IRL: Indy 500: A1 Team USA/DRR race report

A1 TEAM USA runs solidly in Indianapolis 500 Rice races in top-10 before being knocked out INDIANAPOLIS--Buddy Rice's A1 TEAM USA/A1GP entry ran in the top 10 in three different segments in the 91st running of the Indianapolis 500 before ...

A1 TEAM USA runs solidly in Indianapolis 500
Rice races in top-10 before being knocked out

INDIANAPOLIS--Buddy Rice's A1 TEAM USA/A1GP entry ran in the top 10 in three different segments in the 91st running of the Indianapolis 500 before contact from behind knocked him out Sunday.

Rice was in 13th place on the 163rd lap and it proved to be unlucky for him. Marco Andretti and Dan Wheldon were a couple hundred yards ahead of Rice when they touched wheels.

"I saw Marco get up in the air and I had to slow way down and avoid the crash," Rice said. "But then someone just punted me from behind. I just couldn't do anything about it. I guess some of the guys behind me didn't see the crash. It is a shame because after the last pit stop the car felt really good. I was moving well and looking to make some passes. I feel we had a top-10 finish in the A1 TEAM USA Honda."

The race ended under the caution brought out by the Andretti/Wheldon incident when it rained three laps later, 34 short of the scheduled 200-lap distance..

Rice would have finished 11th if he hadn't been eliminated. Taking the what-if a step farther, a top-10 was very possible for the A1 TEAM USA/A1GP car if Rice had escaped the accident and the race had gone back to green.

Instead, Rice finished 25th, a poisition that doesn't come close to matching the competitiveness of the A1 TEAM USA/A1GP car.

"It was a very disappointing finish," A1 TEAM USA owner Rick Weidinger said. "We ran pretty well until we were involved in the Andretti/Wheldon wreck. If we'd missed it and and raced more, we were looking at a top-10, maybe eighth or seventh."

Rice started from the inside of the sixth row, 16th in the 33-car field, and drove steadily through two pit stops under caution. With almost every car also taking the opportunity to pit, Rice maintained 16th through the 53rd lap.

When the third caution of the race came out on lap 52, Rice stayed out and, with most of the cars pitting, jumped to third. Rice was only 12 laps, less than halfway, through a fuel run and the Dreyer & Reinbold team had decided to try an alternative strategy to gain track position.

Rice's No. 15 Dallara-Honda had the speed to run at the front. He was seventh before pitting on lap 69, under caution, with about half the field.

Rice restarted 19th and, with a full fuel load and heavy traffic ahead, drove patiently for 10 laps before starting to climb. Rice went from 22nd on lap 82 to ninth on lap 95 before making a pit stop under green.

Three laps later, John Andretti crashed, bringing out the caution.

"We had a little bit of bad luck before the rain delay," Rice said. "We pitted on the green light right before John Andretti's crash. Had we been able to pit under that yellow flag, we would have had a car toward the top-five then. We were right behind Vitor Meira prior to the crash and he came out fourth."

Only two full green-flag laps were run before the red flag for rain with 113 laps complete. Rice was 16th and on the lead lap during the nearly three-hour delay.

Following the restart, the A1 TEAM USA/A1GP car moved up to 10th on lap 115 and was 13th before making a green-flag pit stop on lap 133. With a group of cars on a differerent pit-sequence cycle, Rice fell to 18th, but moved up to 13th prior to his final stop under caution on lap 155.

Rice emerged in 14th and gained a spot on the lap 157 restart. After that, the race had only one full green flag lap until the rain ended it.

"Overall, we had a good month," Weidinger said. "We enjoyed our association with Dreyer and Reinbold Racing for the second straight year and our first 500 with Buddy. We had a better finish taken from us, but we're still proud to have represented A1 TEAM USA and A1GP in this great race and largest attended sporting event in the world."

-credit: atusa

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Series INDYCAR