RYAN HUNTER-REAY OPENS BELLE ISLE WEEKEND WITH TOP-SIX PERFORMANCE TO LEAD RLR DETROIT - Big-league auto racing returned to Detroit on Friday as the IndyCar Series brought open-wheel racing back to the temporary road course on Detroit's Belle ...
RYAN HUNTER-REAY OPENS BELLE ISLE WEEKEND WITH TOP-SIX PERFORMANCE TO LEAD RLR
DETROIT - Big-league auto racing returned to Detroit on Friday as the IndyCar Series brought open-wheel racing back to the temporary road course on Detroit's Belle Isle, where many of the legends of the sport had competed throughout the 1990s.
Ryan Hunter-Reay (#17 Ethanol Dallara/Honda/Firestone) had only been to Belle Isle's 2.125-mile course once in his racing career, but he wasted no time today in getting up to speed, carding the sixth-best time of the day in his maiden voyage in the Indy Cars.
Hunter-Reay posted a top time of 1:14.6862 (99.777 mph) in the second of today's two practice sessions to finish sixth on the board - a spot that would put him in the Firestone Fast Six if he can duplicate the result in tomorrow's IndyCar Series qualifying session.
"It was another good first day for the Ethanol team," said Hunter-Reay after his afternoon session. "We're sticking to our pattern of being faster every session. This is a fun track. It's a big risk/reward track. You put yourself at risk on a couple of these corners here, but if you don't, you aren't going to be running with the frontrunners."
Today's IndyCar Series driver lineup is littered with drivers that came from Champ Car and had run on Belle Isle in the past, including past race winners on the island course. Scott Sharp (#8 Patron Dallara/Honda/Firestone) is among those, but his 13 years between Belle Isle appearances is far and away the longest of anyone in the paddock. He competed on the course in 1994, and was pleasantly surprised with the track 13 seasons later.
"I like this place a lot," grinned Sharp. "It's bumpy but it's the same for everyone. The bumps make it tough, but it's really fun to push the car here. There are some very fast corners and some places where you really need to be on your game to get through and get through quickly."
Sharp ended his day in the 12th spot on the charts - a position that would be a season-high road-course qualifying spot for the veteran if he can duplicate or improve it tomorrow. He checked in with a best time of 1:15.8556 (98.239 mph), despite the fact that traffic kept him bottled up for much of the final session.
"I had a pretty decent day," he reported. "I never got a clear lap in the second session, so we know we have some in the car that we can work with for tomorrow. I kept getting behind Buddy (Rice), who was working on his car. I would back up and try and give myself some room, but then I would run back up on him, and it never seemed to work out. I look forward to tomorrow and hopefully having a strong qualifying result for the Patron Rahal Letterman Racing team."