SCOTT SHARP SCORES SEVENTH TO LEAD RAHAL LETTERMAN RACING EFFORT AT NASHVILLE LEBANON, Tenn - Already a day late due to last night's rainout in Nashville, the Rahal Letterman Racing team came up just five laps short of a top-five finish in ...
SCOTT SHARP SCORES SEVENTH TO LEAD RAHAL LETTERMAN RACING EFFORT AT NASHVILLE
LEBANON, Tenn - Already a day late due to last night's rainout in Nashville, the Rahal Letterman Racing team came up just five laps short of a top-five finish in today's Firestone Indy 200, race 11 of the 17-event IndyCar Series schedule.
Running a strong fourth with less than a dozen journeys remaining around the 1.33-mile Nashville Superspeedway oval, an untimely caution packed the field up for a restart with five laps to go, where the maelstrom of the restart swept Scott Sharp (#8 Patron Dallara/Honda/Firestone) back to seventh--where he would end up for his seventh top-10 finish of the year.
His RLR teammate Jeff Simmons (#17 Ethanol Dallara/Honda/Firestone) ended up 14th in the order after a misstep on the entry lane to Pit Road brought out the aforementioned caution, and also drew a penalty from IndyCar stewards. Simmons, who had run in the top-10 for most of the day, finished just outside the top-10 for the third time in the last four races.
"We really didn't need that last caution as we pretty much had fourth place locked up," lamented Sharp. "Overall, it was a strong day for the Patron Rahal Letterman Racing team. Any time you can run away from the Penske cars like we were doing, you've got a good car."
Restarting fourth with five laps to go, Sharp found himself bottled up behind third-placed Danica Patrick and a lapped car in front of her that refused to heed steward's suggestions that he allow the lead cars to go by on the restart. That slowdown allowed the cars behind Sharp to get a run on the restart, triggering the melee that dropped the veteran back to seventh.
"It was very tough to pass today," said Sharp. "We could get pretty close to guys but not quite close enough to pass. On the last restart, Sam got a good restart and chopped across my bow to make the pass and that took my downforce off the front wing, which made me wash up and lose a couple more spots."
But on a day when where very few passes were made without the aid of lapped traffic, the men in Pit Lane made the difference for the Patron squad. After taking their time and adjusting the car on the first stop, the black-and-green Patron team made up two positions on each of its final two stops, allowing Sharp to climb from 10th on the starting grid to fourth.
"The last two stops, the guys really stepped up and gained us some spots," said RLR lead race engineer Ray Leto. "From there it was just a factor of traffic. It was really a track-position race and our guys did the job in the pits."
Simmons was running just outside the top-10 when he started to enter Pit Lane for new Firestone Firehawk tires to take him to the checkered flag. Unfortunately, the #17 car lost control on the entry road to Pit Lane, re-entered the track and had contact with Kosuke Matsuura, sending Matsuura into the wall--bringing out the caution that set up the final scrum.
"It was a very tough day for the Ethanol team," Simmons said. "The guys tried really hard, but we could not seem to get where we wanted to be. I feel bad for the #55 team and I apologize for the late incident, hopefully we can get it back at Mid-Ohio.
The Indy Cars will head to the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for the final race in a series-record five-week swing. The Indy Cars will be making their first-ever visit to the Central Ohio road course, although the teams participated in an open test in June. The race takes place Sunday afternoon and can be seen live on ABC at 1:30 p.m. Eastern Time