Rahal team turns toward Milwaukee next
Having proven their mettle in the fires of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, Rahal Letterman Racing drivers Scott Sharp (#8 Patrón Dallara/Honda/Firestone) and Jeff Simmons (#17 Ethanol Dallara/Honda/Firestone) will look to build on strong Indianapolis 500 runs when the IndyCar Series heads for the Milwaukee Mile this weekend.
Sharp matched a season-best with a sixth-place finish at Indy, while Simmons ran in the top-five for much of the day before rain-induced strategies shuffled him back to 11th in the final finishing order.
The Ohio-based squad will now turn its attention to the flat one-mile oval on the grounds of Wisconsin State Fair Park for this weekend’s ABC Supply/A.J. Foyt 225, which is the sixth race on the 2007 IndyCar Series schedule. The first short-oval race of the year will see Simmons returning to the track where he set his career-best qualifying mark a year ago, as he earned the sixth-place spot on the starting grid. He led his first IndyCar race lap during that race while on his way to a ninth-place result.
“We had a pretty good car there last year,” Simmons said. “The tires are a little different I think, but we should be able to adjust to that. We had a good car there, we really should have qualified third but we made a wing change right before qualifying. We were running right up there all day long, then I made a mistake. I won there in the Pro Series and that is a place that you have to battle all day long. I look forward to going there.”
Sharp actually made his first appearance on the Milwaukee Mile in 1994, and has competed in each of the three previous IndyCar visits to the nation’s oldest and longest-running speedway. His best finish came in 2005 when he ended up 10th after starting the day in the 13th position.
“I’m excited to go to Milwaukee,” Sharp reported. “That’s a track that the team has run very well on. Hopefully all the work we’ve done this month will make us stronger on every track we go to and just give us a little kick in the tail. I love it. Milwaukee is a driver’s track. You drive it more like a road course, there are a few different lines you can use to get around there. It’s a flat track so we can carry some of what we learned here this month to there.”
Sharp’s strong Indy result, where he was also named as the recipient of the AAA Safe Driver Award for the 500-mile event, boosted him into eighth place in the season point standings, 20 behind seventh-place Tomas Scheckter. Simmons is 11th, but is just 11 markers out of the top 10 after five races. Rahal Letterman Racing has done well in its recent trips to the venerable oval, winning the pole in 2004 with Vitor Meira at the wheel. Buddy Rice set the bar with a second-place result in ‘04, while Danica Patrick matched her best-ever IndyCar finish there a year ago for the RLR team, ending up fourth after starting 14th.
“We’ve done well there, we’ve been on the pole there,” said RLR General Manager Scott Roembke. “I think if we can carry some of this competitiveness over to Milwaukee, we’ll be in good shape.” Rahal Letterman Racing PR