisher’s first. Fisher, ran in all five years between 2000 and 2004, then was back four more between 2007 and 2010. In 2005, it was Danica Patrick’s turn and like Guthrie, she really put more attention for females and racing.

Danica, became the first woman to lead a lap in that race and gave us the best results out of a female erasing the stigma that females aren’t fast enough. I’m glad she shoved that narrative back to the 20th century and was damn fast here in all eight of her Indy appearances.

That led a path for Milka Duno, Ana Beatriz, Simon De Silvestro, Pippa Mann and Katherine Legge to Indy.

In 2007, we saw multiple females in this race with Fisher, Patrick and Duno. It would stay that way for 2008 and 2009 too. In 2010, it was three, but Duno was out and Beatriz in.

For 2011, the 100th anniversary of the first ever Indy 500 in 1911, we saw a record four female drivers in the field of 33. Patrick, Beatriz, De Silvestro and Mann all joined. 2012 was back to three, but Danica went to NASCAR, Pippa out for a year but Beatriz, De Silvestro and Legge came into the mix.

Mann, kept the dream alive for females the last several years and Danica didn’t come back until her one off in 2018. De Silvestro went overseas after the 2015 season and back again last year. Legge, ran twice in 2012 and 2013. Mann, stayed for six races in a seven year span between 2013 and 2019.

After Paretta’s debut in 2021, they weren’t be back at Indy last year. Now Legge is back.

That’s where this problem still lies though. You can’t keep doing these things as a one-off. They need support and a solid foundation to help grow.

RLL’s Expansion

I remember talking to Bobby Rahal and his son Graham Rahal over the years as the two chased INDYCAR glory as a one car team. There was always the discussion on when they were going to add a second car back. But, both maintained that they weren’t interested in adding a second car just to add one. The second team was to be in addition to Graham’s program and not a detriment to it.

They had to do it right. The team stand on it’s own grounding. In order to do that, they had to extract all they could out of the No. 15 team and when they got to the ceiling and had added depth, that’s then when they’d discuss a second car.

Rahal became a title contender with the team, but they were finding out that he couldn’t do it alone. They had no team car for practice setups. Rahal had to do all the data in practice and testing. It was a one man show. With battling the bigger organizations with tons of resources, manpower and at least 2-3 teammates per team, RLL was quickly finding out that they had maximized their potential. They needed help.

For 2018, they brought in a full-time car to help. Takuma Sato thrived in it. The reason being is because Sato is a hell of a racer and that team was part-time the previous four years. They also added a third car for the 2018 season and hired another veteran in Oriol Servia.

They did the same a year later. They stayed that way through last season as a three-car team, except in 2022, that third car became full-time.

Now, for the first time in team history, RLL will be a four car outfit and do so at Indy.

One comment

  1. I think Kat’s qualifying record needs to be put in perspective. Both years, she had a bare minimum of practice. First year was the Slotus debacle and a (very) late arriving Chevy. The second was a last minute ride. Hopefully, this time she gets a week of practice – and I think she’ll do fine. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if she out qualified Rahal.


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