RAHAL LETTERMAN RACING SUFFERS DISAPPOINTING DAY IN INDY 500 QUALIFYING OPENER INDIANAPOLIS - The 12-shot qualifying process that fills the field for the Indianapolis 500 created plenty of drama on Saturday, but for Rahal Letterman Racing, the...
RAHAL LETTERMAN RACING SUFFERS DISAPPOINTING DAY IN INDY 500 QUALIFYING OPENER
INDIANAPOLIS - The 12-shot qualifying process that fills the field for the Indianapolis 500 created plenty of drama on Saturday, but for Rahal Letterman Racing, the only thing it created was a little more work.
The RLR squad hoped to capitalize on the speed it found in Friday's final practice, but changing weather conditions left Ryan Hunter-Reay (#17 Ethanol Dallara/Honda/Firestone) just shy of locking in one of the 11 spots awarded today after his first four-lap run - turning in a qualifying average of 223.102 mph.
With the rules permitting three qualifying attempts per day, Hunter-Reay went back out with 45 minutes left in the session, needing to find less than a single mile per hour in order to punch his ticket for the 92nd running of the Indianapolis 500.
When his first lap left him shy of qualifying, Hunter-Reay used his in-car tools and kept his foot in it to milk every last drop of speed out of his Dallara - but it would not be enough.
Hunter-Reay's car spun in Turn Three and backed into the SAFER barrier, damaging his car and ending his chance to qualify on the first day.
"We had the speed yesterday so we had a taste of it, but we just couldn't recreate it today," lamented Hunter-Reay, who was uninjured in the accident and was immediately cleared to continue driving by IndyCar physicians. "I was trying to tune the car like we did yesterday from inside the cockpit, but we just didn't have it.
"We wanted to make the car a little better on the exit because that is where we were having trouble, but we were on the edge and we just went over. I knew that it was going to be very close to being trouble, but I'm a race car driver and I just wanted to get everything I could out of it. I've been in the Ethanol car for six or seven months and this is our first crash, and I'm happy to be able to walk away from it."
Hunter-Reay's first qualifying effort started strongly and appeared to be close to getting him in the field, but a aerodynamic push developed over the last two laps that forced him to lose time. His first two laps were 223.485 and 223.530 mph, but the last two tripped the timers at 223.137 and 222.262, dropping the average.
"We didn't have any front grip at the end and I had to fight to keep it out of the wall," Hunter-Reay reported. "It was very important and fulfilling for me to be here and to make my first qualifying attempt at Indianapolis after so many years. I had chills down my back before we started, but then it was just frustration."
There will be another 11 spots available in second-day qualifying tomorrow, but the weather prognosticators are predicting rain all night tonight and all day tomorrow, which could affect on-track action for the fourth time in the last five days.
Should tomorrow's qualifying be rained out, the remainder of the 33-car field will be filled with qualifying on Saturday, May 17, with Bump Day slated for May 18. There is no on-track activity slated for Monday and Tuesday of next week, with cars next scheduled to run on Wednesday of next week. Alex Lloyd (#16 Rahal Letterman Chip Ganassi Dallara/Honda/Firestone) is expected to be back on track next week as well after his crash yesterday.