IRL: Kansas: Rahal Letterman Racing preview

RAHAL LETTERMAN RACING DUO LOOK TO CARRY MOTEGI MOMENTUM TO KANSAS HILLIARD, Ohio - Coming off its best week of the 2007 IndyCar Series season, Rahal Letterman Racing will head to friendly confines as drivers Scott Sharp ( ...

RAHAL LETTERMAN RACING DUO LOOK TO CARRY MOTEGI MOMENTUM TO KANSAS

HILLIARD, Ohio - Coming off its best week of the 2007 IndyCar Series season, Rahal Letterman Racing will head to friendly confines as drivers Scott Sharp (#8 Patron Dallara/ Honda/Firestone) and Jeff Simmons (#17 Ethanol Dallara/Honda/Firestone) look to maintain the momentum earned in last week's event at Twin Ring Motegi.

Both Sharp and Simmons posted season-best finishes at Motegi, Sharp earning his IndyCar Seriesrecord 73rd career top-10 finish with a sixth-place run while Simmons came home in eighth. The results moved Sharp into eighth place in the season standings while Simmons climbed into a tie for 14th, but is just six points out of a berth in the top 10.

RLR has reason for optimism heading into this weekend's visit to Kansas Speedway as the 1.5-mile tri-oval has been the site of some of the team's best IndyCar outings. The team scored its only 1-2 IndyCar finish in 2004 when Buddy Rice won from pole while Vitor Meira finished second. In 2005 the team recorded one of two 1-2-3 starts in IndyCar Series history when Rice, Meira and Danica Patrick swept the top-three spots in qualifying.

Sharp has five previous starts on the Kansas circuit with a pair of sixth-place finishes standing as his best results and is looking forward to bettering that mark this weekend.

"I'm excited to go to Kansas with the Patron Rahal-Letterman Team this weekend," Sharp said. "Kansas is a mix of being a track that offers our Indy Cars some great side-by-side racing but is still a track that places a large emphasis on the grip and handling of the car. It's one thing to be wide open and fast at Kansas on your own in qualifying and quite another in a pack of cars in the race! This will be the first track we've gone to this season where RLR has run the Dallara chassis last season. So, I'm hopeful having some setup knowledge will give us an added step towards the front. The Team did a great job last weekend and I expect Kansas to be another step forward for us!!!"

Simmons has made two of his 17 career IndyCar starts at Kansas and scored his first series top-10 finish there a year ago, making up seven spots from his starting position to finish 10th. He competed in Kansas in 2004 in what was just his second IndyCar start, finishing 19th after a late-race incident with Kosuke Matsuura.

"I'm really looking forward to Kansas. We are coming off a decent run in Japan where we learned a lot about the car so everyone at Team Ethanol and Rahal Letterman Racing has high expectations. Kansas is the first track this season where we have previous experience with the Dallara so that should help us. I can't say enough what a great job my crew did in Japan and I want to reward them for their hard work with our first top-five at Kansas.

SIMMONS HEADS TO ETHANOL COUNTRY

The debut of the IndyCar Series running on100-percent fuel grade Ethanol has been national news from the first laps of the season. ABC World News Tonight featured the IndyCar Series and RLR's Jeff Simmons in April while business and science media have been following the exploits of RLR and the Indy- Car Series and the new ethanol partnership with rapt attention. Simmons gave the public a first-hand look at the benefits of Ethanol earlier in the week when he was the host of a Pump Tour where fans could come out and get their own vehicles filled with Ethanol at $2.14/ gallon (last year's pole speed at the Kansas event was 214 mph) while meeting the racing star and seeing his 675- horsepower Indy Car.

"I am truly looking forward to getting to the Heartland and showing the corn producers exactly what we can do with Ethanol," said Simmons. "Kansas is a big race for me and for Ethanol, and allows us to build momentum for making the Ethanol story even bigger when we get to Indianapolis. The national stage that Indy commands will just highlight Ethanol and the Indy 500 all the more and should generate a sizable amount of media coverage for the IndyCar Series and Ethanol."

CLUB PATRON DRAWING ATTENTION

The Patron Tequila car is drawing attention on the track for its visually striking and effective paint scheme and off the track Patron is creating a stir with its equally alluring Club Patron.

Unlike any other hospitality or sponsor area at IndyCar Series events, Club Patron is a two-level, fullycontained mobile event venue, all of which disassembles into pods and travels inside a specially-designed semi trailer. The club-atmosphere venue is open to invited guests before, during, or after the race, offering a relaxed place to unwind and visit, listen to music, and enjoy ultra-premium Patron tequila or Pyrat rum cocktails. The spacious club is fully staffed with bartenders and features TV screens simulcasting the race, while a circular stairway leading to a second floor observation deck.

"We could have put up some poles and a tent for our hospitality area, but quite simply, that wouldn't be Patron. The world's highest-quality tequila deserves the best, most comfortable venue we could build," says Ed Brown, president and CEO of the Las Vegas-based Patron Spirits Company. "Of course Club Patron is more than just a relaxing place to enjoy our products, we built this unique venue to help celebrate our sponsorship of Scott Sharp and the Rahal Letterman team, and the excitement of IndyCar racing."

Rahal Letterman Racing Notes:

Scott Sharp became the twenty-second different driver to pilot a RLR car since the team was founded in 1992. Sharp becomes the eighth driver to pilot an RLR IRL Indy- Car Series entry. Buddy Rice is the career leader in IndyCar Series starts for RLR with 45. . .When he takes the green flag Sunday at Kansas, Simmons will make his 18th IndyCar Series start. Sharp will make his 133rd IndyCar Series start, the most in league history. Sharp expects to make his 125th consecutive start which is also a IndyCar Series record. . . The team scored just the second 1-2-3 qualifying sweep in series history in 2005 at Kansas when Danica Patrick, Buddy Rice and Vitor Meira took the first three grid spots...The last time an RLR driver led an IndyCar Series event was Jeff Simmons at Milwaukee (7/23). . .The last time an RLR driver won the pole position was Danica Patrick at Chicagoland Speedway in 2005. . RLR's last win came at Michigan August 1, 2004 (Buddy Rice). The team's current winless streak stands at 39 races. . .Rahal Letterman Racing has won 19 races and 29 pole positions since its inception in 1992 as Rahal Hogan Racing. . .Of Rahal Letterman Racing's 19 wins only one has come on a street course, Bobby Rahal's win at Toronto in 1992. . .Of Rahal Letterman Racing's 29 pole positions, four have come on street circuits, the most recent being Michel Jourdain Jr.'s 2003 pole at Long Beach. Three of the four RLR street course pole positions have come at Long Beach. . .In 62 IndyCar Series races RLR has captured nine pole positions, won three times, collected 14 podium results (top-three) and 30 top-five finishes while leading 668 laps.

-credit: rlr

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Scott Sharp , Bobby Rahal , Buddy Rice , Kosuke Matsuura , Jeff Simmons , Ed Brown , Danica Patrick , Michel Jourdain , Vitor Meira