RYAN HUNTER-REAY TO START 14TH IN REXALL EDMONTON INDY

EDMONTON, Alberta, Canada - What I'd counted on to pick me up has knocked me to my knees - Mighty Mighty Bosstones

The 2008 IndyCar Series schedule appeared to be heading right into Rahal Letterman Racing's and Ryan Hunter-Reay's (#17 Ethanol Dallara/Honda/Firestone) wheelhouse as an end-of-season run of road courses was playing to the team's and the driver's strengths.

But on a sunny Friday in Edmonton, a combination of factors conspired to keep the team from advancing out of the first qualifying round for the second consecutive week.

In a format where the top six cars from the opening session would move on to a second round - and from there to the Firestone Fast Six - Hunter-Reay and the Ethanol machine were right on the cusp of the advancement point for most of the 20-minute session. But a late charge by Dan Wheldon combined with an untimely yellow flag brought out by Marty Roth and a spin on a gutsy last-ditch effort by Hunter-Reay relegated the team to the 14th spot on the starting grid for Saturday's 95-lap Rexall Edmonton Indy.

"I just couldn't get the time out of the car that we needed," Hunter-Reay said. "It was a tough time throughout the entire session and in the end, we just couldn't get what we were looking for."

Hunter-Reay used his best lap of 62.1039 seconds to take the final transfer spot from Wheldon with five minutes left in the opening session, but the former Indianapolis 500 champ came right back to drop the #17 car down to seventh. He had just started his next flying lap after getting a fresh set of Firestone Firehawks, but had his charge blunted when the canary banner flew for a Roth crash.

The wreckage was wiped off the 1.973-mile race track with 66 seconds left on the clock, meaning that Hunter-Reay had to get from Pit Lane all the way back around to the start/finish line before the clock ran out. The Watkins Glen winner sprinted around the 14-turn course and beat the checkered flag with less than two seconds to spare, earning one more shot at getting into the session's top six, but he spun in Turn Six and backed into the tire barrier, ending his day and cementing his spot on the seventh row of tomorrow's starting grid.

"In these qualifying sessions you need the right combination of speed and timing with the yellows and certainly the last caution caused by Marty, right in the midst of our second set of tires, kept us from moving on," said RLR Chief Operating Officer Scott Roembke. "We weren't as fast as we had been earlier in the day and Ryan was hanging in out there on the last lap like he was supposed to do, it just didn't work for us."

The Rexall Edmonton Indy takes place tomorrow afternoon beginning at 5 p.m. Eastern Time, and can be seen live on ESPN.

-credit: rlr