Looks like Silly Season is starting early this year.
The timing is confusing considering there is an article in today's Columbus Dispatch discussing how Bobby Rahal has challenged his drivers named Sharp and Simmons to perform better at Mid Ohio this weekend, but several folks have said a TV station in Ohio is reporting that RLR has bounced Jeff Simmons out of his ride.
A quick check of "sources" (and believe me, I'm always surprised to find out My Name Is IRL has sources) says this is in fact true, although who the replacement is and whether or not this is a permanent change have yet to be confirmed.
As reporters are apt to say, this is "developing"...
UPDATE: A second confirmation has been given from a different "source" (although again without the name of a replacement), but there are still no published reports. It would appear if you have experience driving IndyCars, then you might want to send your resume over to RLR this afternoon.
UPDATE 2: This isn't a news update, but it should be noted that ESPN.com beat reporter John Oreovicz mentioned this in an update a few days ago.
After at least four crashes this season, Simmons has reportedly been on shaky ground recently at Rahal Letterman Racing and the near-miss with Matsuura may be the last straw for Bobby Rahal and general manager Scott Roembke. Several drivers are under consideration, including Patrick Carpentier, Alex Barron, Alex Gurney and Ryan Hunter-Reay.
UPDATE 3: The braintrust at TrackSide Online (and proud sponsors of My Name Is IRL) are reporting the following:
Persistent rumors say that Jeff Simmons will be replaced in the Rahal Letterman Racing ride by Ryan Hunter-Reay at Mid-Ohio. We haven't gotten this 100% confirmed and the team isn't saying. But, if this is gonna happen, the announcement would have to happen soon, practice starts on Friday, so expect something official early Thursday morning. (MORE from TrackSide Online)
UPDATE 4: Finally, the press release from RLR.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY JOINS RAHAL LETTERMAN RACING INDYCAR PROGRAM
HILLIARD, Ohio (July 19, 2007) – Rahal Letterman Racing today announces that American open-wheel and sportscar racewinner Ryan Hunter-Reay will take over as the driver of the team’s #17 Ethanol-sponsored car in the IndyCar Series, effective immediately.
“We have made important strides in our IndyCar program this year and we feel like this is something that we needed to do to maintain that pattern of improvement and growth,” said RLR co-owner Bobby Rahal. “Jeff stepped into a difficult situation last season and did a lot for our team and our sponsors, but we feel at this time, that this is the right move for the long-term future of Rahal Letterman Racing.”
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