IRL: Nashville: Rahal Letterman Racing preview



HILLIARD, Ohio - Scott Sharp (#8 Patron Dallara/Honda/Firestone) and Jeff Simmons (#17 Ethanol Dallara/Honda/Firestone) will be heading to the home of country music this weekend, as the IndyCar Series heads to the Nashville Superspeedway for a Saturday-night hoedown on the only concrete oval in the series.

This weekend's Firestone Indy 200 takes place on what is the most enigmatic circuit in IndyCar history. At 1.33 miles in length, the layout is shorter than most of the tracks on the 2007 schedule, but the 14-degree banking in the turns and a pair of straights that combine to cover more than three-quarters of a mile in length makes the track race much more like its bigger brethren in Michigan or Texas.

The nature of the track, with its unique surface, has meant that nothing can be taken for granted when the 675-hp Indy Cars leave Pit Lane. In the six seasons that the track has been featured on the IndyCar schedule, not only has no driver won more than one time in Nashville, no driver has won more than one pole, nor has anyone ever won the race from pole!

Simmons and Sharp both have experience on the tricky layout, with Simmons carding a seventh-place finish in his first visit there a year ago. He comes to Nashville after earning a top-10 finish last weekend in Watkins Glen, his fifth in the last eight races.

"The Nashville trophy is the trophy that I want to win more than any other one," Simmons enthused. "RLR has had good cars there in the past, I finished seventh last year in the race and we're looking forward to it. I think that we have a decent starting point for that track, and we have to start making up some points. Hopefully Scott and I will have strong cars there and we can run for top-fives or maybe podiums."

Sharp joins Sam Hornish Jr. as the only drivers to have competed in each of the six previous IndyCar events in Nashville, and the Floridian has scored top-10 results in half of those runs. His best qualifying position in those six starts has been eighth, but he has matched that performance in each of the last two seasons. He has finished higher than he has started in five of the six Nashville starts, and has top-five runs to his credit in 2001 and 2005.

"I'm very optimistic for the Patron Rahal Letterman Team as we head to Nashville!" Sharp said. "It's always been a very exciting race, especially when we end under the lights. It's a unique challenge being the only track that we run on that has a concrete surface. The team ran well there last year and it's going to be great to head to a track where we can refine a strong setup"

Sharp is currently seventh in the series point standings and is just 18 points behind sixth-placed Helio Castroneves with seven races remaining on the 2007 race slate. Simmons is tied for 14th in the championship chase and is just 29 markers out of a berth in the top 10.

The 11th race on the 2007 IndyCar schedule will take place Saturday evening at 7:30 p.m. Eastern Time and can be seen live on ESPN. The Indy Cars will kick things off on Friday with two practice sessions, leading into single-car qualifying. The run for the AAMCO Transmissions Pole will take place at 5:15 p.m. local (Central) time on Friday and fans can follow all of the action via the timing and scoring feature on

Rahal Letterman Racing Nashville Notes:

This will be the seventh time that the Indy Cars will compete at Nashville Superspeedway. The 1.33-mile oval course is the only all-concrete oval on the IndyCar circuit. The track, which is 25 miles outside of Music City USA, awards one of the most unique trophies in racing as a hand-painted Gibson guitar is given to the race winner.

Scott Sharp broke a league record with his polewinning performance in Texas, snapping an 87-race streak between pole positions. The pole was the sixth of Sharp's career and his first since the Kentucky event in 2001. Sharp will make his 139th IndyCar Series start, the most in league history. Sharp expects to make his 132nd consecutive start which is also a IndyCar Series record. His 78 top-10 finishes are also a league record, two more than the 76 put up by Sam Hornish Jr.. He has finished all but 13 of the 1,879 laps of competition run this season, which is second only to points leader Dario Franchitti in the series. Sharp is just $40,887 away from reaching the $10 million mark in winnings in his IndyCar career. He has made all six previous Nashville starts, scoring a pair of top-five finishes. His best finish came in 2005 when he finished fourth after starting eighth.

Jeff Simmons will make his 25th IndyCar Series start this weekend. He made his first IndyCar trip to Nashville last season and came away with a strong result, qualifying 15th and gaining eight spots to finish seventh. Simmons has led six laps of competition to date this season, setting a new career high-water mark. He has finished in the top 10 in five of the last eight events as he continues to fight for a berth in the top 10 in the championship standings.

Team Facts - RLR has competed in four of the six IndyCar Series events to take place at the Nashville Superspeedway since the 1.33-mile track opened for business in 2001. The team has done well on the concrete oval, winning the pole in 2004 with Buddy Rice in a race where Rice and Vitor Meira combined to lead 165 laps for RLR. RLR has three front-row starts at Nashville, the last of those coming when Danica Patrick gridded second in 2005. The team's best finish at the Tennessee oval came in '04 when Meira started and finished second. Both Sharp and Simmons have led laps this season through the year's halfway point. Rahal Letterman Racing has won 19 races and 30 pole positions since its inception in 1992 as Rahal Hogan Racing. Of Rahal Letterman Racing's 19 wins, nine have come on oval tracks of more than a mile, the last of those being Buddy Rice's 2004 victory at Michigan. Of Rahal Letterman Racing's 30 pole positions, 13 have come on ovals of more than a mile, the most recent being Danica Patrick's 2005 pole at Chicagoland Speedway. In 74 IndyCar Series races RLR has captured 10 pole positions, won three times, collected 15 podium results (top-three) and 34 top-five finishes while leading 678 laps.

-credit: rlr

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Scott Sharp , Helio Castroneves , Dario Franchitti , Buddy Rice , Jeff Simmons , Sam Hornish Jr. , Danica Patrick