Homestead: Rahal Letterman Racing qualifying report

RAHAL LETTERMAN RACING TO START 11TH IN INDYCAR SERIES OPENER HOMESTEAD, Florida - The first day of the new-look IndyCar Series dawned bright and sunny today at Homestead-Miami Speedway, but Rahal Letterman Racing went back to a tried-and-true...

RAHAL LETTERMAN RACING TO START 11TH IN INDYCAR SERIES OPENER

HOMESTEAD, Florida - The first day of the new-look IndyCar Series dawned bright and sunny today at Homestead-Miami Speedway, but Rahal Letterman Racing went back to a tried-and-true success pattern during qualifying for Saturday's season-opening Gainsco Auto Insurance Indy 300

As was the team's wont for much of 2007, Rahal Letterman Racing and Ryan Hunter-Reay (#17 Ethanol Dallara/Honda/Firestone) posted its fastest laps of the weekend when they counted the most, as Hunter-Reay used four quick trips around the 1.5-mile oval to put the Ethanol machine into the 11th spot on the grid for tomorrow's race.

The reigning Bombardier Learjet IndyCar Rookie of the Year took full advantage of the new four-lap qualifying format to get up to speed, carding his best time on his fourth and final pass to build a four-lap average of 210.744 mph.

"We made a lot of improvements on the car today after the practice sessions and I really think we're in the area we need to be with the car," Hunter-Reay said. "We still have some things to work on, but I think we'll be ready for tomorrow night.

The event featured the series' new oval format, which mimics the time-honored Indianapolis tradition of taking four laps and using the average of those four to set the grid. This year marks the first time that the four laps have been used outside of Indy since the IndyCar Series began in 1996.

"I like it," reported Hunter-Reay. "It gives us a better idea of where the car is and what you can do with it instead of running a single lap."

RLR and RHR will get a better idea of where the blue-and-green #17 car is tomorrow night when an expected field of 25 cars do battle over 200 laps. For Hunter-Reay, it won't come a moment too soon.

"I hate talking about racing and all the stuff that goes with it," he grinned. "I am ready to get out here and do it. Coming out here with a full paddock and all the top teams really has us energized."

-credit: rlr

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