PIPPA MANN TAKES POLE IN HOMESTEAD; MAJOR AND CUNNINGHAM END UP IN TOP-FIVE POSITIONS
HOMESTEAD, Fla. - Qualifying took place on Friday evening at the Homestead-Miami Speedway for the final round of the 2010 Firestone Indy Lights championship, and Pippa Mann led the way for the Sam Schmidt team by taking the pole position for Saturday afternoon's race.
Philip Major followed in fourth, Wade Cunningham in fifth, and J.K. Vernay in 13th.
The pole is Mann's third in Firestone Indy Lights competition. She was able to make best use of information from Cunningham, who was the first team car on the track, as well as quickly cooling conditions as the sun began to set.
Mann hopes to accomplish the same sweep as she did in the previous round at Kentucky - win the pole, lead the most laps, and win the race.
Major posted his fastest laps all weekend in qualifying, and after struggling a bit early on in the practice sessions, was very satisfied to come away with his fourth-place result. He feels confident that a solid result can be attained from where he stands.
Cunningham had to battle a hot track and different handling conditions between the two ends of the circuit, but he's confident that come race time, he'll have a car that can contend for a top spot.
The most disappointed after qualifying was Vernay. Though this weekend is where he will clinch the Firestone Indy Lights championship, Vernay is a competitor and wants to go out with a victory. He believes more can be found in both the car and driver and is looking to put in some hard work with the team before Saturday night's event to move forward up the grid.
Saturday's Fuzzy's Ultra Premium Vodka 100 can be seen live via streaming video at 4 p.m. ET on indycar.com and firestoneindylights.com.
DRIVER NOTES & QUOTES
#7 LUCAS OIL/CJ Motorsport/Sam Schmidt Motorsports Driver J.K. Vernay
Qualified 13th; two-lap average of 184.614 mph. Won five races so far in rookie campaign (St. Pete, Barber Park, The Glen, Toronto, Infineon Raceway). Currently the series points leader by 48 over James Hinchcliffe; Vernay just needs to start to clinch title. Making 13th Firestone Indy Lights start. In 2009, competed in Formula 3, highlighted by two wins, and a track record at the Macau street circuit.
"For sure, we can not be happy at all about this qualifying. It wasn't good. We're going to have to work hard tonight to improve everything. I have to improve myself with my driving. We have to find a bit more in the car as well. My goal is still to win tomorrow. That's always my goal, and we're going to give it our best to achieve that effort, but right now, I'm just disappointed with qualifying."
#11 Sam Schmidt Motorsports Driver Pippa Mann
Qualified 1st; two-lap average of 186.597 mph. In sophomore season of Firestone Indy Lights competition. Coming off first career victory in Firestone Indy Lights at Kentucky Speedway. Enters Homestead-Miami Speedway seventh in points. Her first career pole this year was the first for any woman in any event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. In 2009, had three top-10s with best finish of eighth (Homestead).
"Things started to come together right at the point when I broke my hand. We didn't get to show our potential for three races straight. Obviously Toronto and Edmonton were extremely difficult in those circumstances, then sitting out Mid-Ohio. I was able to come back exactly where I left off and just kept on improving. I'm pretty pleased. Everybody keeps bringing up Indy, but there was absolutely nothing that I could have done in that race. We would have been up front there too, and it wouldn't be such a surprise to people now. The hand was my mistake. I made the error. I put the car in the wall and smashed my hand up, and I paid for that mistake for three races. When I came back from that, I said, 'Okay. No more mistakes.' I wish we were racing in this weather tomorrow. Hopefully we'll have a good car in the race. I said coming into this weekend that my goals were to have a similar result as in Kentucky. We wanted to gain maximum points. Win the pole, lead the most laps, and win the race. So far, we've achieved one part of those three. I don't know if I can win, but I'm certainly going to try. It's a very big deal for me to finish fifth in the championship after what we've been through, and if we can stay with the plan, we will finish fifth. It would mean a lot to me."
#49 Sam Schmidt Motorsports Driver Philip Major
Qualified 4th; two-lap average of 185.899 mph. Best finish of rookie campaign was third at the Chicagoland Speedway. Enters Homestead-Miami Speedway 10th in points. Making 13th Firestone Indy Lights start. In 2009, made 12 starts in British Formula 3 with Carlin Motorsport with best finish of sixth at Spa.
"I'm definitely happy with our result. We struggled a bit with the handling on our car initially. It's good that we came out in qualifying and showed strongly. I think I missed just a bit with the adjustments in the cockpit. We can work forward from our starting position tomorrow."
#77 IZOD/Sam Schmidt Motorsports Driver Wade Cunningham
Qualified fifth; two-lap average of 185.827 mph. Making second start of season with Sam Schmidt Motorsports; first Firestone Indy Lights race since Indy win. Three-time Freedom 100 winner, including 2009 and 2010 with Sam Schmidt Motorsports. Previous best finish in Homestead is fourth in five previous starts.
"Very difficult conditions for us today. Both ends are extremely different. If you're good going into Turns 1 and 2, it's very difficult to find the balance for 3 and 4. It's very much a compromise. Every car that I looked at during practice was having similar problems. The person that wins tomorrow will be that one that can have the best handling throughout the whole race."
Team Owner, Sam Schmidt
"I'm extremely pleased with Pippa's pole position. A lot of strategy goes into qualifying well here. She got it right so she deserves what she got. Hopefully tomorrow will be a repeat of Kentucky. We would have obviously loved to have had J.K. qualify a little higher up because I know not only does he want to clinch the championship tomorrow, he wants to win this race and the championship and go out in style. It'll be a tough road, but (James) Hinchcliffe started in a similar position in Chicago and came back to win the race. So, it can be done, but we just need to find a little bit more in the car. Philip qualified faster than he had run all day. He really stepped it up in qualifying. Wade, unfortunately, was the first one out on our team. All four cars had identical setups, but he had his hands full with a loose condition. Therefore, the other people got the benefit of his information. He certainly did not qualify where he normally would have been given the circumstance. I think with Pippa in the front, Wade where he's at, J.K. and Philip where they're at, it's going to be an exciting race tomorrow. Everyone should watch and enjoy the drama unfold."