JEFF SIMMONS SCORES SECOND STRAIGHT TOP-10 FINISH TO LEAD RLR AT KANSAS KANSAS CITY A promising race day for Rahal Letterman Racing at Kansas Speedway ended up wilting in the springtime sun, but Jeff Simmons ( ...
JEFF SIMMONS SCORES SECOND STRAIGHT TOP-10 FINISH TO LEAD RLR AT KANSAS
KANSAS CITY A promising race day for Rahal Letterman Racing at Kansas Speedway ended up wilting in the springtime sun, but Jeff Simmons (#17 Ethanol Dallara/Honda/ Firestone) showed his and the team's grit and determination in finishing 10th in today's IndyCar Series Kansas Lottery Indy 300.
Simmons fought wheel-to-wheel with A.J. Foyt IV over the final 10 laps only to come up agonizingly short, settling for a tenth-place finish on the 1.5-mile oval on a sunny Kansas Sunday. The result was the second consecutive top-10 run for Simmons this year and moved his up three spots in the IndyCar Series point standings.
"I think we got everything we could out of the car and probably got more out of it than we should have," told Simmons. "There were cars out there that were faster than us but the crew did a great job keeping us in good track position. We've got to keep working on finding speed and stability. Hopefully the Ethanol fans that came out and supported us this weekend were pleased with our effort."
Meanwhile Scott Sharp (#8 Patron Dallara/Honda/Firestone) ended up 13th after a crash with three laps to go, ending a promising run that had seen him running as high as sixth halfway through the race. Sharp's Patron squad ran solidly in the top eight all day until the final pit stop when the tires didn't agree with the car, sending Sharp back toward the pack. He was battling Darren Manning for 11th when the car snapped around in between Turns Three and Four, sending him into the wall. He was uninjured and was released immediately from the infield care center at Kansas Speedway.
"The Patron car was pretty good for the first half of the race but that last set of tires just didn't work for us," Sharp recalled. "I don't know what happened with it but we couldn't get any speed at all out of it. After the final stop, the car had a lot of slide in the corners and we fought the back of the car for the whole run, but we thought we could bring it home. It just snapped on me in between turns three and four and that was that."
The RLR cars were fast early on as Sharp moved up from 14th on the grid immediately, making his way into the top 10 after just 46 laps while Simmons followed, coming from 16th to 11th in the same time frame. Fast work by the two Rahal Letterman Racing pit crew helped the duo move up to seventh and eighth respectively, where they ran for most of the next 50 laps. It was during this stint that Sharp brilliantly fought off the advances of eventual fourth-place finisher Scott Dixon during this time, refusing to let Dixon lap him, battling hard and forcing Dixon to try the high side unsuccessfully lap after lap.
Ed Carpenter's crash promoted Sharp and Simmons to sixth and seventh on Lap 109 and the two were solidly seventh and eighth leading into the last fuel stops with 46 laps to go. Simmons pitted one lap earlier and ended up ahead of Sharp when the stops cycled through and while Simmons fought with Foyt, Sharp found himself with his hands full, unable to gain any ground.
"I think A.J. had a quicker car than we did at the end but I didn't want to give that spot us because we worked so hard all day to get up there," Simmons said. "We did everything we could and I thought we were ahead when the yellow came out at the end, but it looks like the scorers didn't see it that way." Ganassi Racing's Dan Wheldon dominated the event, leading 177 of 200 laps on his way to his second win of the sea- son. Dario Franchitti and Helio Castroneves rounded out the podium. After four races, Sharp is 10th in points with 82, while Simmons is 11th with 73.
RLR and the rest of the IndyCar Series will now head to the historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the month of May, which culminates in the 91st running of the Indianapolis 500, a race RLR won in 2004 with Buddy Rice.
Next: Indianapolis 500, May 27, 2007