SAM SCHMIDT MOTORSPORTS WINS ITS FIFTH FREEDOM 100; WADE CUNNINGHAM WINS HIS THIRD
SPEEDWAY, Ind. - Wade Cunningham and Sam Schmidt Motorsports continued a history-making weekend for the team on Friday afternoon at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as the combination won the eighth annual Firestone Freedom 100 on the famed 2.5-mile oval.
The win was Cunningham's third in the race and fifth for the team.
Cunningham took the lead in the first turn, and other than a minor challenge from Charlie Kimball, dominated the event leading 38 of the races 40 laps.
Polesitter Pippa Mann, who herself made history this weekend becoming the first woman to win a pole at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, was involved in a Lap 3 crash when Jeff Simmons lost control of his car in Turn 1. He slid up the track, and Mann had nowhere to go. The two collided and hit the outside wall. Mann ended up 16th, but more importantly, was fine after the incident.
Series points leader J.K. Vernay had a difficult day as he had to pit on Lap 1 due to a braking issue. The driver lost six laps and was out of contention from the get-go. However, when racing resumed on Lap 9, Vernay was able to show how competitive his car was and how quickly he could adapt to oval racing. In his debut on an oval, he zipped up through the field and passed all the cars sans Cunningham within a matter of laps. A disappointing result, but a promising platform to build on from here.
Philip Major, also making his debut run on an oval track, had a solid day. He started seventh, finished every lap of the race, and brought the car home in sixth. He battled throughout the middle of the top-10 in the entire event. He was passed on occasions, but he also learned how to utilize the draft and setup opponents to make passes on his own. Major enjoyed the experience and is looking forward to his next outing on an oval.
With his win, Cunningham, who was the first to win two Freedom 100s, now is the only three-time winner. The victory earned him a $40,000 purse, a new Ritmo Mundo watch, and a spot in Saturday afternoon's IPL 500 Festival Parade aboard Firestone's float.
The next event for Sam Schmidt Motorsports takes place on Sunday as they are teamed with Chip Ganassi Racing to field the No. 99 car for Townsend Bell in the Indianapolis 500. The team will roll off from 10th.
No. 7 LUCAS OIL/CJ Motorsport/Sam Schmidt Motorsports Driver J.K. Vernay
"Well, obviously I'm pretty disappointed in my result. I showed that I could pass cars on the track and run with Wade, but there's nothing we could do. That's racing. At least we have proven to ourselves that we can be competitive on the ovals. For my first race out, I learned quite a lot, and I'm looking forward to the next event where I hope to get back to winning races. I'm happy for Wade and the team for winning here."
No. 11 Sam Schmidt Motorsports Driver Pippa Mann
"I'm okay. I've got some pretty bruised feet, and I'm going to have a sore neck tomorrow. I'm pretty angry, but I'm okay. Watching the replay, I could see that a car in front of me went to the inside to pass for position heading into Turn 1, and the car above just pinched him down and gave him no room causing him to spin, slide up the track, and collect me. That's what I saw. It was an accident that didn't need to happen. I didn't think the 17 car did anything wrong, in my opinion. He got pushed down there really, really hard. I saw it unfolding, but there was nothing I could do about it. It's the second year in a row I've had an early incident out of my hands take me out."
No. 49 Sam Schmidt Motorsports Driver Philip Major
"I'm very pleased. For my first time running here in Indy, it was a fairly good result. I'm happy with it, but I want to do much better on my next try. I'm almost out of words because it's such a special place to race at. I felt fairly confident in the beginning of the race on new tires, but towards the end, I just needed a little bit more adjustment in my car to keep up with the car's changing conditions. For my first oval race, it was a solid effort and something to build on heading to Iowa. I'm really looking forward to getting onto the next oval."
No. 77 Sam Schmidt Motorsports Driver Wade Cunningham
"What a great result. I love running at this place. I can't thank Sam Schmidt and the team enough for giving me the opportunity. We had a great car throughout the month. It was a bit more difficult this time around as I haven't been driving since the last race last year, but it's definitely satisfying coming away with the win. The whole time I thought Charlie (Kimball) was driving a smart race and hanging back. I thought he was going to have something the last 10 laps. But really, his car wasn't good in the draft." (Could you have passed him if he passed you on the final few laps?): "Absolutely. You saw how easy it was for me to pass Charlie. We had the gearing right. "
Team Owner, Sam Schmidt
"Wow. This is beyond description. I'm extremely disappointed in the incident with Jeff Simmons and the ensuing result of Pippa being taken out because I really do believe we could have finished 1-2. Pippa had an awesome car, equally as fast as Wade's, and she was just riding. That's racing. Same with J.K. For a guy that's never been on an oval before, to come from last in the order and pass all the cars in front of him in eight laps is a phenomenal performance. We're really encouraged for the rest of the ovals with him. Philip Major drove an extremely smart race. He got a ton of experience. Unfortunately, I think we under-geared him a little bit so he couldn't pass when he had the opportunity, but all in all, it's a tremendous feeling to win five races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I have to thank all of the team's sponsors, especially IZOD and Lucas Oil for allowing me to put Wade Cunningham in the car this weekend. He clearly loves this place."