RAHAL LETTERMAN RACING SCORES PAIR OF TOP-SIX STARTING SPOTS AT IOWA NEWTON, Iowa - Despite having made 136 qualifying runs in his long IndyCar career, Scott Sharp ( ...
RAHAL LETTERMAN RACING SCORES PAIR OF TOP-SIX STARTING SPOTS AT IOWA
NEWTON, Iowa - Despite having made 136 qualifying runs in his long IndyCar career, Scott Sharp (#8 Patron Dallara/Honda/Firestone) wasn't really looking forward to Number 137 today at Iowa Speedway. The Floridian stood a bewildering 18th after the first two practice sessions, and he wasn't real sure how his Rahal Letterman Racing car was going to get a whole lot better.
But the guys in the engineering truck knew exactly how it was going to improve, and by the time the car got back in the skilled hands of the veteran Sharp, both driver and car were ready to surprise. Sharp stopped the clocks at 17.7114 seconds (181.713 mph) to qualify fourth for tomorrow's Iowa Corn Indy 250, while Jeff Simmons (#17 Ethanol Dallara/Honda/Firestone) - who had been in the top five all day - snapped off a quick lap of 17.7296 (181.527 mph) to match a career-high with a sixth-place grid spot for Sunday's event at the .875-mile oval.
"It's been a rollercoaster day for us," Sharp understated. "I was pretty concerned after practice because this is a place where you can get lapped pretty quickly if you start too deep in the field. We put a new qualifying setup on the car that we hadn't even tried before and it was great. Thanks to all the guys on the team, they really stepped up and made the right moves today. The setup was perfect, I just gassed it and drove it as hard as I could."
The sixth-place qualifying result not only matched a career-best for Simmons (Milwaukee, 2006) but it also marked the first time in his blossoming career that he has posted back-to-back top-10 qualifying results. His best time had him in the top five nearly all the way through the session, before Ed Carpenter slipped between the RLR teammates as the penultimate car to qualify on a cloudy and cool Saturday in Newton, Iowa.
"Everyone on the Ethanol team has done a great job this week, the car was really fast right off the truck," Simmons said. "This is a very big race for us and with Ethanol, we have a lot of support at this race and we are pleased to have been able to qualify well. This is a race that we have had our eyes on from the time they announced the schedule and now we need to transfer today's success into tomorrow's race."
This marks the first time that both RLR cars have qualified in the top 10 in consecutive races since the Kansas/Nashville events a year ago. This also the first time that Sharp has qualified in the top five in consecutive races since starting third at Motegi and Indianapolis in 2005. Scott Dixon is the polesitter for tomorrow's race, with Helio Castroneves and Indianapolis 500 champion Dario Franchitti gridding second and third respectively.
"Jeff obviously was quick when his car was rolled off the truck and he and the team have done a good job, and what the whole team did today with getting Scott's car at the front of the field was big," said RLR Chief Operating Officer Scott Roembke. "Working as a team we were able to use all our data and devise a setup that would work well for Scott's car and it paid off well for us. It is really nice for us to be quick today in such an important event for Ethanol and hopefully we can do it again tomorrow."