PIPPA MANN MAKES HISTORY; SAM SCHMIDT MOTORSPORTS TO START 1-2 IN FRIDAY'S FREEDOM 100
SPEEDWAY, Ind. - Pippa Mann made history on Thursday afternoon at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway when she became the first woman ever to win a pole position for a race at the historic 2.5-mile oval.
She beat teammate Wade Cunningham, who just returned to the team this weekend to defend his Freedom 100 crown from 2009, with a two-lap average of 187.989 mph.
All four Sam Schmidt entries qualified in the top-seven starting spots with series points leader J.K. Vernay in sixth and the speedway's fastest Firestone Indy Lights rookie, Philip Major, starting in seventh.
No. 7 LUCAS OIL/CJ Motorsport/Sam Schmidt Motorsports Driver J.K. Vernay
"It was great to run here. Qualifying wasn't so bad. I think we had a good result. Qualifying is not that important. I just wanted to be in the top six or seven. We will see in the race. We have a lot to learn because this is a new thing for me. A good pace for the race is what we need. I'm happy and focusing on the race now."
No. 11 Sam Schmidt Motorsports Driver Pippa Mann
(About being first female pole winner at Indianapolis Motor Speedway): "I don't know if it's sunk in yet. If I'm still P1 at the end of tomorrow, I don't know what I'll do. All I can do is give a huge thank you to all of my guys and everybody on the Sam Schmidt Motorsports Team. I'm at a loss for words. This is fantastic." (About starting on pole): "It's the first time I've ever started on pole in a (Firestone) Indy Lights race, so that's going to be really interesting to find out what that is like. We had a good racecar this morning and hopefully, it will carry over until tomorrow. Let's see how many laps we can lead and hopefully we can lead the one that matters at the end."
No. 49 Sam Schmidt Motorsports Driver Philip Major
"I had a lot of fun in qualifying. I was a bit anxious heading into it. Once I put my visor down, it was like, 'back to business' and I just focused on what we had done all morning. I thought it was a decent effort for my first time qualifying on an oval. There's definitely some room for improvement. I'm happy with the result, but not satisfied. I really want to improve at the next oval qualifying in Iowa. I think we'll be solid in the race. It's going to be important to keep your head up and save your times for the last 20 laps, and I think whoever does that best is going to come out in first."
No. 77 Sam Schmidt Motorsports Driver Wade Cunningham
"We didn't expect to be on the front row. I came to the Open Test (on May 14) having not driven since Miami last October. By ourselves, none of our team cars were that quick over a single lap. Handling was another story, but when you are going for outright speed for qualifying, it's difficult to extract that last little bit out. We didn't think we had it. I know the guys put in a lot of work the last couple of weeks, not just on my car, but on all of them, but I was still worried after practice because we couldn't pull up on cars as quickly as I would liked, and we didn't have the advantage that I remembered having last year. But now that qualifying is over and two of our cars posted big speeds, it was obviously nothing to worry about, and we got our knickers in a twist over nothing. It's great to be on front row. I'm disappointed to miss out on pole by a tenth, but that's the way it goes."
Team Owner, Sam Schmidt
"I love it when I'm surprised. Some other guys put up some big numbers in practice and at the open test. We thought they were in a tow, but you never know how much they were in a tow. We really thought the AFS Andretti Autosport cars had us handled, but we just stuck to our program with all four cars in the first and second session. I'm extremely pleased that we got all four cars in the top-seven. Last year, I think we were 12th or 13th with our last car. So this year, we've worked really hard to give everyone equal attention and equal cars. We want to win poles and races, but we also want to work hard on getting all four cars in the top-five on a regular basis. This is really exciting. We've had some huge blessings this week. Everything went tremendously smooth with the IndyCar program. We were graced on Saturday with our qualifying, and now to have this happen, I'm really looking forward to Friday. I hope everyone can be patient, and we'll see what happens. "