RICE PACES RLR QUALIFYING EFFORTS AT TEXAS ROANOKE, Texas -- The good news is the new Rahal Letterman Racing new Dallara chassis provided the stability and downforce that the team anticipated in their first outing. The bad...
RICE PACES RLR QUALIFYING EFFORTS AT TEXAS
ROANOKE, Texas -- The good news is the new Rahal Letterman Racing new Dallara chassis provided the stability and downforce that the team anticipated in their first outing. The bad news was the team had only two abbreviated sessions before qualifying to work out the bugs and the prepare the car. The result was three RLR drivers outside the top-ten in qualifying, but all three sounding optimistic that more time with the chassis would produce results.
Buddy Rice paced the RLR efforts with a fast lap of 211.163 mph which was good for 14th overall in the No. 15 Argent Mortgage Honda/Dallara/Firestone.
"Coming here with new cars isn't the most ideal situation," said Rice. "But we had to do what we thought was best. Bob (Rahal) and Dave (Letterman) did what they thought was right for the team to go faster. They bit the bullet and spent the money to get us new Dallara chassis for this race. We think we can get a car for the race that will be competitive. This track isn't one that is demanding on a precise setup. There is a lot of draft and positioning yourself for the end. I think we can learn a little more on Friday and dial the cars in for Saturday night. I always get 'amped' up for night racing and this place is very exciting for everyone -- the drivers, the crews and the fans. The engineering staff with our team is excellent and I think we'll get the No. 15 Argent Honda ready to go racing on Saturday night. Sure, we need some more test and, after Richmond and Kansas, we'll have more information to work with towards the end of the year. Rahal Letterman has run Dallara before and we got help from the Dallara factory and the Honda personnel So I think we'll get the cars right back up front with the leaders."
Danica Patrick was 15th quick at 210.981 mph in the No. 16 Argent Mortgage Honda/Dallara/Firestone.
"I have never driven anything in IndyCar but a Panoz, so today was a learning experience," said Patrick. "The problem we always had with a Panoz was a lack of grip. That isn't the case now. The Dallara has too much grip so we have to find ways of freeing the car up and getting it to go faster. If we wanted to qualify up front every time we would have stuck with the Panoz chassis. This change is about the how the car performs in races and I think the Dallara will be a better race car than the Panoz. Today is the first time we have run the Dallara. We are behind the other teams who have been testing this chassis during the off-season and running it all year. The crews did a fantastic job getting these cars ready, but our work is just beginning."
Jeff Simmons will start 16th after posting a fast lap of 210.445 mph.
"Considering the first time the new Dallara cars run was this afternoon, I think we had a solid run," said Simmons. "We knew that we couldn't come here to Texas and run for the front of the field. The other teams have been running Dallara's all year. Now we come and try to test and race at the same. Obviously that is very difficult. But the cars ran in all of the practices and qualifying and we had no problems. That is amazing considering that the Rahal Letterman guys were getting cars ready for Indy and Watkins Glen and building these Dallara's. They have been working hours and hours on both types of cars, the Panoz and the Dallara. We ran trouble free so that is great testament to the crew and the team. I have never driven an Indy car here at Texas before so I don't know how the Panoz chassis felt here. But the Dallara feels solid and I think we can improve the cars for the race. We'll have two practice sessions on Friday to get ready."
Sam Hornish Jr. captured the pole positions with a fast lap of 213.624 mph edging Dan Wheldon for top honors. Helio Castoneves was third and Scott Dixon was fourth.
Practice will resume tomorrow with Bombardier Learjet 500 scheduled for Saturday night at 8:00 pm Eastern on ESPN.