INDIANAPOLIS - Tom Petty taught us long ago that 'the waiting is the hardest part' but for Rahal Letterman Racing drivers Scott Sharp (#8 Patron Dallara/Honda/Firestone) and Jeff Simmons (#17 Ethanol Dallara/Honda/Firestone) waiting is all they have left after today's Carb Day practice marked the final time they will be in their IndyCar Series machines until the start of Sunday's Indianapolis 500.
Today's final hour of practice gave teams their last opportunity to work on their machines prior to Sunday's 500-mile event and both outfits took advantage, running in humid and warm conditions at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Simmons turned the quickest RLR lap of the day with a best time of 40.5289 seconds (222.064 mph), while Sharp's best effort was a 40.8848-second trip (220.131 mph) around the 2.5-mile oval. Sharp turned 33 laps on the day to 25 for Simmons.
"The car is good. We're just a little off here and there but I am very confident in the car and the team," Simmons said. "We have a very competitive car. We have gotten it more consistent and it is responding to our changes the way we that it should. Now it's something that I can fine-tune with what's available to me in the car and that's what you want."
Sharp's 33 passes around the IMS layout today boosted his total for the month to 290 laps, equaling 725 miles, while Simmons raised his month's lap total to 222 (555 miles).
"I'm pretty pleased with the pace of our race car on our own compared to our T car," Sharp reported. "We'll check our data and see what we need to do in order to make it a little better for the race. I know our guys are going to work hard on it and give me the best car they can for race day."
Sharp put in some extra sprints at the end of the day as well, driving the Patron-sponsored car in the Rally's/Checkers Pit Stop Competition. The side-by-side battle involved a standing start dash into the pit box, where the crew performed a four-tire change, leading to a final sprint to the finish line.
The #8 team advanced to the semifinals of the event, turning an 8.1-second stop to retire the #7 Andretti Green machine of Danica Patrick in the first round and then dropping the #9 Target Chip Ganassi squad of Scott Dixon. The team ended its run in the semis against Team Penske and Helio Castroneves, who went on to win the final.
"Our guys gave it a great run and we were very close to taking the whole thing," said RLR General Manager Scott Roembke. "To be the best, you have to beat the best and our guys gave it their best shot at it and nearly did it."
Sharp will start 12th in Sunday's race, while Simmons grids 13th.
"I think we can run right with the top-10 cars," Simmons said of his race-day chances. "And as long as you are running with the lead pack, you make smart decisions, have good stops and get a little racing luck, you can get a top-five or even win this thing."