TOUGH NIGHT IN TEXAS FOR RLR TRIO PATRICK BRINGS HOME THE ARGENT HONDA/DALLARA IN 12th ROANOKE, Texas -- The Dallara era has officially begun for Rahal Letterman Racing and the team fought ill luck and the learning curve at the Texas Motor ...
TOUGH NIGHT IN TEXAS FOR RLR TRIO
PATRICK BRINGS HOME THE ARGENT HONDA/DALLARA IN 12th
ROANOKE, Texas -- The Dallara era has officially begun for Rahal Letterman Racing and the team fought ill luck and the learning curve at the Texas Motor Speedway. Danica Patrick was RLR's top finisher in Saturday nights Bombardier Learjet 500 bringing home the Argent Mortgage Honda/Dallara/Firestone in 12th. Rookie Jeff Simmons posted his best IndyCar Series finish at 15th while 2004 Indy champ Buddy Rice saw his day end early due to a mechanical failure on lap 71.
Patrick started 14th, but finished 12th after a steady run in the new Dallara. Patrick's result snapped a streak of four consecutive top-eight results for the 2005 Rookie of the Year.
"It was our first time in the Dallara and while it looks like a tough night based on where I finished, I was pretty happy because we did finish," said Patrick. "We started in the back and I didn't have awesome starts or restarts. I was a little bit cautious on the restarts because I wasn't sure how the car would handle in traffic. If you don't get going with the group it can be tough to make up ground. People were spreading out and just like last year that wasn't a lot of yellows which helped stagger the field. We had a little bit of understeer in the first stint but we made an adjustment and then I was pretty solid in the Argent Mortgage Honda for the rest of the race. I was able to run the low line and the high line, which proved to be a good thing because I think my "friends" couldn't run the high line like I could so I just ran the bottom. I raced hard today. I really had to work hard for every spot I got. I had to pass Dario [Franchitti] every single time I stopped, which isn't the easiest thing in the world, but we made it work and we brought the car home in one piece and we earned some points."
Jeff Simmons posted his best IndyCar Series result bringing home the No. 17 Team Ethanol Honda/Dallara/Firestone in 15th. For Simmons is was his first running finish in four races since joining RLR at Motegi.
"I am still at a loss for how we got a lap down on first yellow flag," said Simmons. "I was coming out of the pits under yellow and (Dan) Wheldon passed me on the back straight. Then the green flag comes out and I am a lap down. I don't know how that can happen. We had a good handling car and we are happy to bring it home for Team Ethanol. We have had some bad luck in the past few races and we didn't get really lucky tonight either, but the crew did a great job on the pit stops and the car was good. I think we could run with a lot of guys expect the first four. Overall, I think we learned quite a bit with the Dallara. Considering how the team thrashed to get the cars together I can see that we will make some progress with these cars."
Buddy Rice suffered his third DNF of the season and his second in the last three races. Rice has a pair of top-five results to his credit and three DNF's this season. Rice has suffered four straight DNF's at Texas.
"I just can't believe to the luck I have at this place," said Rice. "I need to talk to Eddie Gossage (track president) about the way this place treats me. We made the switch to Dallara and we have just a basic setup on it right now. We haven't add the speed bits that some of the other teams have. But I was taking it easy and not trying to be too aggressive in the first stint. Our tires looked good after the pit stop and I was ready to lean on the car. I got a good restart and the car felt good. But then something must have let go and it is a tough break. We need the laps in the Dallara to learn and we'll test at Kansas this Tuesday. That should help us. I thought the car was coming around for us and that we could be more competitive. I don't think we could run with the front four but I could see the car improving."
Penske Racing's Helio Castroneves, the points leader, won his third race of the season edging Scott Dixon and Dan Wheldon for the win.
The IRL IndyCar Series will have a week off before returning to the track at Richmond International Raceway for the SunTrust Indy Challenge (June 23 - 24).
-Rahal Letterman Racing