RAHAL LETTERMAN RACING DUO TURNS IT UP UNDER THE LIGHTS IN FIRST DAY OF INDYCAR PRACTICE AT TEXAS FORT WORTH - Eugene O'Neill's Pulitzer Prize-winning play Long Day's Journey Into Night had nothing to do with auto racing, but it aptly sums...
RAHAL LETTERMAN RACING DUO TURNS IT UP UNDER THE LIGHTS IN FIRST DAY OF INDYCAR PRACTICE AT TEXAS
FORT WORTH - Eugene O'Neill's Pulitzer Prize-winning play Long Day's Journey Into Night had nothing to do with auto racing, but it aptly sums up the day's activities for Rahal Letterman Racing drivers Scott Sharp (#8 Patron Dallara/Honda/Firestone) and Jeff Simmons (#17 Ethanol Dallara/Honda/Firestone) at Texas Motor Speedway.
The first day of practice for this weekend's Bombardier Learjet 550 saw the IndyCar drivers spend a stiflingly-hot day waiting on a pair of half-hour practice sessions at the high-speed 1.5-mile TMS oval, but when the first sessions yielded little in the way of progress, the Rahal Letterman squad went back to work and prepped for a scheduled 30 minutes of fun under the lights.
It was in the evening outing where the team made its mark in the first day of action as Sharp posted the second-best time of the final session, boosting the squad with a best lap of 24.5726 seconds (213.164 mph).
Simmons carded the 10th-best time in the last practice run, stopping the clocks with a best lap of 24.7622 seconds (211.532 mph). The evening runs were crucial to the team's progress over the three-day race weekend, as two different mechanical issues limited the RLR cars to a combined total of seven laps in the morning session.
"Obviously a great bounce back after the first session," Sharp surmised. "I got a good draft on fresh tires at the beginning of the session, then we filled up the car and ran a long stint. We feel pretty good about the car, we can run with anybody out there. We need a little more placeability with the car and we have a couple of changes we can make on the car in the morning to make it even better."
Simmons turned a team-high 66 laps on the 24-degree banks of the Texas Motor Speedway Thursday night while Sharp circumnavigated the layout 62 times, but Sharp hung his best time on just his fifth trip. Simmons also ran his best lap in the early part of the session as the track cooled and the winds picked up as the sun went down, allowing teams to concentrate on running in the traffic that is inevitable during a trip to Texas.
"Missing the first practice hurt us because the things we did in the evening session were the things we wanted to do in the afternoon, therefore we didn't get to make any changes," Simmons said. "Right now we're not particularly fast and the car wants to skate a lot in traffic, but we can analyze data tonight and make gains tomorrow. Scott is running almost the same setup that we are and that gives us reason for optimism."
The Indy Cars will be back on course Friday as one afternoon practice session leads into single-car qualifying tomorrow evening. The session will set the field for Saturday night's race, which can be seen live on ESPN2 beginning at 8:30 p.m. local time, 9:30 Eastern.