Indianapolis: Sam Schmidt Motorsports preview

SAM SCHMIDT MOTORSPORTS LOOKS TO DEFEND FREEDOM 100 CROWN THIS WEEKEND IN INDY SPEEDWAY, Ind. -- The fourth race of the 2010 Firestone Indy Lights season takes place this weekend at the prestigious Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Speedway, ...

SAM SCHMIDT MOTORSPORTS LOOKS TO DEFEND FREEDOM 100 CROWN THIS WEEKEND IN INDY

SPEEDWAY, Ind. -- The fourth race of the 2010 Firestone Indy Lights season takes place this weekend at the prestigious Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Speedway, Indiana.

A record of success at Indianapolis speaks for itself and SSM.

Since 2004, Sam Schmidt Motorsports has won four of the six Freedom 100s run at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, including the latest running in 2009. In the other two events, the team has placed a car in second position (2006, 2008). The run of success doesn't fuel any pressure for the team -- rather, a fire and inspiration to continue its dominance on the most prestigious race track on the schedule.

Defending Freedom 100 team reunites for 2010 run.

Rejoining the Sam Schmidt Motorsports stable for his first race of 2010 is Wade Cunningham, who won the 2009 Freedom 100 for the team. The first two-time winner of the Freedom 100 steps into the #77 machine looking to become the first three-time winner. Besides reuniting with the team, he reunites with his race engineer Doug Zister, with whom he has shared much of his Firestone Indy Lights success.

Points leader J.K. Vernay looks forward to the challenge of first oval run. With two wins and an additional podium finish in his first three Firestone Indy Lights starts, series points leader J.K. Vernay has proven that he's one of the quickest, if not quickest driver on the road circuits and city streets. Now, he faces a new challenge, his first oval race. Racing on this type of circuit is exciting and intimidating enough for any driver, but to have an oval debut at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the series highest stage, makes things even more exciting. Vernay looks forward to the challenge, and his focus and goals are still the same -- win and continue building a lead in the season-long points standings.

Pippa Mann looks to translate fast testing times into top run on race day. After finishing second in the open test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway just a couple of weeks prior with a lap average of 190.225 mph, Pippa Mann has been very excited and confident heading into this weekend's event. Besides being quick, Mann was comfortable with her car on every inch of asphalt. She was able to run on the inside and outside of cars without having to back off and looks to show some aggressive and confident racing as the event nears with her best chance to have a career day in Firestone Indy Lights.

Rookie Philip Major enters Freedom 100 as fastest rookie after test at IMS. Not to be forgotten is series rookie Philip Major, who at the open test was the fastest driver among the rookie crop. He finished right behind his teammate Wade Cunningham. Along with Cunningham, he's surrounded by people with successful experience at this track, and with his first oval race being at such a famed track, he's very much looking forward to strapping in and getting going.

No. 7 LUCAS OIL/CJ Motorsport/Sam Schmidt Motorsports Driver J.K. Vernay

"I'm quite excited about the race. The test went very well, and I learned a lot. I am confident that the team will give me a good car. It's important for me to have a good qualifying result on Thursday, and in the race, to be smart and finish in a good position. I have a great teammate in Wade Cunningham who I learned a lot from during the open test. He and some of the IZOD IndyCar drivers gave me some great advice in getting around this track. I can't thank everyone enough for their contributions. I'm coming into this race with the same mode as the other races. I'm here to win."

No. 11 Sam Schmidt Motorsports Driver Pippa Mann

"We had a great test here at Indy just a couple of weeks ago. I was able to be comfortably flat out from the third lap on, and we were able to do some really good work on the car. I was lacking a touch of pace in clean air, but overall the car was just awesome in the dirty air and really great running side by side with other cars. It's probably the first time since I started driving ovals that I've truly enjoyed running side by side, and running on the high side around the outside of other drivers. It's the handling of the No. 11 Sam Schmidt Motorsports car that's made all the difference. I'm really excited for this weekend. Expectations were high going into the test, and after the test, expectations are now really high. I think for qualifying we might only be looking at the first four or five rows, but in terms of the race, I see our car going to the front in a hurry. I think we'll be part of the lead pack. We were able to conserve our tires while running in traffic during the test, so that should be important in the race too. There's some really tough competition out there, but we're going to be tough competition for the others too. The goal is to take the No. 11 car to victory lane and score another Firestone Indy Lights Freedom 100 victory for Sam Schmidt Motorsports."

No. 49 Sam Schmidt Motorsports Driver Philip Major

"I am extremely excited to compete in my first oval race especially since its our biggest race of the year. My first test day at the brickyard went very well. We where seventh on the speed chart, and I ended up being the fastest rookie driver. There is definitely some more speed we can find for the race so I am confident that it will be a good race weekend."

No. 77 Sam Schmidt Motorsports Driver Wade Cunningham

"Of course I'm excited to be back in a race car, and I couldn't think of a better situation than being with the team that I won last year's race with. I couldn't have worked it out better myself as I am returning to work with Doug Zister, who I worked with to win both the 2006 and 2009 Freedom 100. Winning is never easy, no matter what the situation, but the race schedule worked out in my favor as this is the first oval race of the season for these guys. There has also been a strict testing policy for non rookies so a lot of things have come together where I am coming into this race at no disadvantage to the season regulars. Everyone on the team including myself believe that we have the ability to win. Otherwise, there wouldn't be much point in fielding the entry! We were not as quick as we needed to be in the test, and I know the team has put in a lot of effort since then improving the package. There is always something to learn and both the team and I were surprised at how good of a condition the track was in at the test, and maybe we underestimated how far we could push the car. The expectation is that we are going to have a car that will compete for the win. Anything less than that will be a disappointment.

Team Owner, Sam Schmidt

"Winning the Freedom 100 is second only to winning the Indy 500 in my mind. The energy at the track is so huge on that day, and it's the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The team puts a tremendous amount of effort into this event, and we would stop at nothing to win for a fifth time. The test went very well, and the experience of Wade and Pippa, combined with the performance of J.K. and Philip, should be a really competitive line up. Many fans stated that the 2009 Freedom 100 was more exciting than the Indy 500, and I expect the same will be true this year."

-source: ssm

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