Chicagoland: Sam Schmidt Motorsports preview

SAM SCHMIDT MOTORSPORTS RETURNS TO HIGH-SPEED OVAL THIS WEEKEND IN CHICAGOLAND JOLIET, Ill. -- Only two races remain in the 2009 Firestone Indy Lights season, and the first of those two takes place on Saturday for Sam Schmidt Motorsports at the...

SAM SCHMIDT MOTORSPORTS RETURNS TO HIGH-SPEED OVAL THIS WEEKEND IN CHICAGOLAND

JOLIET, Ill. -- Only two races remain in the 2009 Firestone Indy Lights season, and the first of those two takes place on Saturday for Sam Schmidt Motorsports at the Chicagoland Speedway. The one day event is kicked off in the morning with a practice session at 10:30 for one hour. Qualifying follows at 1:30 p.m. The race itself starts at 5:15 p.m. All on-track session times are listed in CDT and can be seen live via streaming video on indycar.com.

James Hinchcliffe chasing down Sebastian Saavedra for Rookie of the Year title.

After 13 races in the 2009 season, Firestone Indy Lights rookie James Hinchcliffe has shown impressively, having finished in the top-five six times, including four third-place finishes and one second-place result. He has been steadily chipping away at current rookie leader Sebastian Saavedra for the rookie title, being only 22 points behind entering this weekend. In the last two events, Hinchcliffe has gained 30 points on Saavedra. With 50 points awarded to a race winner, with only two races to go, the rookie battle is still wide-open, and Hinchcliffe feels confident he can close up the gap, especially after showing so well at the Kentucky Speedway where he led his first oval laps in his Firestone Indy Lights career.

Wade Cunningham still within striking distance of second in the championship.

Wade Cunningham enters this weekend fifth in Firestone Indy Lights points. Only 29 points separate him from second-place Sebastian Saavedra. Though points leader J.R. Hildebrand is out of reach for the overall title, Cunningham is still very focused on finishing the 2009 season on the highest note possible. Having been one of the more dominant drivers on high-speed ovals this season, and with the season finishing on two high-banked superspeedway, Cunningham is looking forward to putting up a strong fight to take away second-place in the championship from Saavedra.

Ana Beatriz looks to improve upon 2008 second-place finish at Chicagoland.

As the 2008 Firestone Indy Lights season was wrapped up at the Chicagoland Speedway, an almost forgotten story from the event was Ana Beatriz walking away with a second-place result at the track. After starting from second, she battled with the AGR duo of Arie Luyendyk Jr. and Rafael Matos. On a late race restart, Beatriz was able to find her way by Matos for second-place and ended the race in that position. She returns in 2009 looking to finish one step higher on the podium. The first female to win in Firestone Indy Lights, she enters the event having posted two top-five finishes in the last three races, including third at the Kentucky Speedway.

Gustavo Yacaman forced to sit out due to injury.

At the last round of the Firestone Indy Lights championship, 18-year old rookie Gustavo Yacaman suffered a minimally compressed fracture of his T5 vertebrae as a result of the Lap 1 accident he was involved in when his car went airborne and impacted with force of 70 Gs. He has not been medically cleared to race, although the team remains optimistic that he'll be able to return for the season finale at the Homestead-Miami Speedway in six weeks time.

Chicagoland Speedway site of record-setting victory for Sam Schmidt Motorsports.

In a dream 2007 season that saw Sam Schmidt Motorsports win nine races in the 15-race Firestone Indy Lights schedule, the season ended on a record-setting note at the Chicagoland Speedway. Logan Gomez beat out teammate and series champion Alex Lloyd in what would officially become a Guinness World Record for closest finish ever in a car race with the margin of victory being 0.0005 seconds.

#7 HINCHTOWN.com/Sam Schmidt Motorsports Driver James Hinchcliffe

"I'm really excited about this weekend. Our last oval, at Kentucky, was a bit of a breakthrough for us. We got to lead our first laps on an oval, and the car was really strong. This place is a slightly faster version of Kentucky so we're expecting to be pretty strong, and from what I've seen here in years past, the racing is pretty crazy. We already had one of those in Kentucky, and Wade (Cunningham) said this is going to be Kentucky times two. So I think it's going to be pretty interesting. Hopefully it's a good race for the fans and a good race for Sam Schmidt Motorsports, and hopefully we can try and get another podium sweep."

#11 LUCAS OIL/Sam Schmidt Motorsports Driver Wade Cunningham

"Really, for us, this weekend, the only goal is to win maximum points if we want to have any hope of winning second in the championship. We're a few more points out of second than we should be following the last couple of races and one very rude driver. We've won two superspeedways this year, and I've got two superspeedway poles, and if qualifying had been run at Kentucky, I think we would have had a shot at the pole there as well. There's every bit of history there that indicates we'll be battling at the front, and that's all we can do if we want second in the championship. Unfortunately, J.R. (Hildebrand) will still be in the mix for the race win because he's a great competitor, but that's all we can do. We'll take these last two races one at a time, and if we can get maximum points here this weekend, that keeps the championship alive with a chance to win second in the standings at Homestead."

#20 HEALTHY CHOICE/Sam Schmidt Motorsports Driver Ana Beatriz

"I'm really looking forward to this race. We've had some good results in the last few races, and my hope is to finish these last two races in a strong position for the Healthy Choice/Sam Schmidt team. We finished second at Chicago one year ago, and I don't see why we can't improve one more spot this year. There will be some good competition up front, especially with my teammates, but I'm confident we can contend for the win. Let's see what happens."

Team Owner, Sam Schmidt

"Obviously, our team has had good success at Chicago. Most notably was the exciting 2007 finish. We have nothing to lose this weekend and no reason to be conservative, so all three drivers will be going for it. I'm disappointed Gusty couldn't compete this weekend due to the injury he sustained at Sonoma, however, considering it was a 70G hit, I am thankful the Dallara chassis and current safety equipment prevented more severe damage. We're hoping he'll be healed and back for Homestead."

-credit: ssm

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About this article
Series Indy Lights
Drivers Sam Schmidt , Alex Lloyd , Wade Cunningham , James Hinchcliffe , Sebastian Saavedra , Logan Gomez , J.R. Hildebrand , Ana Beatriz , Gustavo Yacaman , Arie Luyendyk Jr.