Rahal Letterman Racing replaces driver Simmons

Updated: July 19, 2007, 10:24 AM ET
Associated Press

HILLIARD, Ohio -- Rahal Letterman Racing has fired driver Jeff Simmons and replaced him with Ryan Hunter-Reay.

Hunter-Reay will take over the team's No. 17 entry immediately, racing in Sunday's IndyCar Series event at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

"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," RLR co-owner Bobby Rahal said. "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."

Hunter-Reay became the first American rookie in 20 years to win a race in the rival Champ Car series, winning in Australia in 2003. He then set a series record by leading all 250 laps in a 2004 victory at the Milwaukee Mile.

But after 43 Champ Car starts over three seasons, Hunter-Reay found himself out of a ride. He has spent the last two seasons running part-time in the Rolex Grand American Series as well as in A1GP competition.

Simmons took over at Rahal-Letterman after rookie Paul Dana was killed in a crash before the 2006 season-opener at Homestead-Miami Speedway. After finishing 16th in the season points last year, he was 15th in the standings this season.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press