RICE GRABS TOP-TEN START AT MICHIGAN BROOKLYN, Michigan - Buddy Rice, the 2004 Indy 500 champion, paced the Rahal Letterman trio in qualifying at Michigan for Sunday's Firestone Indy 400. Rice topped the RLR qualifying effort for the fifth time...
RICE GRABS TOP-TEN START AT MICHIGAN
BROOKLYN, Michigan - Buddy Rice, the 2004 Indy 500 champion, paced the Rahal Letterman trio in qualifying at Michigan for Sunday's Firestone Indy 400. Rice topped the RLR qualifying effort for the fifth time this season.
Rice posted his second top-ten start in the last three races with a fast lap of 213.450 mph which edged his teammate Danica Patrick (213.357 mph) for the final spot in the top-ten.
"The speed was okay today with the No. 15 Argent Honda," said Rice. "It wasn't anywhere near the pole but it was the fastest we have run today. But that isn't what we are concentrating on right now. We are working on the race. We need to get a car that will get us in the lead pack and then improve on the setup throughout the race. We need to have a car that runs with the traffic. We have had a good car in recent speedway races and we need to continue that trend. Hopefully we can get a result that shows how the team has advanced with the Dallara chassis. I have always liked coming here since my first IndyCar race here at MIS. I started on the front row and nearly won my very first race. Then winning here two years ago was one of the best feelings in my career. I sure would like to do that again and win the race Sunday."
Danica Patrick, ninth in the championship, was first in the qualifying line and she narrowly missed making her third top-ten start of the season.
"I felt pretty good about my qualifying run. My engineer Ray [Leto] made some great changes and put the magic touches on the car and my qualifying lap was the fastest lap I have turned here today. Of course I didn't feel quite as good about my lap after watching the Penske cars go about three miles an hour faster, but we knew coming into the weekend that Penske and Ganassi would be tough. Certainly we will need some breaks to fall our way, but we have been making steady progress with the chassis over the last couple of races and I think the Argent Mortgage/Honda will be pretty good for tomorrow."
Rookie Jeff Simmons was the last driver to qualify and he posted a fast lap of 211.691 mph which was good for 16th on the starting grid. Last week at Milwaukee Simmons started a career best sixth in the Team Ethanol Honda.
"My confidence is up after three consecutive top-ten finishes," said Simmons. "I made some mistakes early in the year, I think I was just trying to hard. I feel more relaxed with the Team Ethanol crew now and we are working very well together. I don't know what happened in qualifying. I tried to get the car to run in fifth gear on the first lap, but then I shifted to fourth to get the revs up. The No. 17 Team Ethanol Honda feels good, but we just didn't have the straightaway speed. We will work on it for the race and make the car comfortable in traffic. That will be important."
Penske Racing swept the front row for Sunday's Firestone Indy 400 with Helio Castroneves winning his fifth pole of the season with a fast lap of 216.777 mph.
-Rahal Letterman Racing