RICE PACES RLR QUALIFYING AT KANSAS KANSAS CITY, Kansas - Rahal Letterman Racing's driver trio used IndyCar qualifying to showcase the progress the team has made in their new Dallara chassis. Buddy Rice paced the RLR qualifying effort with...
RICE PACES RLR QUALIFYING AT KANSAS
KANSAS CITY, Kansas - Rahal Letterman Racing's driver trio used IndyCar qualifying to showcase the progress the team has made in their new Dallara chassis. Buddy Rice paced the RLR qualifying effort with a fast lap of 210.387 mph which was good for tenth on the starting grid. That marked a significant improvement from the last two events as RLR comes to grips with its new cars.
Rice, a front row starter at Kansas each of the last two years, posted the team's top qualifying effort, ninth, in the three races with the Dallara's.
"We are making gains with the new Dallara package and I think the run shows that Rahal Letterman Racing has been improving with these cars," said Rice. "We have been keeping our heads and working hard to learn more about the No. 15 Argent Mortgage Honda/Dallara/Firestone. We are making progress in qualifying and I think we'll be better in the race. We didn't have a bad racecar at Texas before we had the mechanical problem. It isn't an easy process to test and race at the same time. We are in such a steep learning curve right now that it is tough. We are trying to throw so much stuff at the setup and we are working on every area possible. We are doing a lot of testing on race weekend and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. So it is a compromise.
There are a lot of cars that are close in qualifying right now. I think we can get our car possibly to run towards the front. We haven't given up on this season. We are at the halfway point and there are a lot of people very close in points.
Can we get into the Top Three? No. The Top Five? No. But I think the way we are learning about the Dallara that we can score points and get very competitive in the last half of the season. We have some room to grow with the team and I believe that will happen in the last part of 2006. Then we'll ready for 2007."
Patrick captured the pole at Kansas in 2005 and will start 12th on Sunday. She posted a fast lap of 209.495 mph in the No. 16 Argent Mortgage/Honda/Dallara/Firestone.
"The car was alright, which is an improvement from the last race," said Patrick. "We certainly aren't a pole car like we were a year ago, but that is alright. We knew there would be a period of adjustment with the new chassis and sure enough we have struggled with making the car fast. It takes time to gain a familiarity with the car. We make one thing better, but then we create a problem for ourselves elsewhere. While we see signs of improvement, I think we might still have some growing pains in our future. I really don't have an answer why we aren't fast, because if I had the answer we would have already made the change and we would be past this. It is always nice to come back to a track where you have fond memories. Last year was an exciting time qualifying for the pole position, but I left here frustrated after the race because of how the car handled. When we switched to the Dallara's we knew that it would be a case of taking a step back to take a step forward. The step back hasn't been a lot of fun, but in the long run these tough times will pay off for us."
Rookie Jeff Simmons, making his first start at Kansas for RLR, qualified 17th in the No. 17 RLR Team Ethanol Honda/Dallara/Firestone.
"I don't know if the wind affected the car, but the Team Ethanol car wasn't as solid as in this morning's practice," said Simmons. "It could have been the additional heat in the afternoon and the wind. I think the wind did move the car around a little and the front end wanted to slide. I am glad to see Buddy had a good qualifying run with his car and we can learn more from his car. We'll go over all of the data with the three team engineers and look to see what will be work in the heat on Sunday. After the Truck and ARCA races, the track surface will change and we want to be ready to make adjustments in the Sunday morning warm-up. Then we will have info that we can use in the race."
Dan Wheldon captured the pole position for Sunday's Kansas Lottery Indy 300 (1:00 pm Eastern on ABC) with a fast lap of 213.536 mph, edging 2006 Indy 500 winner Sam Hornish Jr. (213.472 mph).