IRL: Pikes Peak: Rahal Letterman Racing Track Talk

MEIRA KNOCKING ON THE DOOR FOR HIS FIRST INDYCAR WIN HILLIARD, Ohio -- It was seemingly business as usual for Vitor Meira at Kentucky, another week an another second place finish. Starting seventh at Kentucky Meira worked his way to the front of...

MEIRA KNOCKING ON THE DOOR FOR HIS FIRST INDYCAR WIN

HILLIARD, Ohio -- It was seemingly business as usual for Vitor Meira at Kentucky, another week an another second place finish. Starting seventh at Kentucky Meira worked his way to the front of the field at the Amber Alert Portal Indy 300 and battled eventual race winner Scott Sharp for the victory. Meira saw Sharp take the checkered flag ahead of him by .0779 of a second. It isn't the first time since joining Rahal Letterman Racing that the popular Meira has narrowly missed his first IndyCar Series victory.

Last week Meira made his 40th IRL IndyCar Series start and he is still searching for his first IndyCar series victory.

In his 18th IndyCar Start at Richmond the final five laps were run under yellow preventing the hard charging Meira from mounting a challenge to race winner Dan Wheldon.

In start number 19 at Kansas Meira and Buddy Rice raced side-by-side over the last 20 laps and Rice edged Meira by .0051 the second closest finish in IndyCar Series history.

Meira's 33rd IndyCar start came at Indianapolis where he was charging towards the leader Wheldon when a yellow came out on lap 198 preventing Meira from mounting a last charge at the eventual race winner.

In start 36 at Kansas Meira finds himself third trying to overtake the side-by-side cars of Kanaan and Wheldon. Meira, unable to make a move until the last corner, attempts a desperate move below the white line which earns him the wrath of the race officials, but results in one of the closest 1-2-3 finishes in League history.

In his last 23 IndyCar Series starts, Meira has posted four second place results and been in position to finish second on several other occasions. One of the ongoing questions in the paddock over the last two seasons is when will Meira break through and win. What does Meira need to do to climb to the firs step on the podium?

"I am not frustrated, but I am antsy for my first win," said Meira. "It isn't a question of if we will win that first race, but when. We have come close on several occasions, but the breaks just haven't gone our way. To be honest I can't think of a single thing we can do different, we just have to be patient. We started third at Pikes Peak last year, but our car wasn't as good as what we would have like in the race. Pikes Peak isn't an easy track to run at. With the high altitude the car has less than downforce and it handles differently than at other tracks. I know Honda has been working on ways to get more power in the thin air, so I think we will have all the tools necessary to be successful."

Meira has shown an ability to run strong an any kind of circuit the IRL IndyCar Series runs. He has quietly posted an solid season collecting the top RLR result in nine of the 12 races.

MEIRA JOINS SPECIAL OLYMPICS AS AMBASSADOR

Vitor Meira notched a racing first on Thursday afternoon when he becomes the racecar driver to be named as an Ambassador for Special Olympics at a ceremony in downtown Denver at the headquarters of one of his sponsors, Colorado based Johns Manville.

"It is a great honor to be an ambassador for the Special Olympics," said Meira. "It is very exciting to be the first racing driver to work for Special Olympics and I look forward to assisting the international organization in spreading its message. Helping people in Special Olympics is something I have always wanted to do and this new role gives me a tremendous feeling of satisfaction."

Meira joins a start studded list of Ambassador's for the Special Olympics. He joins fellow supporters such as California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Houston Rockets star Yao Ming, Olympians Bart Conner, Nadia Comaneci and Scott Hamilton, and musical performers Bono, Jo Dee Messina and Jon Bon Jovi.

RICE LOOKS TO BUILD MOMENTUM AT PIKES PEAK

Buddy Rice's challenge for the 2004 IndyCar Championship was dealt a blow with a first lap crash at Pikes Peak last season. A year later Rice comes to Pikes Peak for the Honda Indy 225 hoping to spark a late season run with a strong showing.

Rice snapped a streak of three consecutive DNF's at Kentucky. Handling issues pulled Rice from an early strong run in the top-five at Kentucky to a 14th place finish. It marked only the sixth time in 11 races that Rice had managed to post a running finish.

