2007 Preview: Rahal Letterman Racing
March 19, 2007 | 2:14 P.M. EST
- Drivers: Scott Sharp (Car No. 8), Jeff Simmons (Car No. 17)
- Team Manager: Steve Dickson
- Technical Director: Jay O’Connell
- Chief Engineer: Ray Leto
- Race Engineer: Jeff Britton (Sharp), Neil Fife (Simmons)
- Chief Mechanic: Ricardo Nault (Sharp), Ed Daood (Simmons)
2006 Rear View Mirror
Drivers: Buddy Rice, Danica Patrick, Paul Dana (One Race), Jeff Simmons (12 Races)
Points: Ninth (Patrick), 15th (Rice), 16th (Simmons), 40th (Dana)
Best Overall Race Finish: Fourth by Patrick at Nashville and Milwaukee
After a trying 2006 season, Rahal Letterman Racing hopes a series of off-season moves are a change in the right direction in 2007.
The most visible change is in the driver lineup where 1996 IndyCar Series co-champion Scott Sharp joins returning driver Jeff Simmons as the team focuses on a two-car effort for the first time since 2004.
Sharp, who brings new sponsor Patron Tequila to the IndyCar Series, failed to build on a solid debut season with Fernandez Racing, slipping from fifth to 12th in points. He sees the move to Rahal as a new beginning.
"I am excited to be with a team in Rahal Letterman Racing that is approaching the season from the same point I am," Sharp said. "RLR didn’t enjoy the kind of success last season that they have been accustomed to, so we are both hungry to excel and to win and to accomplish something. RLR has a great track record, and for me to come to this organization at this stage of my career is a great situation for my sponsor Patrón Tequila and myself."
But not everything is new for Sharp, who is paired again with engineer Jeff Britton. The pair worked together at Kelley Racing in 2001 and 2002, scoring two wins and the pole for the 2001 Indianapolis 500.
Simmons, meanwhile, returns to the same No. 17 Team Ethanol entry in 2007, but the pieces around him have changed. Engineer Neil Fife steps up to be Simmons race engineer while Ed Daood, who oversaw Danica Patrick’s car the last two seasons, will serve as his chief mechanic.
Still, the changes are welcome from Simmons as he prepares for his first full season in the IndyCar Series
"It has been a blessing to have a full off-season of testing to get ready for the IndyCar Series season," Simmons said. "I have never had the opportunity to spend as much time testing as what I have had this off-season. When I first raced in the IndyCar Series in 2004 at Indy, I was literally in the car one day and qualifying the next. Last year of course everything happened so suddenly that I really didn’t get much of an opportunity to prepare before we were racing."
Simmons finished the year strong with six top-10 finishes in his final seven starts. The former Indy Pro Series standout hopes to build on that success this season.
"We had a difficult season last year with the chassis change, but I think everyone has worked really hard in the off-season," he said. "I think the payoff will be evident at the first race."