RAHAL LETTERMAN RACING LOOKS TO CONTINUE UPWARD CLIMB AT INAUGURAL IOWA RACE HILLIARD, Ohio - Continuing to build momentum as the 2007 IndyCar Series season nears its halfway point, Rahal Letterman Racing drivers Scott Sharp ( ...
RAHAL LETTERMAN RACING LOOKS TO CONTINUE UPWARD CLIMB AT INAUGURAL IOWA RACE
HILLIARD, Ohio - Continuing to build momentum as the 2007 IndyCar Series season nears its halfway point, Rahal Letterman Racing drivers Scott Sharp (#8 Patron Dallara/Honda/Firestone) and Jeff Simmons (#17 Ethanol Dallara/Honda/Firestone) will each be chasing their third consecutive top-10 finishes as the series heads to the new Iowa Speedway this weekend for the inaugural Iowa Corn Indy 250.
The newly-constructed 0.875-mile oval will host the Indy Cars this weekend, marking the first time that the series has raced in the state of Iowa, and also signals the first time that major open-wheel racing has taken place in the Hawkeye State since Ralph DePalma won on a Des Moines board track in 1916!
The oval, which was co-designed by former NASCAR champion Rusty Wallace, features progressive banking in the corners ranging from 12 to 14 degrees and will be the second-shortest track that the IndyCars have ever competed on. (Richmond--0.75 miles).
Coming off a Texas race where he scored his first IndyCar pole since 2001, Sharp has fashioned a three-race streak of top-seven finishes heading into this weekend and finds himself just four points out of seventh in the season standings. Sharp joined former RLR driver Vitor Meira at a tire test on the new track last fall and feels that the layout will yield a challenging race.
"I'm very excited for the Iowa race.My first outing for the Patron Rahal team was at the Iowa circuit last fall and we had a strong test and should be able to go there and apply what we've learned so far this year and run even better!" said Sharp. "The track is beautiful and I think it will make a tremendous venue for our Indy Cars.Even though it is only seven-eighths of a mile, Iowa races like a big track! It's going to be fast and exciting!"
Simmons has a two-race top-10 streak of his own and is heading to Iowa riding the momentum of sixth-place result in Texas that established a new IndyCar career-best for the Connecticut native. Simmons has scored top-10 runs in four of his last five starts and is closing in on a berth in the top-10 for the first time in his IndyCar career. He led a career-best five laps in Texas, working his way from eighth on the starting grid to finish sixth.
"This is a big race for us and for Ethanol, so we are really focusing on keeping the momentum up from a strong finish in Texas," Simmons spoke. "Iowa could easily turn out to be one of the most exciting races we put on anywhere. The guys that I have talked to that have driven it say that it is a physically demanding track. Hopefully it is a situation where my conditioning will make a difference and help us get to the front."
Rahal Letterman Racing Iowa Notes:
This will be the first time that the Indy Cars will compete at the Iowa Speedway. The track was designed with three separate 'grooves' or racing lines through the corners, with the idea being to promote two-and three-wide racing around the diminutive oval. The current configuration of the speedway includes 12-degree banking over the inside 16 feet of each turn, 13-degree banking for the next 16 feet and 14-degree banking over the final 28 feet. Fans will easily be able to follow the driver's strategy through the turns as each of the grooves are indicated by white lines going through the corners.
Scott Sharp broke a league record with his polewinning performance in Texas, snapping an 87-race streak between pole positions. The pole was the sixth of Sharp's career and his first since the Kentucky event in 2001. Sharp will make his 136th IndyCar Series start, the most in league history. Sharp expects to make his 129th consecutive start which is also a IndyCar Series record. His 76 top-10 finishes are also a league record, one more than the 75 put up by Sam Hornish Jr.. He has finished all but 13 of the 1,319 laps of competition run this season, which is fourth in the series.
Jeff Simmons will make his 22nd IndyCar Series start this weekend and comes off a Texas race that saw him score a career-high finish of sixth. He has led laps in two of the last three races and has finished in the top ten in four of his last five starts. In his three previous IndyCar starts on short ovals, his best finish came at Richmond last season when he placed ninth.