Sam Schmidt Motorsports Indy Lights Drivers Shine
Newgarden, Guerrieri, Daly and Carbone Take Overall Spots 1-3-5-7 During Road Course Test Day at Barber Motorsports Park
LEEDS, Ala. (March 16, 2011) – The four-car Sam Schmidt Motorsports (SSM) Firestone Indy Lights team made a strong showing in an open road course test conducted Wednesday at Barber Motorsports Park just east of Birmingham, Ala., placing first, third, fifth and seventh on the combined morning- and afternoon-session timesheet, highlighted by a stellar afternoon session that saw SSM cars clock the fastest three laps.
Josef Newgarden, a 20-year-old from Nashville, Tenn., led all drivers with a lap of 1 minute, 15.6711 seconds (109.421 mph) piloting the No. 11 SSM Indy Lights car around the 2.3-mile, 17-turn road circuit during the morning session.
“It was a strong day for all of Sam Schmidt Motorsports,” said Newgarden, who’s coming off a stellar three-year run in Europe during which he raced Formula Fords, Formula Palmer Audis and in GP3, and earned the distinction of becoming the only American to win a British Formula Ford Festival title in the 36-year history of the event. “We’ve had good form over testing, and this kind of reassured us that we are having that good form and we’re not just guessing. It’s good to come out and have sessions like this, where everyone’s out running and we get to see what everyone’s doing. We just need to keep it up.
“It’s early and we’ve got a couple more test days to run right up until the first race at St. Pete. We’ll see what we can take from here and see if we can continue this strength throughout the year, starting with the opener. It’s just a start, but it’s a good start. This is great for me. To be involved in this type of organization – what Sam Schmidt has done with his race team over the years is just incredible. He’s a very remarkable guy and it’s great to drive for him. I’m really enjoying the opportunity and I just want to make the most of it this year. It’s not very often that people have an opportunity like this, so it’s definitely great from my perspective and I’m definitely looking forward to having a strong season with these guys.”
Esteban Guerrieri, a 26-year-old from Argentina, clocked the third-fastest lap of the day and the second-fastest lap of the afternoon session with a time of 1:16.1828 (108.686 mph) in the No. 7 SSM Indy Lights car.
It’s good to come out and have sessions like this, where everyone’s out running and we get to see what everyone’s doing.
“It’s been quite good, actually,” said Guerrieri, a six-time winner in the 2010 World Series by Renault in Europe and a veteran of British and European Formula 3 competition. “I got to know another track and got more of a chance to work with the team. We saved the tires for the end, expecting the afternoon was going to be better than the morning, but it wasn’t. But, generally, it was OK. These cars are nice. They are good fun. Obviously, with new tires, it improves the grip like it does on any other car. I like it. It’s good to find the limit. Going the limit is nice in any racing car. And this team is very professional. I feel very comfortable here.”
Conor Daly, a 19-year-old from Noblesville, Ind., clocked the fifth-fastest lap of the day with a time of 1:16.4939 (108.244) in the No. 77 SSM Indy Lights car in today’s morning session.
“There’s just a lot for me to learn about this car,” said Daly, the 2010 Star Mazda Series champion who set series season-long records in wins (seven), poles (nine), podiums (12), winning points margin (79), and laps led. “I’m a couple of days behind my teammates just because I haven’t had the track time. But I think I’m making progress. For me, personally, it’s just about working with the car and improving myself. Overall, I think it’s positive, for sure, because I learn something every lap on track. For me, it’ll be a matter of learning at a quicker pace and just trying to keep up with these guys. It’s good to have quick teammates. We’ve got the data and I’ve got a lot to learn from. Overall, I’m just looking forward to the next time I can get in the car and keep improving myself and work toward getting quicker. It’s super important to have quick teammates. As a team, we will all do really well just because we can benefit by learning from each other. So, for me, I’m really happy to be where I am. The whole Sam Schmidt Motorsports team is working really hard and they know what they’re doing. They’re pros at doing what they do and I’m extremely happy to be where I am.”
Victor Carbone, an 18-year-old from Brazil, was seventh fastest on the day with a lap of 1:16.5589 (108.152 mph) in the No. 3 SSM Indy Lights car. He was third-fastest behind Newgarden and Carbone in this afternoon’s session.
“We are working on a lot of things, so we are still not where we want to be,” said Carbone, who won the 2010 U.S. F2000 championship with six wins, six poles and eight podium finishes in 14 races. “We have a long way to go, still, but I’m happy. We are getting there, slowly, and I’m sure we’ll get there at some point during the season. The biggest thing is that we are progressing and we are headed in the right direction. I knew all this winter testing has been improving and working on small things. Today was like that. The morning wasn’t so good. I wasn’t so comfortable with the car or myself. But we finished P3 (in the afternoon session), so that was good work. We finished 1-2-3 as a team (in the afternoon session) and that’s really good.”
All four SSM drivers are Firestone Indy Lights Series rookies but have certainly made their mark in open-wheel racing throughout the world.
“First, second and third (in the afternoon session) – that’s good,” team manager Chris Griffis said. “With Conor, he needs a little more seat time because this is really only the second day he’s been in this kind of car. The other guys have all had more time in the car. That’ll probably be his issue going forward. But he’s got a lot of talent and I’m sure he’ll figure it out. The cars are all good, so I think it’s just a matter of getting a little more seat time. On our team, for sure, this is the best lineup we’ve had – I won’t say from top to bottom because, to me, they’re all the same, we give them all the same equipment. We want to win every time we go to the track. It’s about winning. At Iowa a couple of years ago, we finished first, second, third and fifth, and that’s the best we’ve ever done. But even then, fifth should’ve been fourth, so there’s always something to work on when you go back. With this many cars, it’s hard to say at the end of the deal. But everything’s great. My high school coach used to have a saying, ‘It’s good to be pleased, but not satisfied.’ That’s something I’ve taken with me and that’s definitely the case for us here, today.”