IRL: Texas: Rahal Letterman Racing Saturday report

RLR trio goes through final prep for IndyCar race at Texas ROANOKE, Texas -- Rahal Letterman Racing's driver trio of Buddy Rice, Danica Patrick and Jeff Simmons went through their final preparations for Saturday's Bombardier...

RLR trio goes through final prep for IndyCar race at Texas

ROANOKE, Texas -- Rahal Letterman Racing's driver trio of Buddy Rice, Danica Patrick and Jeff Simmons went through their final preparations for Saturday's Bombardier Learjet 500 at the Texas Motor Speedway. With the starting grid based on last night's qualifying, RLR was able to get two abbreviated sessions on track in their new Dallara chassis.

Buddy Rice paced the trio with a fast lap of 212.858 mph in the evening session. Rice, the race lap record holder at TMS, will make his sixth start at Texas tomorrow night.

"The Dallara is better for us right now in race trim," said Rice. "We are still collecting data and parts to make the car faster. The car was sliding around a lot with the hot temperatures. It was 135 degrees on the track surface this afternoon. Obviously that is extremely hot. It won't be that bad on Saturday night and I think we'll be able to stay in the draft if the No. 15 Argent Honda is balanced. You really have to have respect at a track like Texas. It is like a restrictor plate race in NASCAR. You run in packs and you run inches apart at 220 miles per hour. The pressure is greater at a track like Texas for the drivers, because if you make a mistake you can take out a lot of cars and you have a huge crash. Still I do like racing under the lights. I think that goes back to my karting days in Phoenix when you had to race at night. I think the cars look very fast and the overall event is so much more exciting. It is one of my favorite things to do in racing, driving under the lights."

Danica Patrick was tenth quick with a fast lap of 212.635 mph. Patrick will start 15th Saturday in her second start at TMS.

"I wish I could say the car was perfect today, but now we have some wicked oversteer," said Patrick. "It is actually good news that the Argent Mortgage Honda is dancing around on us, because it is doing something and it isn't as stuck as I thought it was yesterday. In the limited amount of time I have run in traffic the Dallara feels a lot more stable than what I am used to in the Panoz. We knew there would be a learning curve with these new cars and we are certainly going through the growing pains."

Rookie Jeff Simmons will start 16th after qualifying the No. 17 Team Ethanol Honda/Panoz/Firestone at 210.445 mph. Simmons was 12th quick on Friday evening with a fast lap of 212.431 mph.

"We are still learning about the Dallara," said Simmons. "It is not the best situation trying to test and race at the same time. Surprisingly, the Dallara Indy car feels similar to the IPS Dallara car. The handling characteristics are alike. Of course, you are going much faster with the Honda power, but I think you can drive the similar line on the track. The Team Ethanol guys are doing a great job setting up the car and making it comfortable for me. We know that we are behind the 8-ball right now and we are going to learn more in Saturday's night race and then a test day at Kansas on Tuesday. The car does feel better in race setup than it did in qualifying setup. So if we can the car handling well early in the race, I think we can run competitive speeds. That is our plan now."

Pole sitter Sam Hornish Jr. topped the speed chart with a lap of 214.584 mph. Helio Castroneves was second quick at 214.402 mph.

Round Six of the 2006 IRL IndyCar Series championship, the Bombardier Learjet 500, will start at 9:00 pm Eastern on Saturday night and will be seen live on ESPN.

-rlr-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Buddy Rice , Jeff Simmons , Sam Hornish Jr. , Danica Patrick