RAHAL LETTERMAN RACING SCORES SIXTH SPOT FOR SUNDAY'S ST. PETE SLUGFEST ST. PETERSBURG, Florida - You'd better start swimming/or you'll sink like a stone/the times they are a'changin - Bob Dylan The assimilation of Champ Car teams and drivers...
RAHAL LETTERMAN RACING SCORES SIXTH SPOT FOR SUNDAY'S ST. PETE SLUGFEST
ST. PETERSBURG, Florida - You'd better start swimming/or you'll sink like a stone/the times they are a'changin - Bob Dylan
The assimilation of Champ Car teams and drivers into the IndyCar Series raised the price of poker in today's qualifying session for Sunday's Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg but Rahal Letterman Racing and Ryan Hunter-Reay (#17 Ethanol Dallara/Honda/Firestone) were in on every hand.
The team marched through the first two qualifying rounds and into the Firestone Fast Six for the second consecutive road-course event, with Hunter-Reay eventually taking the sixth spot in tomorrow's 26-car grid. The results of the three-tier session opened eyes throughout the paddock as standard St. Pete stalwarts Helio Castroneves and Tony Kanaan were joined in the fast six by former Champ Car upstarts Will Power and Justin Wilson as well as by Ryan Briscoe and Hunter-Reay.
"Today's run was a good result for the Ethanol car, but we were disappointed not to be further up the grid," Hunter-Reay lamented. "This field is really thick and there's a lot of fast guys up front as well as behind us. I think the biggest thing tomorrow is that we have to keep our nose clean. That will be tough to do. It's our first street race of the season so everyone's going to have a false sense of talent going into the first corner. We'll see what happens."
Today's qualifications were the first to be held with the new IndyCar knockout rules, where the 26 cars were split into two groups that ran for 20 minutes each, with the top-six drivers in each session moving on to a 15-minute second session. Of those 12 cars, the fastest half-dozen in that outing moved into the Firestone Fast Six, where another 10-minute session determined the polesitter.
Hunter-Reay turned his best lap of the day in the second session when he navigated the 1.8-mile course in 62.686 seconds, but was unable to match that speed in the third outing, posting a top time of 63.007 (102.845 mph).
"You can't make a single mistake in this type of qualifying format with this kind of talent on the track," Hunter-Reay said. "If you lock a wheel for an instant, it costs you time and three guys are going to get around you. I do like the format though. It gives you a much better representation of which cars are good on the weekend."