BRUTAL DAY AT BELLE ISLE FOR RAHAL LETTERMAN RACING'S INDYCAR SQUAD DETROIT - Rahal Letterman Racing rookie Ryan Hunter-Reay ( ...
BRUTAL DAY AT BELLE ISLE FOR RAHAL LETTERMAN RACING'S INDYCAR SQUAD
DETROIT - Rahal Letterman Racing rookie Ryan Hunter-Reay (#17 Ethanol Dallara/Honda/Firestone) has his Indy Car in the fifth spot for the start of today's Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix, the highest a RLR car had ever started on a road course since the team joined the IndyCar Series in 2004.
Like last week in Sonoma, Hunter-Reay and Marco Andretti found themselves locked in battle for a top-five spot after 20 laps, and like last week in Sonoma, things went south soon after.
Hunter-Reay's radio crackled to life on Lap 22 with the rookie reporting that something was very wrong with his Ethanol-sponsored Indy Car. A pit stop on the next trip around the remeasured 2.07-mile track confirmed the worst - a broken input shaft had robbed the car of the ability to transfer Honda horsepower to his Firestone Firehawk tires.
"I said yesterday that we didn't need any good luck to have a strong finish today, because we had a great starting spot and a good car," Hunter-Reay lamented. "We just didn't need to have any bad luck. But unfortunately, that's what we got again. We're putting in good performances with the Ethanol car, we just can't catch a break. Our time will come, we are working hard and things are improving every week."
Meanwhile, Scott Sharp (#8 Patron Dallara/Honda/Firestone) was following a script that had paid dividends for him earlier this year, staying out of trouble and taking advantage of other's mistakes to gain positions. The plan was working pretty well as he had moved up to eighth at the halfway point of the 90-lap event. But sitting behind him in ninth was old nemesis Danica Patrick, who was not only chasing Sharp for position, but was also holding a two-point lead on the veteran in IndyCar championship points.
The chase ended on Lap 48 when Patrick popped Sharp's car from behind, sending him into the Turn Eight fence. The impact bent the right-rear suspension of the Patron-sponsored car, sending the RLR team into action. It only took seven laps for the team to make the suspension change, getting the veteran back on track where he took advantage of some more late-race misfortune to finish 11th.
"It was a really tough day for the Patron Rahal Letterman Racing team," Sharp said. "The guys really had us on a great strategy and we were in position to come out of here in great shape. Unfortunately Danica took us out and ruined what could have been a big day. They warned us about rough tactics in this morning's driver meeting, but things happen on the track I guess. All you can do is suck it up and move on to next week."
The woes were exacerbated for the Patron team as the race went on, as nearly every car that was ahead of Sharp at the time of the contact would end up having troubles, including the second-, third- and fourth-placed cars that all tangled on the final lap of the race.
Hunter-Reay was officially credited with an 18th-place finish, giving him a 12-point lead in the Bombardier Learjet Rookie-of-the-Year chase with one race remaining on the IndyCar Series schedule. Sharp stayed in eighth place in the point standings with his finish and still has a chance to move up to at least sixth if results fall his way next weekend.