JEFF SIMMONS' CAREER-BEST FINISH PACES DOUBLE TOP-10 FOR RLR AT TEXAS DALLAS/FORT WORTH - The Racing Gods finally eased up on Jeff Simmons ( ...
JEFF SIMMONS' CAREER-BEST FINISH PACES DOUBLE TOP-10 FOR RLR AT TEXAS
DALLAS/FORT WORTH - The Racing Gods finally eased up on Jeff Simmons (#17 Ethanol Dallara/Honda/Firestone) in Texas as he used quick pit work from his Rahal Letterman Racing crew and a timely yellow flag to score the best finish of his IndyCar Series career on a sultry Saturday night at Texas Motor Speedway.
Simmons, who has been shuffled back in the field late in the last two races after running in the top-six for most of the day, reversed the trend tonight, leading a double top-10 run for RLR by bringing home a sixth-place finish in the Bombardier Learjet 550.
He brought his Ethanol-sponsored mount home one spot ahead of teammate and race polesitter Scott Sharp (#8 Patron Dallara/Honda/Firestone), who earned his third consecutive top-10 finish with a seventh-place result.
"It was really good work by the Team Ethanol guys in the pits today, they really did the job for us," Simmons said. "I didn't pass too many cars out there but the guys kept us in it with good stops. Maybe it was finally a little good karma after the last couple races where we deserved a lot better than we ended up."
Simmons led four laps during the race - a career-high for him as well - and carded his fourth top-10 finish in the last five events. He found himself in a late-race dogfight with Vitor Meira and Indianapolis 500 winner Dario Franchitti for a berth in the top-five, but settled for the sixth-place run that moved him closer to a berth in the top-10 in the season point standings.
"I have to thank Scott (Sharp) for letting us by in the final stint while trying to give us a little help when we were pushing for a top-five," Simmons said upon recalling the race's final green-flag stint. "I just wish we could have made things a little tougher for the other guys, but we'll take the points and move on."
Things were a little more trying in the Sharp pits where a day of optimism was dashed quickly in the 228-lap event. Trouble in traffic with his Patron-sponsored machine saw him drop to seventh after just 15 laps and fail to lead a lap despite sitting on the pole for the first time in his last 88 starts. Sharp continued to keep touch with the leaders, fighting through the early maladies and trying to stay within hailing distance.
"The first couple of stints were really tough because we got caught in traffic and that made the car slide around a bit and if you lifted, you gave up even more spots," Sharp told. "Our guys kept after it and we did what we could, but it was a difficult problem to solve because more downforce would have helped the car, but downforce takes away speed, and we couldn't afford to give that up."
Sharp ended up dropping a lap to eventual racewinner Sam Hornish Jr., on Lap 197 and Simmons appeared destined to meet the same fate, but a multi-car crash triggered by a problem on the A.J. Foyt IV car allowed him to get to the pits and stay on the lead lap. The move propelled him into the sixth spot when the race restarted on Lap 206, where he would fight over the last few trips around the 1.5-mile speedway before ending up sixth.