IRL: Indy 500: Rahal Letterman Racing day 11 notes

RLR BUSY ON FAST FRIDAY AT INDY Simmons late incident slows Rahal Letterman Racing effort in qualifying prep SPEEDWAY, Ind. -- The busiest day of the month thus far at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway saw more than 2,300 laps turned by 34 ...

RLR BUSY ON FAST FRIDAY AT INDY
Simmons late incident slows Rahal Letterman Racing effort in qualifying prep

SPEEDWAY, Ind. -- The busiest day of the month thus far at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway saw more than 2,300 laps turned by 34 drivers Friday as preparations took place for Saturday's Pole Day.

The trio of Buddy Rice (with 117 laps), Danica Patrick (100 laps) and Jeff Simmons (81 laps) kept the Rahal Letterman Racing contingent on the fame Brickyard racing surface for much of the day. When the final checkered flag was thrown the three drivers were pleased with their cars as they worked on race setups.

The Friday practice was shortened for the team when Simmons struck the turn one wall in the No. 17 Team Ethanol Honda Panoz Firestone car as the 29-year-old Granby, Conn., driver was make a simulated qualifying run.

Simmons had turned the seventh fastest speed of the day at 225.287 m.p.h. when he lost control of his mount and it slammed into the outside barrier in turn one. Simmons jumped out his car uninjured, but the racecar was not as fortunate. Jeff was cleared by Speedway doctors and hopes to return to action Saturday when qualifying begins at noon.

"I'm okay, just upset," said Simmons, who will attempt to race in his second Indy 500. "We were trying to do a qualifying run and the car felt okay. Then I got caught up in a draft and I probably should have aborted the run. But I drove it into the corner and gained a lot more speed that time and the car couldn't handle it. I just couldn't save it. It is unfortunate because we did a lot of good work with the race setup. I was able to run some consistent times in the race setup and it felt good. We ran in some traffic and the car handled well. We have a backup car but I have to check and see if we can bring it out for qualifying. This was the same car that I clipped the inside wall with last week. We'll have to see what the weekend holds now for Team Ethanol."

Danica Patrick, the 2005 Indy 500 Rookie of the Year, clocked in a best speed of 223.601 for the 14th quickest of the day in the No. 16 Argent Mortgage Honda Panoz.

"This was by far our most productive day," said Patrick. "It was really important for us to get some track time. This is why I was so happy when qualifying was rained out last week. Just when I thought we were going to have a day without rain, we had some sprinkles. That is ok because we made a lot of improvements today. I can't help but wonder now what the car would be like if we would have had more track time. That is alright because everybody has been dealt the same hand."

Buddy Rice was very active on the two and a half mile oval that in dominated in 2004 as he worked strictly on race settings with his No. 15 Argent Honda Panoz. Early in the day he jumped to the top three on the charts at 223.536 m.p.h. His speed was 15th fastest at the end of the day.

"It was pretty good day for the No. 15 Argent Honda team," said Rice. "We were able to run a lot of laps in race conditions. I ran with Dario (Franchitti) and Bryan (Herta) for many laps. This was the longest we have run in one day in over a week. So it was very productive. Now we'll have to switch the car back to qualifying trim and see what we can do. I think we have a good shot at the first three rows on Saturday. But, to be honest, we have really worked on race setup. The race setup is so much different in our cars than from qualifying. But I feel confident about the race now."

All of the 33-car field could be qualified on Saturday with Sunday set as Bump Day. Right now there are 35 driver/car combinations to go for the 33 starting spots.

-Rahal Letterman Racing

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Buddy Rice , Jeff Simmons , Danica Patrick