Texas provides lift for Rahal Letterman duo Scott Sharp secured his first pole start in almost six years and Jeff Simmons recorded a career-best sixth place in the Bombardier Learjet 550k at Texas Motor Speedway. Combined, it could be a sign that everything is falling into place at Rahal Letterman Racing.
The efforts were by far the best this season. Sharp's pole bettered by 10 positions his highest starting spot, and Simmons topped his highest starting position by four (eighth on the grid for the second of four night races). Simmons posted his fourth top 10 of the season, while Sharp's seventh place was his third top 10 in a row.
"It was really good work by the Team Ethanol guys in the pits; they really did the job for us," said Simmons, driver of the No. 17 Honda-powered Dallara. "I didn't pass too many cars out there, but the guys kept us in it with good stops. Maybe it was finally a little good karma after the last couple races where we deserved a lot better than we ended up."
Simmons led five laps - another career high.
"I have to thank Scott for letting us by in the final stint while trying to give us a little help when we were pushing for a top-five," Simmons said about the final 20 laps. "I just wish we could have made things a little tougher for the other guys, but we'll take the points and move on."
After Sharp turned a few heads with his qualifying quick lap of 215.260 mph (24.3334 seconds), both the IndyCar Series veteran and Rahal Letterman Racing general manager Scott Roembke pointed to the three weeks at Indianapolis as the time when the team gelled.
"We built up a lot of momentum in Indy and had good cars in Milwaukee, and I think it is starting to pay off," Roembke said. "This team over the last year and a half has been through some tough times, and it is good to see all the hard work pay off in this way."
Sharp's No. 8 Patrón-sponsored car had trouble in traffic in the 228-lap race, which saw him fall to seventh after 15 laps. He steered clear of two incidents on the track to rack up the seventh place.
"The first couple of stints were really tough because we got caught in traffic and that made the car slide around a bit, and if you lifted you gave up even more spots," Sharp said. "Our guys kept after it and we did what we could, but it was a difficult problem to solve because more downforce would have helped the car, but downforce takes away speed, and we couldn't afford to give that up." IRL PR