Richmond: Rahal Letterman Racing qualifying report

ELECTRICAL PROBLEMS DERAIL POTENTIAL POLE RUN FOR RAHAL LETTERMAN RICHMOND - Just when it appeared that Rahal Letterman Racing and Ryan Hunter-Reay ( ...

ELECTRICAL PROBLEMS DERAIL POTENTIAL POLE RUN FOR RAHAL LETTERMAN

RICHMOND - Just when it appeared that Rahal Letterman Racing and Ryan Hunter-Reay (#17 Ethanol Dallara/Honda/Firestone) had finally gotten a break today at Richmond International Raceway, the luckless squad saw its potential run for pole gutted by an electrical problem that prevented Hunter-Reay from making a qualifying run.

Hunter-Reay turned the fastest lap of the day in Friday's practice for tomorrow night's SunTrust Indy Challenge, getting around the 0.75-mile track in 16.2003 seconds (166.664 mph), but the team looked like it was destined to suffer the same fate it did last week at Iowa, when the field was set by points after qualifying was rained out - forcing Hunter-Reay to start 14th instead of making the run for the top five that his practice times showed he was capable of.

The rains came today right after the conclusion of afternoon practice, raising the probability of tomorrow's field being set by IndyCar Series points again. But luckily, the rains passed through and the skies brightened about an hour before qualifying, allowing the drivers to line up for their four-lap runs.

Hunter-Reay was set to roll off the line first, but when it came time to fire the engines, the car wouldn't move. An electrical problem kept the car from shifting properly, meaning that the team had to pull the car out of line. Under the new four-lap qualifying procedure instituted this year to mimic Indianapolis, the rules state that if you can not take the track in your allotted place in line, you are not allowed to qualify - meaning that Hunter-Reay and Rahal Letterman will start last in tomorrow's 26-car field.

"The minute we have something going our way, something else comes up and gets in the way," lamented Hunter-Reay. "We had the quickest lap of the day and we were liking our chances despite the fact that we had drawn the first spot in the qualifying order, but the car wouldn't go into gear. I can't believe it. We are having some of the worst luck I have ever seen a team have this year."

Hunter-Reay will start shotgun on the field for tomorrow's race, which will get underway at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time. On the up side, this year's SunTrust Indy Challenge was lengthened by 50 laps this year, meaning that Ryan will have 300 trips around the D-shaped bullring to get back to the front.

"Now all we can do is make sure the problem is fixed and get after it tomorrow," Hunter-Reay said. "This place is notoriously hard to pass on - even more so than Iowa last week - but we'll do like we've done all year and go fast, get great pit stops and try and move up."

The SunTrust Indy Challenge will take place tomorrow afternoon, beginning at 8 p.m. Eastern Time, and can be seen live on ESPN2. Fans can also follow all of the action via the timing and scoring feature on the official website of the IndyCar Series, www.indycar.com.

-credit: rlr

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