HILLIARD, Ohio - The checkered flag flew over the Rahal Letterman Racing headquarters in Hilliard, Ohio this week for the first time in more than three seasons, following a time-honored team tradition that sees the team fly the checkers for the...
HILLIARD, Ohio - The checkered flag flew over the Rahal Letterman Racing headquarters in Hilliard, Ohio this week for the first time in more than three seasons, following a time-honored team tradition that sees the team fly the checkers for the week after a victory.
But while last week's breakout result at Watkins Glen earned new respect for the team and driver Ryan Hunter-Reay (#17 Ethanol Dallara/Honda/Firestone), the fact of the matter is that respect is the only thing that carries over from Watkins Glen to Nashville Superspeedway this weekend.
The team heads back to the oval tracks after its road-course win last weekend and must follow up on the victory with another strong performance if it is to build on the momentum that last week's first-place result provided.
"It's been a great week for me and I have been doing a lot of running around with media and sponsors but it's time to get back to work," Hunter-Reay said. "It's not like I get to start first or run fewer laps because we won last week. That's the great thing about this series, you have to prove it every week against the best drivers in the world. I am looking forward to the challenge and I know the team is more than ready to keep it going."
The 1.33-mile superspeedway with the concrete surface is new to Hunter-Reay, which will afford him the opportunity to take part in a portion of the rookie practice session slated for Thursday afternoon. This will be the last time that the Texas-born driver will have that chance however, as Nashville is the last track on the schedule that Hunter-Reay has yet to compete on.
Hunter-Reay's victory last weekend earned him a jump of four positions in the IndyCar Series point standings, boosting him from 13th to ninth, putting him in the top 10 for the first time since after the season opener in Homestead. The challenge now becomes to put strong finishes together for the first time this season for the team as the Ethanol-sponsored car has yet to score back-to-back top-10 results in 2008. Another solid finish would go a long way toward pushing the team into the top five in the series standings as the gap between fifth-placed Marco Andretti and Hunter-Reay in ninth is just 21 points.
"We gave ourselves a great opportunity to make some moves with our Watkins Glen win but we can't get complacent or take anything for granted," Hunter-Reay reported. "We believe that the road courses are our strength and we have four more coming up, but if we can get a good result on the oval this week, it puts us in great shape for the back end of the schedule."
Hunter-Reay will be allowed to run in 30 minutes of Thursday's two-hour rookie practice session at Nashville, which will serve as the only track action of the day on Thursday. Teams are slated to receive two hours and 45 minutes of practice time leading into tomorrow's four-lap qualifying, while the 200-lap Firestone Indy 200 takes place at 8 p.m. Eastern Time on Saturday night.