IRL: St. Pete: Rahal Letterman Racing Friday report

RICE RUNS FIFTH QUICK IN FIRST DAY PRACTICE AT ST. PETERSBURG ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Rahal Letterman Racing's Buddy Rice cracked the top-five on the speed chart for the first day of practice for the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg with a fast...

RICE RUNS FIFTH QUICK IN FIRST DAY PRACTICE AT ST. PETERSBURG

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Rahal Letterman Racing's Buddy Rice cracked the top-five on the speed chart for the first day of practice for the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg with a fast lap of 102.355 mph in the Argent Mortgage/Honda/Panoz/Firestone. Rice's teammate Danica Patrick was 13th on the day with a fast lap of 100.954 mph in her No. 16 Argent Mortgage/Honda/Panoz.

RLR is a two-car team this week as the team has withdrawn the No. 17 Rahal Letterman Team Ethanol/Honda/Panoz in honor of the late Paul Dana.

Rice, the 2004 Indianapolis 500 winner, finished seventh at St. Pete last season after starting 17th. The strong first day for the Phoenix native marks Rice as a contender for the pole position on Saturday.

"The track was really slick and dirty this morning," said Rice. "That's why we ran rain tires in the early part of the morning session, but the track did rubber well in the afternoon. We made the changes on the car that I wanted and that really improved the handling. The track is a little bumpy than last year, but we can deal with that. I'm a little upset because what always happens on the a street course happened on the last lap. I felt I was on a 63 flat (seconds) lap and the yellow came out and we didn't the lap in. That seems to happen a lot on the street course. Right when you have everything together for a flying lap, boom, the yellow comes out. It is frustrating. But we'll be better on Saturday."

Patrick, the 2005 IRL IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year endured an up and down day on Friday claiming 13th overall for the first day. The 24-year-old will be making just her 18th IndyCar Series start on Sunday afternoon.

"Racing is my job and it is always good to get back to the action be it after a long off season or a tough week like we just endured," said Patrick. "It felt good to be back in the Argent Mortgage Honda. Obviously missing the race last week will factor in the championship for both Buddy and I. It will make it more difficult, especially with 14 races, to overcome the loss of points. We had our moments on track today. Overall we still have some work to do, but my team has a lot of experience when it comes to street racing. Last week we had a tough Friday but we felt pretty good after qualifying. A lot can change in a day."

Practice and qualifying will resume Saturday on the streets of St. Petersburg. Sunday's Honda Grand Prix of St. Pete will be seen live on ESPN at 3:30 pm EDT.

-rlr-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Buddy Rice , Paul Dana