RICE TAKES FOURTH AT 'THE GLEN', PATRICK'S LATE RACE CHARGE NETS EIGHTH WATKINS GLEN, NY -- Buddy Rice took fourth and Danica Patrick took eighth in a wild rain influenced Watkins Glen Indy Grand Prix. The race was run in unseasonably cool...
RICE TAKES FOURTH AT 'THE GLEN', PATRICK'S LATE RACE CHARGE NETS EIGHTH
WATKINS GLEN, NY -- Buddy Rice took fourth and Danica Patrick took eighth in a wild rain influenced Watkins Glen Indy Grand Prix. The race was run in unseasonably cool and wet conditions that felt more like late autumn than early June. The wet conditions and the numerous yellow flags prompted multiple race strategies in the 19 car field and provided one of the more memorable IndyCar Series road races since the league added road courses last season.
Rice, the 2004 Indy 500 champion, started 11th and led five laps despite spinning and bringing out one of seven yellow cautions on the day. Rice recorded his second top-five IndyCar road course finish and showed the tenacity that marked him a championship contender in 2004.
"On my spin, there was another spin in front and I didn't see it," said Rice. "Everyone checked up and I spun off. It was dumb on my part. I have to thank the IRL Safety Crew for getting me back out and not losing a lap. That was big for our No. 15 Argent Honda team. The team made the right call on the tires and fuel. If that last yellow hadn't have come out, I think we would have had a shot at those guys on slicks. But it stopped raining enough that they were able run to the finish on slicks. It was a chance we took and it was the right call. I felt it was the right move to go to rain tires and we almost pulled it off. It was good for our team to come back from all of the problems early and have a good finish. We had the right strategy for the race but we didn't catch all of the breaks at the end. It was different kind of race for our league. This was the first rain race in the IndyCar Series and it has been a long time since I raced in the rain. I think it was in England. So it was different. We made the right calls and, who knows, with some more rain we might have been able to get by the top three. You have to play out the strategy and see if it will work. It worked for Scott (Dixon) and Ganassi guys and we just missed it by a little. This was a good way to come back after a tough day at Indy."
Patrick started 16th and finished eighth, her second best result in five IndyCar Series road races. Patrick was running a strong race when she was clipped by Eddie Cheever Jr. on a restart and pushed into the Turn 11 wall. Patrick was able to return to the pits and despite losing a lap repair the front nose. Patrick worked hard conserving fuel and advancing and she was able to un lap her No. 16 Argent Mortgage/Honda/Panoz/Firestone and finished on the lead lap.
"We managed to get to the finish today," said Patrick. "It was good effort the Argent Honda crew today. (Eddie) Cheever took me out on the restart and that was what put us a lap down. It is unfortunate and it is silly. There was no point in doing something so desperate on a restart, but he did it. I don't know why he was trying to pass there. The Firestone rain tires were good for our car today. They didn't fall off with our car and I felt I was able to close in on a lot of guys in the wet. We weren't the faster car out there, but I think we would have done better if we hadn't been taken out. I think we might be able to be up there with Buddy in fourth place. Buddy did a great job today. It was a very testing day from a driver's standpoint. The conditions were constantly changing. It is very difficult to get a lap back on a road course, but our guys got me back on the lead lap and we finish eighth."
Rookie Jeff Simmons started a career best 13th and quickly moved into the top-ten in the No. 17 Team Ethanol/Honda. As the first round of pit stops unfolded Simmons led his first IndyCar Series lap. A spin on cold tires left Simmons down a lap and put him in the position where he was caught in an accident with Kosuke Matsuura. Simmons promising day ended with a DNF and a 19th place result.
"The Team Ethanol car was pretty good at the start on rain tires," said Simmons. "I was able to move up and get by Buddy (Rice). We pitted for the slicks and I thought I was straight coming out of the pits, but obviously I wasn't and the rear end came around. I upset about that because we were in a pretty good position at that time in the race. We lost a lap and I was trying to get into a rhythm and finish. But Kosuke (Matsuura) got loose right in front me and there was no place to go. It's another case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I feel bad for the Team Ethanol crew because we bent up another car. I hope we can go to Texas and I have a clean race next week."
Chip Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon captured his second straight IndyCar Series race at Watkins Glen. He edged Vitor Meira by 2.3 seconds over a final stint run on slick tires in damp conditions. Former Ganassi driver Ryan Briscoe was third driving in his first race for Dreyer Reinbold.
The IndyCar Series will return to the track this week with the Bombardier Learjet 500 Saturday night at the Texas Motor Speedway.