SPARTA, Ky. - Hundreds of miles rolled off today/Signs lose their meaning/Minutes tick away - Megadeth

Rahal Letterman Racing and Ryan Hunter-Reay (#17 Ethanol Dallara/Honda/Firestone) made 117 orbits of the 1.5-mile Kentucky Speedway oval today, and found themselves about where they started when a beautiful Friday evening wrapped up.

Hunter-Reay was 14th on the time charts after today's two practice sessions and ended up with the 14th starting spot on the 26-car grid for tomorrow's Meijer Indy 300 after four laps of qualifying.

"We've been flirting with 12th through 16th all day long and 14th is where we ended up," shrugged Hunter-Reay. "The speed just hasn't been there today. Everybody seems to be flat (on the throttle) here, so the difference is made in aero trim and mechanical grip. It is an engineering exercise here for sure."

Today's effort marks the third consecutive event that Hunter-Reay has started out of the top dozen, this string coming right after his first two top-five qualifying results of the IndyCar Series season. Hunter-Reay did a good job throughout his four-lap run as the sun started to sink in Sparta, gaining speed on his final two laps to build a four-lap average of 216.687 mph. He was 11th when he climbed out of the car, but saw three more cars slip past him out of the final four cars that made there attempts.

"I was eighth on the grid here last year and the car and the track feels the same to me, people said that it was bumpy, but I didn't feel it," Hunter-Reay said. "The competition is a lot thicker this year, qualifying is tougher, that's just what we have to deal with this year. The car felt really good in race trim today in practice and good in traffic, so we should be in good shape for tomorrow."

Hunter-Reay competed on the Kentucky oval for the first time last season, finishing 15th after radio problems forced him to make extra pit stops to fix the trouble.

-credit: rlr