Rahal Letterman Racing Aims To Improve on 2007 Season Start at Twin Ring Motegi - A Track of "Firsts" for RLR Drivers
HILLIARD, Ohio ... In 2003, the IndyCar Series made its debut at Twin Ring Motegi, one of the premier oval tracks in the world. Scott Sharp won the inaugural Indy Japan 300, which was the first IndyCar Series event held overseas. In 2006, Jeff Simmons made his inaugural Racing IndyCar Series start for Rahal Letterman Racing at Motegi. Now as teammates in 2007, they hope that together they can find success in this weekend's Bridgestone Indy 300, after two frustrating races to begin the season.
Scott Sharp, driver of the No.8 Patron Tequila Honda/Dallara/Firestone, enters Motegi with 131 career IndyCar starts, including 123 in a row both Indy Racing League records.
In addition to his win the inaugural IRL event at Motegi, Sharp drove to runner-up honors in 2005 behind Dan Wheldon. Sharp hopes his success in Japan continues this year after last year being involved in an incident with now-teammate Jeff Simmons on the front straightaway that eliminated both drivers. He is optimistic about his and the team's chances in Japan.
"Hopefully we'll be more competitive at Motegi," said Sharp. "I am excited about the energy on the Patron Tequila Rahal Letterman Racing squad. Motegi is one of my favorite tracks and this year I get to work with Jeff Britton again as my Race Engineer so that also helps my confidence. Obviously, we are on a learning curve with the Dallara [chassis], but we qualified well at Homestead and we weren't quite where we wanted to be during the race. In St. Petersburg we made progress as a team and with the car. I just wish we could hit `rewind' and run that race again. I love racing in Japan great fans and great culture I've had success there in the past and hope that this year we can do well once again. I think we are well prepared for success going into the weekend."
Jeff Simmons, driver of the No.17 Team Ethanol Honda/ Dallara/Firestone
"Obviously, we're looking to turn around the start to our season this year, which hasn't gotten off the way we wanted it to," Simmons said. "Certainly, in the time that we had last year at Motegi, a lot of our practice was rained out. But for the time that we had, I enjoyed the track. I'm looking forward to getting back there, and hopefully, we'll find a good setup and be able to be competitive," said Simmons. "The passion and hospitality of the Japanese fans make it such a pleasure to race in Japan. I've always had an interest in the Japanese culture, so I am excited to go back. Team Ethanol is looking for a good solid run at Motegi. That will set us up well going into Kansas the following weekend and give us momentum heading into the month of May. We're not off to the start that we wanted, but we know that we can turn that around. We are now getting back to tracks that I have run an IndyCar on before, and soon we'll be at tracks where we have used the Dallara. That familiarity should make it a little easier to get the setup we need, but of course, the competition will be as tough as ever."
Rahal Letterman Racing - Track Talk: Bridgestone Indy Japan Rahal Letterman Racing
This marks Rahal Letterman Racing's 10th time racing at Twin Ring Motegi since the track hosted its inaugural event in 1998. RLR has raced in every open-wheel event contested at Motegi. The team's best result was a first-place finish in 2001, with Kenny Brack behind the wheel. Of Rahal Letterman Racing's 19 wins, 18 have come on ovals. The last win for RLR was with Buddy Rice at historic Michigan International Speedway in July, 2004. No RLR driver has ever won the pole at Motegi, however, Kenny Brack in 2000 and Danica Patrick in 2005 both started for the outside of the front row. RLR has won 19 races and 29 pole positions since its inception in 1992. Kenny Brack and Bryan Herta are the career leaders in pole positions with six, and Bobby Rahal and Kenny Brack are the co-leaders in wins with four. Of RLR's 29 pole positions, 25 have come on ovals, the most recent being Danica Patrick's at Chicagoland Speedway in 2005.