IRL: Mid-Ohio: Rahal Letterman Racing race report

RYAN HUNTER-REAY DEBUTS IN SEVENTH PLACE TO LEAD RLR EFFORTS AT MID-OHIO LEXINGTON, Ohio - Just four short hours before the IndyCar debut of Ryan Hunter-Reay ( ...


LEXINGTON, Ohio - Just four short hours before the IndyCar debut of Ryan Hunter-Reay (#17 Ethanol Dallara/Honda/Firestone), things got interesting.

A fluke occurrence left Hunter-Reay with his second incidence of a stuck throttle during the weekend, sending him off course and into the tire barrier, forcing the Rahal Letterman Racing Ethanol team to turn a calm pre-race into a fire drill. But the team answered the bell with plenty of time to spare, and Hunter-Reay did the rest, running a strong race to lead the squad with a seventh-place finish in front of a sellout crowd at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

Hunter-Reay made up four spots in a first-lap melee involving a trio of Andretti-Green cars and ran in the top group for the rest of today's 85-lap Honda Indy 200, scoring a seventh-place finish and taking 26 points out of the Rookie-of-the-Year lead held by Milka Duno with five races yet to run.

"It felt great. The first time out in these cars with no testing and to finish in the top seven feels like a win for me," said Hunter-Reay. "We had a couple of fluky things happen in practice and the Ethanol team showed amazing tenacity, we kept after it, we didn't do anything cute, we had good pace and ran well. It was a satisfying day for us."

Scott Sharp (#8 Patron Dallara/Honda/Firestone) showed his veteran skills in battling from a 15th-place starting spot to score an 11th-place finish, fighting all the way to the last lap and picking up a spot with two laps to go with a pass of Kosuke Matsuura.

"Obviously it was a frustrating day for us," Sharp said. "We didn't have the pace we thought we would. We had a huge push for most of the race that made it tough to put the power down. But we stayed in there, got some points, now we'll come back and make the car better for the next race and get after it."

Hunter-Reay ran sixth through the first fuel stint, but fell to ninth after the first stop. He dropped back to 10th briefly in the middle portion of the race, but worked his way back up to ninth for his second stop. He was slated to make his final stop with 18 laps of the 2.258-mile road course when the team decided to come in for fuel only, stretching the life of the Firestone Firehawks over the entire last half of the race. Hunter-Reay stepped up and ran his fastest lap of the race on his in-lap, the team snapped off a strong pit stop to move him up to eighth and then Hunter-Reay ran down Tomas Scheckter to take the seventh spot.

"We are very pleased with the way things went today, we found a lot to build on and with some more testing I think we'll show even more," said RLR Chief Operating Officer Scott Roembke. "The guys from both crews worked well together and got Ryan's car ready to go after this morning's incident. Everybody realized that neither of the incidents we had this weekend were Ryan's fault, they diagnosed the problem and did a strong job in not only getting the car ready, but making it fast. Now we can take some time this week, catch up on some things and get some testing in before the next race."

The result was especially satisfying as it came in front of most of the members of the Ohio-based team, who came up to Lexington with their families to take the opportunity to see the RLR squad in action first-hand. Nearly everyone on the team came out to the track over the three-day weekend as the team's hospitality coach hosted more than 300 people for the event.

Today's event marked the end of an IndyCar-record five-week stretch of races, and the Rahal Letterman Racing team will have the weekend off before heading to Michigan International Speedway Sunday, August 5.

-credit: rlr

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Milka Duno , Tomas Scheckter , Scott Sharp , Kosuke Matsuura