RLR/Andersen Racing Finishes Second and Ninth In Firestone Indy Lights Season Opener Saturday at St. Petersburg ST. PETERSBURG, Fla., April 4 - Even though Jonathan Summerton had never competed on St. Petersburg's street course before, the ...
RLR/Andersen Racing Finishes Second and Ninth In Firestone Indy Lights Season Opener Saturday at St. Petersburg
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla., April 4 - Even though Jonathan Summerton had never competed on St. Petersburg's street course before, the Kissimmee, Fla. driver and his Palmetto, Fla.-based RLR/Andersen Racing team gave the home state fans something to cheer about when Summerton finished second Saturday in his Firestone Indy Lights debut.
Driving the No. 9 Dallara sponsored by Andersen Racing, Allied Interior Products and Lafarge North America, Summerton turned a sixth-place starting position into a podium finish, as he was just 0.7205 of a second behind Junior Strous after 40 laps of competition on the 1.81-mile, 14-turn street course.
The other RLR/Andersen Racing driver in the event did great too, as Mario Romancini of Sao Paulo, Brazil started tenth and finished a solid ninth in his series debut. Romancini, who is a transplanted Floridian because he lives in Miami when he's in the States, drives the No. 5 sponsored by Andersen Racing, Revita Recycling, Win Brazil Marketing, Allied Interior Products and Lafarge North America.
Summerton passed James Hinchcliffe for fifth right off the bat, putting him right behind the eventual winner. He took fourth on lap five when the driver who had been second, Sebastian Saavedra, pitted with mechanical difficulties. Summerton got third on lap 15 when both he and Strous passed James Davison in Turn 1 one lap after a restart that was necessary after Jesse Mason spun on lap 10.
Summerton stayed in third place from lap 15 until lap 22, when Strous passed polesitter J.R. Hildebrand for the lead on a restart and both Summerton and Ana Beatriz got by Hildebrand too. That restart followed a full-course yellow for debris in Turn 1 on lap 19.
The top two never changed from that point on, although both Summerton and Strous set their fastest laps on lap 37 while Summerton was trying to catch him. Beatriz pressured Summerton for many laps too, but Hildebrand got her back on lap 34 to nail down the final podium spot. Hildebrand set the fastest lap of the race with a 1:07.7315 (95.672) on lap 39, but Summerton was 1.4366 seconds ahead of Hildebrand when the checkered waved one lap later.
Summerton's fastest race lap was a 1:08.0114 (95.278 mph) on lap 37. Romancini's fastest race lap was a 1:08.8642 (94.098) on lap 36.
Romancini started tenth but dropped one spot on the initial start, taking evasive action so as not to get caught up in an accident. He broke into the top 10 again when Saavedra's car had problems. Stefan Wilson got around him on lap nine to push him back to 11th, but he vaulted from 11th to ninth on lap 15 when Duncan Tappy and Wilson dropped back. He stayed in ninth the rest of the way, thwarting a great deal of pressure being applied by Charlie Kimball.
The second half of the doubleheader is slated to start at 10 a.m. Sunday. Romancini will start tenth in that 40-lapper while Summerton will start 14th.
Both of the races will be broadcast at 6 p.m. Eastern time Monday on VERSUS.
Andersen Racing is sponsored by Allied Building Products Corp. and Lafarge North America. It is the official development team of Rahal Letterman Racing. Andersen Racing is based at Andersen RacePark in Palmetto, Fla., home of the team's own 1-mile road course test track. In addition to Firestone Indy Lights, the team competes in karting, Formula BMW Americas and Star Mazda in its efforts to provide the best training young open-wheel drivers can obtain anywhere.
Jonathan Summerton: "I had a really good, consistent car throughout the race. I have to thank everyone at RLR/Andersen Racing, Allied Interior Products and Lafarge.
"I stayed clean on the start and just paid attention to where everyone was going. It was chaos. You could see it coming. Then I basically kept following Junior [Strous]. Each pass he made, I just kept following him. It was really good. I think we had the quicker car, but in the end following him was a little rough. I lost some of the downforce on the car, and he didn't make any mistakes. All in all, I'm quite happy with second place. It was an exciting race.
"I didn't even know Ana [Beatriz] was behind me. I knew somebody was closing, but I focused ahead and didn't worry about it.
"Starting 14th tomorrow, I'm going to have to fight like crazy. My goal for tomorrow is to get in the top five. With the safety cars, we may be able to do it again!"
Mario Romancini: "My car was good, but we struggled a little with our brakes. We'll look at the data and see what we can do to improve for tomorrow.
"My goal for today was just to finish and try to get some points, and we did that. It was a good race for us. Now we'll try to improve the car for tomorrow and score as many points as possible tomorrow too. The championship is our goal."
Dan Andersen (team co-owner): "Without any practice, we've been chasing the set-up, but Jonathan has been doing a remarkable job like we thought he would. We made some changes for the race and finally gave him a really good car, and he made the most of it. With a few more changes, it could be even better tomorrow.
"In his first American race, Mario confirmed what we thought about him after testing him: that he's a very talented driver. He drove a very solid race. He didn't have a lot of opportunities to pass, but he did a great job to hold off Charlie Kimball. I'm very happy with his top-10 finish. We believe he'll only get better as he learns the American tracks."