IRL: Motegi: Rahal Letterman Racing Thursday report

PATRICK LEADS RLR TRIO ON SOGGY FIRST DAY AT TWIN RING MOTEGI MOTEGI, Japan - Steady seasonal showers dominated the headlines on the first day of practice for the Japan Indy 300 at Twin Ring Motegi in Japan. Showers began early on Thursday...

PATRICK LEADS RLR TRIO ON SOGGY FIRST DAY AT TWIN RING MOTEGI

MOTEGI, Japan - Steady seasonal showers dominated the headlines on the first day of practice for the Japan Indy 300 at Twin Ring Motegi in Japan. Showers began early on Thursday morning and didn't cease until early in the afternoon.

The rain scrapped the morning practice session and the bonus rookie session. It wasn't until early afternoon that the cloud cleared and the track was dried. Finally just after 3:00 pm local time Jeff Simmons took the track in the No. 17 RLR Team Ethanol Honda/Panoz and the entire IndyCar Series field followed closely.

Danica Patrick was the quickest of the RLR trio, posting the eighth fastest lap in the No. 16 Argent Mortgage Honda/Panoz. Patrick nearly captured the pole position at Motegi in 2005 starting second and leading 32 laps en route to a fourth place finish.

"The Argent Mortgage/Honda ended up being fairly comfortable, but it was a bit of a handful early in the session. We were able to make a couple of changes on the fly and the car was a little bit more secure in the rear on the last few runs. Once we stabilized the car then it was a case of seeing how far you can trim the car out for qualifying. It is going to be close and competitive in qualifying for the race. Last year I lost the pole position by a few hundredths of a second. You can't afford to leave anything on the track."

Buddy Rice finished the day tenth overall in the No. 15 Argent Mortgage Honda Panoz. Rice was hampered by a lengthy yellow flag during his practice session when Sam Hornish Jr. clipped the wall.

"It was a shortened session and just one session at that," said Buddy Rice. "I really don't put much into this as an indicator of what is ahead. We still have time left on this session and it is extremely close. With Sam and Helio stacked on top of each other it doesn't take much to jump up the charts."

Rookie Jeff Simmons made his Rahal Letterman Racing debut pacing the rookie practice session and

finishing 14th overall on his first day of the Japan Indy 300. "It took a little bit longer than I thought it would to get settled down and get comfortable with the speed," said Jeff Simmons. "I was really feeling pretty comfortable at the end. We lost some time in the session because I missed a gear and damaged the gearbox, but overall I was pretty happy with how the session went. I feel comfortable and the car is getting better and I am getting up to speed. It was important for me as a driver to log some time before we go into qualifying. It was really frustration sitting around all day and wondering if we were going to get a chance to run with all of the rain. All the other drivers have quite of bit more experience than I have this season thanks to testing and a pair of races. I just wanted a chance to get a bit of an assessment so I would have something to think about tonight."

Helio Castronves paced the IndyCar Series field at 201.1937 mph. Tony Kanaan was second quick at 220.088 mph.

Practice and qualifying will resume on Friday ah the Twin Ring Motegi.

-rlr-

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Buddy Rice , Jeff Simmons , Sam Hornish Jr. , Danica Patrick