"Pikes Peak is a nice track and it is a lot of fun to drive," said Rice. "The high altitude does have an effect on the power of the engine, but Honda does a great job of adjusting to the thin air. We have some new things on the car that I think will help make us more competitive. I'd like to see our luck change at Pikes Peak."

A Rice victory at Pikes Peak would move him into a tie with Bobby Rahal and Kenny Brack for the most wins in team history (4).

PATRICK EYES INDYCAR ROOKIE POLE RECORD

Danica Patrick in her quest for the Bombardier Rookie of the Year has captured two pole positions and narrowly missed a third. Entering this week's Honda Indy 225 Patrick is one pole shy of tying Tomas Scheckter's rookie mark for pole positions set in 2002. Patrick won pole positions at Kansas and Kentucky. She narrowly missed a third pole at Motegi when Sam Hornish Jr. edged her by three-hundredth of a second.

"We certainly have gotten the knack of qualifying." said Patrick who has posted six top-five starts in 12 races this season. "I have a lot of confidence that we can set the car up well and qualify up front each week. The biggest challenge for us is to perfect our race craft and I think we have been making strides in that area. The IndyCar Series is the most competitive open-wheel series in the world and it isn't easy to succeed. I am up against some of the best drivers in the world and with the notable exception of a couple of other rookies, I am at a serious disadvantage when it comes to experience.

Patrick became the first female driver in IndyCar Series history to win multiple pole positions when she started from the pole at Kentucky last week.

PATRICK ANXIOUS FOR RETURN TO SHORT OVAL

Early in the 2005 season the biggest learning curve for Danica Patrick was on the short ovals. Patrick finished 15th at Phoenix and qualified 21st at Richmond. Despite posting a season low qualifying effort at Richmond it was there that Patrick began to turn the proverbial corner on the short oval program. Starting next to last, Patrick ran an intelligent and patient race working her way to a top-ten finish. The lessons learned at Richmond carried over to Milwaukee where Patrick qualified sixth and ran in the top-five all day before her day ended prematurely with a accident on lap 127.

"We learned a lot at Richmond during the race and those lessons really helped at Milwaukee," said Patrick. "I have been looking forward to Pikes Peak, because I want to build on what we learned at Milwaukee. My teammates have told me that Honda is by far the best prepared of the engine manufacturers for the high altitude and that gives me a lot of confidence heading into the weekend. I have raced in Colorado a couple of times on the streets of Denver, but this will be my first time at Pikes Peak."

RAHAL LETTERMAN RACING NOTABLES. . .

Vitor Meira has posted the top Rahal Letterman result in nine of the 12 races this season, including the last race at Kentucky. . .The three Rahal Letterman drivers have combined to lead 127 laps this season led by Danica Patrick with 60. RLR cars have led in six of the ten races. . .Rahal Letterman Racing has won at least one race every season since 1998. That seven year streak is the second longest (Newman Haas) such streak in North American open-wheel racing. . ,Patrick is currently the leader in the Bombardier Rookie of the Year competition. Patrick is vying to become the second RLR driver in the team's history to win Rookie of the Year honors. Kenny Brack captured the CART Rookie of the Year honors in 2000. . .Although she is a rookie, Danica Patrick is actually the senior member of the RLR driving trio in terms of starts with the team. Patrick will make her 42nd start this weekend when she takes the green flag at Pikes Peak, while Buddy Rice will make his 28th RLR start and Vitor Meira his 27th start. Bobby Rahal is the career leader in starts for RLR with 116 starts. . .Buddy Rice needs one win to move into a tie for the all time leader in RLR wins. Bobby Rahal won four times during his championship season of 1992 and Kenny Brack won four times during his 2001 season in which he finished as the runner up. . .After twelve rounds of the 2005 season Vitor Meira (297 points) leads his teammates Danica Patrick (235 points) and Buddy Rice (189 points) in the Hilliard, Ohio Mayor's Cup Standings.

-rlr-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Scott Sharp , Bobby Rahal , Kenny Brack , Dan Wheldon , Buddy Rice , Sam Hornish Jr. , Danica Patrick , Vitor Meira