PATRICK CLAIMS SIXTH AT ST PETE WHILE RICE FINDS LATE RACE FRUSTRATION ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - While Rahal Letterman Racing's Danica Patrick claimed a sixth place finish, her best ever result in an IndyCar on a street or road course, her ...
PATRICK CLAIMS SIXTH AT ST PETE WHILE RICE FINDS LATE RACE FRUSTRATION
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - While Rahal Letterman Racing's Danica Patrick claimed a sixth place finish, her best ever result in an IndyCar on a street or road course, her teammate Buddy Rice was left to wonder what could have been. Rice ran a brilliant race and appeared to be headed for a top-four finish when he was involved in a late race accident with Vision Racing's Tomas Scheckter. Rice finished 13th overall after the crash with less than four laps remaining.
Patrick ran a solid and steady race in the No. 16 Argent Mortgage Honda/Panoz. She started 14th and maximized her fuel mileage and pit strategy to move through the field to collect her highest non-oval IndyCar Series result.
"We gambled on a two pit strategy and the key for us today was our fuel mileage," said Patrick. "We had to make sure that we got good fuel mileage. We ran pretty conservatively the first half to three-quarters of the race. We really made sure that we were getting good mileage, especially under the yellows, and that enabled us to do the race in two stops. It made all the difference. I said it earlier to the Argent group, our team is pretty good when it comes to strategy and that was something they should watch for today. The experience we have gained over the last year really helped today. I really had a feel for when I could push the Argent Honda and when I needed to be patient and not make mistakes. We just need to build on this momentum. It was really important for us to place well since we didn't run last week. It doesn't matter if it was a DNF or a withdraw last week, we just had to score points in St. Pete. With 14 races on the schedule anytime you don't finish the race it is going to loom large."
Rice suffered a costly DNF when contact with Scheckter left his car unable to continue.. Rice ran in the top-five most of the day and led eight laps when he went out of sequence with the other front running cars. Rice's pit gamble nearly paid off, but he was caught behind the slower car of Sam Hornish Jr. and lost valuable track position and time.
"We went with a different strategy than the others leaders, but it almost worked well for us late in the race.," said Rice. "We saved fuel in the middle of the race and we could go all out in the last ten laps. Unfortunately, (Sam) Hornish ran out in front of us with old tires and he was about two seconds a lap off what the leaders were running. That really hurt our chances to race at the end. I was able to get by Bryan (Herta) and then Kosuke (Matsuura) with the same wear on our tires. (Tomas) Scheckter's team tried to stretch their tires a lot longer and he was all over the place. He was just too slow, like Hornish was with old tires. I thought I had a good run on Hornish and I moved to the inside. I moved over twice and he just kept coming. Then we tangled. I was further back on Herta twice in that corner and he gave me room for the pass. I guess Scheckter wasn't going to let me by at any cost. It is a shame because it cost us both top-five positions."
Both RLR drivers were making their season debut after having withdrawn from the Homestead race following the fatal accident involving RLR's Paul Dana.