IRL: Rahal-Letterman team wins Indy Pit Stop Challenge

IRL: Rahal-Letterman team wins Indy Pit Stop Challenge

Rahal-Letterman Racing, Buddy Rice at the wheel and the crew under the leadership of Chief Mechanic Ricardo Nault, won today's Checkers/Rally's Indy 500 Pit Stop Challenge. Their final-round victory was against Helio Castroneves' Marlboro Team ...

Rahal-Letterman Racing, Buddy Rice at the wheel and the crew under the leadership of Chief Mechanic Ricardo Nault, won today's Checkers/Rally's Indy 500 Pit Stop Challenge. Their final-round victory was against Helio Castroneves' Marlboro Team Penske crew, who had set the fastest time in earlier rounds.

Buddy Rice.
Photo by Earl Ma.
Rahal-Letterman entered the twelve-team elimination in the second round, facing Sam Hornish Jr.'s Marlboro Team Penske crew. They beat Hornish's crew by almost two seconds on time. In the second round, they were edged by two-tenths of a second by Dan Wheldon's Andretti Green Racing team. Post-stop inspection, however, revealed a loose lug nut on Wheldon's car. The resultant five second penalty gave Rice's car the win and put it into the finals.

The final showdown was against Helio Castroneves's crew, which had the fastest time (8.2023 seconds) of the event. Both teams bobbled, producing two of the slowest times of the day. The Rahal-Letterman crew hung tough, though, and came through with the win.

"It was ugly, but a win's a win," said team co-owner Bobby Rahal. "I'm really happy and proud of these guys. This is a chance to show everybody what they can do. We beat some tough competitors to get there. It was great to go up against Roger in the finals."

Driver Buddy Rice was proud of his crew, and put the pit stop challenge in the context of a season-long effort. "They were doing an excellent job," he said. "These guys earned it, from the race at Motegi with how hard they worked and the fast pit stops they had there. They were able to come here and walk away with the win. This is their time to shine.

"It's been a hectic month. They've had a rough year. We switched chassis. They got not only our car, but all three cars up to speed in such a short time. For these guys, with all the hard work they've been putting in, it's their deal and they deserve it.

Chief Mechanic Ricardo Nault was clearly proud of his team, and their composure under pressure. "These guys did an awesome job," he said. "They worked their tails off. We had a little bobble, and they continued on. The guys just go and go and go. We keep pushing, and it paid off today."

On the bobble, he said, "We just had a problem with one of the tires. It wasn't anything critical, but we recovered well.

"First to recover. We had a bobble, they had a bobble, we recovered better and got out."

The team takes pit stops seriously. At the shop, they practice 30 to 45 minutes each day. This continues while at races, practicing their stops every morning.

The crew won $30,000 dollars for their efforts.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Bobby Rahal , Dan Wheldon , Buddy Rice , Sam Hornish Jr.
Teams Team Penske