St. Pete I: RLR/Andersen Racing race notes

RLR/Andersen's Drivers Are Fifth and Seventh In First St. Pete Indy Lights Race Saturday ST. PETERSBURG, Fla., April 5 - The RLR/Andersen Racing drivers drove smart races Saturday in the first half of the Firestone Indy Lights doubleheader...

RLR/Andersen's Drivers Are Fifth and Seventh In First St. Pete Indy Lights Race Saturday

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla., April 5 - The RLR/Andersen Racing drivers drove smart races Saturday in the first half of the Firestone Indy Lights doubleheader at the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Both stayed out of trouble and finished in the top 10 on a very unforgiving 1.8-mile, 14-turn street circuit, preserving their mounts for tomorrow morning's second 40-lapper.

J.R. Hildebrand started sixth in the Allied Building Products No. 25 and finished fifth. Andrew Prendeville started eighth in the Best Friends Animal Society No. 5 and finished seventh for the Palmetto, Fla.-based team.

Both got off to a great start, gaining two positions each on the first lap by passing one car and avoiding a spin in Turn 5 by Bobby Wilson, who had started fourth. The driver Hildebrand passed on the initial lap was Jeff Simmons, while Prendeville got around James Davison.

Hildebrand, of Indianapolis, stayed in fourth place from lap one until lap 35. He challenged both Ana Beatriz and Richard Antinucci for third in the first half of the race, but couldn't get a pass to stick. In the second half of the race he had his hands full fighting off Simmons, who was fifth from the onset until he finally got around Hildebrand for fourth in the hairpin five laps from the end.

Prendeville, of Las Vegas, ran in sixth place from lap one until lap 38, when Arie Luyendyk Jr. got by.

Polesitter Raphael Matos led every lap and had a 3.1577-second margin of victory over Antinucci. Beatriz, Simmons, Hildebrand, Luyendyk Jr., Prendeville, Cyndie Allemann, Juan Manuel Polar and Robbie Pecorari rounded out the top 10. The only yellows were for two spins by Wilson and an off-course excursion by Mitch Cunningham.

Prendeville is now sixth in the point standings and Hildebrand is seventh.

Lap 23 was the fastest lap for both RLR/Andersen Racing drivers. Hildebrand's fastest race lap was a 1:08.3009 (94.874 mph). Prendeville's fastest race lap was a 1:08.8970 (94.053 mph).

Hildebrand's qualifying time was a 1:07.6421 (95.798 mph), while Prendeville 's was a 1:07.8251 (95.540 mph). They both recorded 15 laps in qualifying, which was interrupted by a full-course caution for an accident involving Davison and the Homestead winner, Dillon Battistini.

Hildebrand will start fifth tomorrow and Prendeville will start seventh. The starting line-up for Sunday's race was established by a draw of four pills carrying the numbers 0, 4, 6 or 8 by the winner of the first race, and Matos picked four. That signified the number of drivers to be inverted from the finishing order of the first race, which determined the starting line-up for the second race. Simmons will start on the pole tomorrow followed by Beatriz, Antinucci, Matos, Hildebrand, Luyendyk Jr., Prendeville and the rest of the 23-driver field.

Tomorrow's action starts with a 10-minute warm-up session at 8:05 a.m. followed by the second 40-lap race at 10:45 a.m. Both races will be covered on ESPN2 at 2 p.m. Eastern time on April 10.

RLR/Andersen Racing is sponsored by Allied Building Products Corp. It is the development team of Rahal Letterman Racing. Its Web sites are at andersenracingteam.com and andersenracepark.com.

Post-race quotes follow:

J.R. Hildebrand: "It was a tough race. I got a good start, and almost stuck it into third. Then at the end I almost got up into the top three again, but it was a struggle to find grip and I had a brake bias problem. At the end I was fighting to keep Simmons behind me, but I locked it up going into the hairpin and he passed me. But it was a good result for the team and everyone at Allied Building Products. We'll see if can improve on it tomorrow. Today it was definitely a lot of work. We'll make some changes for tomorrow and see if we can do better."

Andrew Prendeville: "It was a bit like driving on ice, and we're not really sure why. We had a good enough finish to move up in the points. We need to improve for tomorrow, but we got valuable points while others may have fallen back. We also finished all the laps, and we thank everyone who made donations to the Best Friends Animal Society here at our booth in the parking garage and on racinglapsforbestfriends.com."

Dan Andersen (RLR/Andersen Racing co-owner): "The RLR/Andersen team did a great job. It's a double weekend, and to have two cars finish the first race without a scratch and well within the top 10, it's a good result. Both drivers were fighting for position the whole race, and they both did a great job. They drove smart races. Now we'll study the data and see if we can improve, and we'll also have a piece of Nicholas Cape's birthday cake!"

-credit: rlr/ar

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