Sonoma: Sam Schmidt Motorsports preview

SAM SCHMIDT MOTORSPORTS VISITS WINE COUNTRY AND INFINEON RACEWAY SONOMA, Calif. -- After a weekend off, Firestone Indy Lights returns to action this weekend at the Infineon Raceway in Northern California, and Sam Schmidt Motorsports enters the...

SAM SCHMIDT MOTORSPORTS VISITS WINE COUNTRY AND INFINEON RACEWAY

SONOMA, Calif. -- After a weekend off, Firestone Indy Lights returns to action this weekend at the Infineon Raceway in Northern California, and Sam Schmidt Motorsports enters the event knowing there's only three races left in 2009 to climb up the points standings. The short weekend is kicked off on Saturday morning with a practice session at nine for 45 minutes. Qualifying follows at 1:30 p.m. Then, on Sunday, a 30-minute warm-up takes place at 8:30 a.m., followed by the race itself at 11:15 a.m.

Cunningham and Hinchcliffe within striking distance of second in the championship.

AGR's Sebastian Saavedra currently sits in second in the Firestone Indy Lights points standings, but within close distance are Sam Schmidt teammates Wade Cunningham and James Hinchcliffe who sit in fourth and fifth, respectively. Saavedra currently has 357 points, while Cunningham has 336 and Hinchcliffe has 333. James Davison of Vision Racing, currently third in the standings, has 341 points. Drivers can earn 50 points for a race victory. Thus, should Saavedra stumble, the Sam Schmidt duo have a great shot at taking points away from the AGR driver. Hinchcliffe is coming off his best finish of the season in the previous race with a second, and Cunningham won in the series just two races ago. They both are riding a wave of momentum and have great shots at moving up the points this weekend.

Beatriz and Yacaman seek to finish road course portion of schedule with strong finishes.

Not to be lost in the shuffle are two drivers hungry for a strong finish at the Infineon Raceway. Ana Beatriz and Gustavo Yacaman have proven to be competitive at the non-oval events this year, but circumstances have kept them out of their true potential finishing positions. Beatriz's best effort this year is a fourth on a non-oval while Yacaman's is seventh. This weekend marks the final road course race of the season, and these two drivers' last shots at improving upon their best road course finishes of the season. With Beatriz finishing on the podium at this track last year, and Yacaman showing speed beyond his years in this, his rookie season, both have the opportunity to walk away with solid results.

#7 HINCHTOWN.com/Sam Schmidt Motorsports Driver James Hinchcliffe

"This is a tough permanent road circuit with lots of elevation changes, blind corners, and rhythm sections where one corner leads to the next, then the next, and so on. If you mess up the first part of those sections, you tend to mess up a lot the rest of the way. I'm sure the guys that have been here before certainly have a bit of an advantage. It's a really fun track. I raced on the circuit in 2005 in a lower formula, and I really enjoyed it. Besides that, it's a beautiful area. With regards to the championship, this race is very important. With three races to go, and the race for second in the championship incredibly close right now, I think Sebastian (Saavedra), Wade (Cunningham), (James) Davison, and I are going to be in a nice little battle. It's a tough track to pass on so qualifying is going to be of paramount importance. I think, being the last road course of the season, this is a good opportunity for us to make up some points and head into the last two ovals, hopefully, in a better position. We'll try to capitalize the momentum from Kentucky into some good results for the rest of the year."

#11 LUCAS OIL/Sam Schmidt Motorsports Driver Wade Cunningham

"Infineon is a unique track in a few different ways. It has a lot of sudden elevation changes, and where it is geographically, the track conditions can change dramatically from the morning to afternoon and back to early evening. Unfortunately, we don't have much track time this weekend so we need to maximize our on track time before qualifying. Being extremely difficult to pass on, qualifying will be extremely important and will most likely be a precursor to the end result in the race. Every race and point is important in this tight championship battle, and our's is wide open to second place, so we need to continue to fight for those points."

#20 HEALTHY CHOICE/Sam Schmidt Motorsports Driver Ana Beatriz

"We had a good result at Infineon last year with the Healthy Choice/Sam Schmidt team, and I'm hoping we can have another good result this year. It's a fun track that I really enjoy but also very challenging for the drivers. I like the mix of corners and elevation changes. It's going to be tough to pass so qualifying will be important, and with only one practice before qualifying, I think our experience is going to be important. As we are not in a position to fight for the championship, the focus will be to run strong in these last few races of the year."

#44 CREPES & WAFFLES/TUVACOL/Sam Schmidt Motorsports Driver Gustavo Yacaman

"This is a track that I'm looking forward to visiting. Though I've never raced this car on this circuit, I can tell it will be a lot of fun. We've shown all year that we can have speed on the road courses, but for whatever reason, we haven't put up a solid result to show for it. I'm hoping we can do that this weekend."

Team Owner, Sam Schmidt
"I always look forward to the Sonoma event. Not only do we have a fantastic permanent road course located near fantastic wine and restaurants, but Sam Schmidt Motorsports and myself as a driver have always been competitive at this venue. This year, the Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation added a Walk, Run, and Wheel-a-thon on Thursday afternoon and a Day at the Races program on Saturday to keep us real busy. I appreciate the track's support of these efforts. For the race team, this is a critical event to have any shot of winning the Championship. Wade and Hinch need to have incredible performances while JR and Sebastian need to have problems, but all we can do is put our head down and work hard and let the chips fall. We know Chicago and Homestead will be dog fights to the checker, so the championship will be won or lost this weekend. "

Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation
On Thursday afternoon, the Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation, in conjunction with Shoot For a Cure, hosted nearly 150 competitors in its "Walk, Run, and Wheelathon," at the Infineon Raceway. This was the second event of this type this season, with the first being in Toronto. Participants were able to race on a modified version of the course used by the IndyCar Series. Funds raised will go towards funding paralysis research, helping the almost six million people in the United States who have some form of paralysis.

On Saturday, Sam Schmidt Motorsports and the Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation will be hosting a "Day at the Races" at the Sam Schmidt Motorsports area in the Firestone Indy Lights paddock. Guests will meet with the team's drivers at 11:30 a.m., followed by lunch and a program with Sam Schmidt and foundation CEO and President, Ida Cahill, and enjoy a day of racing at the Infineon Raceway.

-credit: ssm

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Series INDYLIGHTS