St. Pete: Rahal Letterman Racing Friday report

RAHAL LETTERMAN RACING AND RYAN HUNTER-REAY MAKE UP FOR LOST TIME IN ST. PETE ST. PETERSBURG, Fla - Time is a valuable thing/watch it fly by as the pendulum swings - Linkin Park ...

RAHAL LETTERMAN RACING AND RYAN HUNTER-REAY MAKE UP FOR LOST TIME IN ST. PETE

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla - Time is a valuable thing/watch it fly by as the pendulum swings - Linkin Park

Rahal Letterman Racing came into this weekend's Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg looking for big things after a promising opening to the IndyCar Series season, and while success is still in the cards for the Ohio-based team, it will appreciate it more after a trying day that cost the team much of its early practice time.

A rare part failure sidelined the team and driver Ryan Hunter-Reay (#17 Ethanol Dallara/Honda/Firestone) for most of the morning's 90-minute practice session on Friday, but the squad bounced back well in the second outing to finish 10th on the time charts.

Friday featured a pair of practice sessions on the tricky 1.806-mile St. Pete street course, with 26 cars looking for speed heading into tomorrow's qualifying session. The team ran but six laps in the first one before a bolt holding the suspension to the tub failed, but Hunter-Reay logged a best lap of 1:03.7379 (101.666 mph) on his 20th lap of the afternoon to vault into the top 10 on the speed sheets.

"We had another rough day but this team continues to bounce back and show its resiliency at every turn," Hunter-Reay reported. "We had a suspension failure in the morning practice, nothing the team did, just a part failure, but to miss a full session on a street course as a one-car team is pretty tough. That being said, we had a good second session and are just a couple of tenths off the pace and we didn't get a clear lap on our tires. I think we'll be pretty good tomorrow."

Hunter-Reay is making his return to the St. Pete street course after five years, having competed in the inaugural race here in 2003 when it was under Champ Car sanction. The young Floridian made his series debut on that day - finishing 16th - and was surprised with how things had changed on the track that has remained relatively unchanged during its transformation from a Champ Car to an IndyCar circuit.

"It's pretty thick out there with so many cars, but the track is in good shape and it's a lot of fun," Hunter-Reay reported. "I was surprised how much faster the Firestone Firehawks were than what I remember, but the tires held up well and I didn't have a single worry about anything but going fast."

The Rahal Letterman Racing team will look to score a strong starting spot for Sunday's race with tomorrow afternoon's qualifying, which begins at 10:55 a.m.

-credit: rlr

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Series IndyCar