IRL: Motegi: Rahal Letterman Racing race report

RICE TAKES FIFTH AT MOTEGI, PATRICK EIGHTH WHILE SIMMONS HAS ROUGH START MOTEGI, Japan - Buddy Rice drove a stellar race for Rahal Letterman Racing collecting a top-five finish after starting 18th overall at Twin Ring Motegi. Rice, the 2004...

RICE TAKES FIFTH AT MOTEGI, PATRICK EIGHTH WHILE SIMMONS HAS ROUGH START

MOTEGI, Japan - Buddy Rice drove a stellar race for Rahal Letterman Racing collecting a top-five finish after starting 18th overall at Twin Ring Motegi. Rice, the 2004 Indianapolis 500 winner piloted the No. 15 Argent Mortgage Honda/ Panoz/Firestone to his best finish since he took second at Infineon Raceway last August.

"The day wasn't too bad considering where we had to start and the circumstances that we had to deal with during the race," said Rice. "This is a good start for us going into the month of May. We ran strong at St. Pete and we came here and we were good. Obliviously we have room for improvement, but when you start 18th a top-five finish is great. The biggest thing that helped this race was my Argent Mortgage pit crew. Every pit stop my crew picked up several spots. My guys deserve a huge pat on the back for this result. The feeling I am getting from this year reminds me of the last time I finished fifth at Motegi [2004] and we will see if we can duplicate that result [won Indy] in May."

Danica Patrick started 14th and finished eighth, collecting her second top-ten result of the season. The 2005 IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year, topped off a busy week of promotional appearance in Japan with a solid run for points.

"I don't think our Argent Mortgage Honda was that fast, but I do think we were smart enough with our strategy and our pit stops were good enough and we were able to run consistently that it produced a solid result," said Patrick. "We just weren't able to run consistently fast enough to overtake the leaders. I had one stint where I was really able to make up some time and gain position, but I battled understeer most of the day. Unfortunately when you have problems at Motegi going through [turns] three and four it will limit what you can do. Overall we weren't super fast, but we did get our result. I am disappointed that on the last restart I got chopped pretty good. Everybody was getting a little feisty with their moves and everybody was a little too bold. At least we finished and scored more points and we didn't do anything stupid."

Rookie Jeff Simmons had a problematic weekend crashing twice. The second time came on lap 40 when Simmons was caught in a chain reaction crash and badly damaged the No. 17 Rahal Letterman Racing Team EthanolHonda/Panoz.

"I got a good restart and I was really close to PJ [Chesson] so I couldn't see what was going on ahead of him. When I saw him check up I got on the brakes as hard as I could, but I still got into the back of him and then I spun around the next thing I knew I was going backwards and then I flipped over somebody and rolled it. Everyone in the stands probably saw it better than I did. It is really disappointing for everyone on Team Ethanol. This is never the way you want to start anything. Crashing two cars in one weekend is something I have never done before. As disappointed as I am right now we will move past this and start to focus on Indianapolis."

Helio Castroneves led 184 of 200 laps and dominated the race expanding his series lead to 42 points over Dan Wheldon who finished second today and is second in the championship. It was the second win of the 2006 season for Castroneves.

The IRL IndyCar Series race will return to the United States for the "Month of May" and the Indianapolis 500. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway opens on May 7 for Rookie Orientation and on May 9 for open practice. The 90th running of the Indianapolis 500 is scheduled for May 28 and 1:00 pm local time.

-rlr-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Dan Wheldon , Buddy Rice , Jeff Simmons , Danica Patrick