IPS: Indianapolis: Sam Schmidt Motorsports preview

Rookies Lead Pack in Points, Speed Sam Schmidt Motorsports Rookie Drivers Head into IMS Race Week Poised for Success With the series point leader heading the way, Sam Schmidt Motorsports heads to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this week...

Rookies Lead Pack in Points, Speed

Sam Schmidt Motorsports Rookie Drivers Head into IMS Race Week Poised for Success

With the series point leader heading the way, Sam Schmidt Motorsports heads to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this week and Friday's Futaba Freedom 100 Menards Infiniti Pro Series race -- the first race of a busy Indy weekend leading up to Sunday's Indianapolis 500.

Sam Schmidt Motorsports last year fielded the car for the Menards Infiniti Pro Series champion, Thiago Medeiros. Madeiros won the Futaba Freedom 100 last May at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, making Sam Schmidt Motorsports (SSM) defending series and race champions. Without question, the bar of measure is set high for Schmidt's 2005 rookie lineup heading into the season's biggest race.

Travis Gregg, who drives Schmidt's #7 Lucas Oil Special, like his teammates, seems very comfortable with the high performance standards of SSM. Currently Gregg leads the championship battle with 110 points. Gregg, 26, is a native of Camden, Ohio, and has two pole positions (Miami and Phoenix), one victory (Miami) and has led 88 laps this season.

Chris Festa, 19, is fifth in the standings with 84 points. He has one runner-up finish at Phoenix. Festa is from Atlanta, Ga., and is a freshman at Florida State University. He drives Schmidt's SpacePak, CareCentric entry. Festa has been in the garage much of the month of May, helping Sam Schmidt Motorsports IndyCar entry by spotting for driver Richie Hearn.

Jaime Camara, 24, is a Brazilian native living in Miami, Fla., and sits sixth in the standings with 76 points. Driving Schmidt's CELG, Goias entry, Camara has captured two outside pole positions this year, was the team's highest qualifier at St. Petersburg (fifth) and lead the Menards Infiniti Pro Series practice session at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 7th, being one of only two drivers to log lap speeds in excess of 190 MPH. He has one runner-up finish this season, coming to the checkered flag behind teammate Travis Gregg at Homestead.

Sam Schmidt Motorsports is also a means of promoting and publicizing the Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation. The Foundation was created by Schmidt to help individuals overcome spinal cord injuries and other neurological disorders. Schmidt is currently recovering from serious upper spinal cord injuries suffered in a testing accident on January 6, 2000 while practicing for the season-opening Indy Racing League event at Walt Disney World Speedway in Orlando, Fla. Further information is available at www.samschmidt.org or (317) 236-9999.

Schmidt's rookie lineup is all business when talking about race preparations for Indy. Here is what the drivers and owner Schmidt had to say going into Indianapolis:

SAM SCHMIDT, Owner, Sam Schmidt Motorsports:

"The Freedom 100 is clearly the most important event on the Menards Infiniti Pro Series schedule. With the race being held on Carburetion Day, it is even more important that we qualify well and win for what will be our largest crowd of the year.

"I know our team has spent considerable time and effort preparing all the cars for a unified assault on this race. It would be simply a dream come true if we could repeat last year's

victory at the greatest race track in the world."

TRAVIS GREGG, #7 Lucas Oil Special, Sam Schmidt Motorsports Entry:

"I feel this is the biggest race of the year. So much history has been drawn from so many race car drivers going to Indy -- it would simply be awesome to win there. I'm sure every driver that's raced there has dreamed about winning there.

"Really there's not much pressure going into this race as the points leader. Our lead is only three points and it's still so early in the season - we have a lot of racing to do still. Heading into the season finale [at California] might be a different story.

"We're really going the same speed [at Indy] as we do on our other courses, but it's just a little less banking. So it's not really faster, but it's more of a challenge. The wind can affect the car in the corners and make it really different from one end of the track to the other.

"Indy is so big, sometimes going down the straightaway, it seems like it takes forever to get to the corners. When you turn in, it keeps you busy. Most [oval] tracks feel like they have two turns, but at Indy, there are four distinct turns.

"You really have to be perfect in every corner because you don't want to scrub off speed. These cars don't have the horsepower that IndyCars do, so we have to keep the momentum and RPMs up or we lose a lot of speed. A little mistake in the corner can scrub off enough speed to ruin an entire lap."

CHRIS FESTA, #19 SpacePak, CareCentric, Sam Schmidt Motorsports Entry:

"My first time driving on Indianapolis Motor Speedway was about a month and a half ago, to drive the road course in the test session and then I drove the oval earlier in the month for the Pro Series test.

"This oval is much trickier than other ovals because it has four distinct corners. The line is more critical than any other track we've been to, so we have to hit our marks every time. You need to exit the corners right in order to lengthen the straightaway to gain the most speed on the track. Basically, you do that by straightening your hands sooner in the exit of the corner.

"The history and prestige of the track aren't on my mind when I'm out there [racing]. It's a very historical track, but at the end of the day, it's another track to me and I need to race it like that. I have to be focused on racing to win, to accumulate points and to win the championship.

"In the test session, we had a great team strategy to get the most data we could out of the test. We had one car, Jamie [Camara], work on qualifying setups, while Travis and I worked on race setups. We got a lot of information we'll be able to use to set up the cars.

"Indy is probably my favorite oval because it's the most technical, it's the most road course-like that I've done. If you make a mistake like missing an entrance to a turn, it takes basically a full lap to be back up to speed. It's very technical."

JAIME CAMARA, #1 CELG, Goias, Sam Schmidt Motorsports Entry:

"I like the track. It's very fast and it's very different. I've never raced on a track similar to it. I'm very excited about racing there and I really want to win.

"I know it's kind of a big thing, but I'm trying not to think about it so I don't put more pressure on myself. Really, it's huge. The track is big and the history around it is huge--there's so much tradition, but I am trying not to think about it too much. I have to think about driving the car and not be distracted.

"To be fast all day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway you have to have a good car setup. Each turn takes a different line. It's very challenging. I really like driving the track. I would love to win at Indy.

"We had the fastest car in the test session this month, and we learned a lot. It was a lot of fun. The track is great to drive. I can't wait for the race."

-ssm-

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About this article
Series Indy Lights
Drivers Richie Hearn , Sam Schmidt , Chris Festa , Travis Gregg , Jaime Camara , Thiago Medeiros