IRL: Sears Point: Rahal Letterman Racing Friday report

Rice leads Rahal Letterman in practice at Infineon SONOMA, Calif. - Buddy Rice led the RLR trio of drivers in practice for Sunday's Grand Prix of Sonoma at Infineon Raceway. Rice, the 2004 Indy 500 champion, posted a fast lap of 104.520 mph,...

Rice leads Rahal Letterman in practice at Infineon

SONOMA, Calif. - Buddy Rice led the RLR trio of drivers in practice for Sunday's Grand Prix of Sonoma at Infineon Raceway. Rice, the 2004 Indy 500 champion, posted a fast lap of 104.520 mph, which was good for eleventh on the timing sheet.

Rice finished second at Infineon in 2005 as the IndyCar Series made its debut on the 2.3 mile scenic road course in the heart of wine country. The runner-up result is Rice's top finish since the 2004 season.

"The No. 15 Argent Honda wasn't bad this morning," said Rice. "We missed being in the fast group by a tenth of a second for the afternoon practice. But we are sliding a little more than we wanted to in the afternoon. The car is pretty consistent and that is good for the race. We just have to get the front to stick a little better for qualifying. We'll work hard for qualifying because you want to be in the front of the field here. Coming from the middle of the field isn't the best for the race. I think we are moving in the right direction for Saturday."

Rookie Jeff Simmons posted the thirteenth fastest lap by posting a lap of 103.988 mph. Simmons is making his IndyCar Series debut at Infineon but he has a third place result from the Indy Pro Series event last season to his credit.

"I just need some more time at this place. I came here the first time last year for the IPS race," said Simmons. "So maybe I have driven 40 or 50 laps max here. But that isn't an excuse. I really like it as a road circuit. Driving the IndyCar is much more physical than the IPS car. The steering is harder, braking is later and harder and the G-loads are bigger. I couldn't see earlier in the session, so we had to adjust the seat for me. I am sitting more upright than normal. It is harder to drive the car but we'll make some changes for Saturday. I think we are getting better with the setup and I am looking forward to getting more time on Saturday. We slid a little too much and we need to get better grip."

Danica Patrick was optimistic after the morning session, but a chaotic afternoon session featuring multiple yellow flags left the second year driver frustrated with a lack of overall progress.

"Our car is a lot better than what the timing sheet shows. The biggest issue we faced in the afternoon session was getting everything to come together at the right time. On a track like this the grip level isn't real high and when you only get a lap or two, it is tough to build any rhythm or to even get the tire temps up to the proper level. Because of the multiple yellows we didn't take the step forward I thought we would take which is disappointing, but that disappointment is softened by the fact I think we have a pretty good car."

Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon topped the speed charts with a fast lap of 107.662 mph. Penske Racing's Helio Castroneves was second quick with a fast lap of 107.279 mph. Championship leader Sam Hornish Jr. was sixth quick with a fast lap of 106.524 mph.

-credit: Rahal Letterman Racing

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Scott Dixon , Buddy Rice , Jeff Simmons , Sam Hornish Jr. , Danica Patrick
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing