St. Pete II: RLR/Andersen Racing race notes

RLR/Andersen Racing Finishes Fourth and Sixth in Second Half of St. Petersburg Doubleheader Sunday in Firestone Indy Lights Action ST. PETERSBURG, Fla., April 5 - Their starting positions were deeper in the field on Sunday and there were 18 laps...

RLR/Andersen Racing Finishes Fourth and Sixth in Second Half of St. Petersburg Doubleheader Sunday in Firestone Indy Lights Action

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla., April 5 - Their starting positions were deeper in the field on Sunday and there were 18 laps of caution versus only six on Saturday, but RLR/Andersen Racing's rookies still brought home excellent finishes for the Palmetto, Fla.-based team when Jonathan Summerton of Kissimmee, Fla. finished fourth and Mario Romancini of Sao Paulo, Brazil placed sixth in the second half of the Firestone Indy Lights doubleheader at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

Summerton was simply amazing. After a timing and scoring revision to the line-up he started 16th on Sunday in the No. 9 sponsored by Andersen Racing, Allied Interior Products and Lafarge North America. He blasted by seven cars on the first lap and went on to finish fourth on Sunday after placing second on Saturday.

Romancini was dazzling too, as he turned a 12th-place starting spot in the field of 27 into a solid sixth-place finish on Sunday after getting ninth less than 24 hours earlier in his first race in America. Romancini, who 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.

Making the most of every opportunity on the tight course while remaining patient was the name of the game in Sunday's race. Only 15 of the 27 starters were running when Junior Strous took the checkered over Sebastian Saavedra, James Hinchcliffe, Summerton, Daniel Herrington and Romancini after 40 laps of competition on the 1.81-mile, 14-turn street course.

Strous leads the driver point standings with his double victories here, but Summerton is second and Romancini is sixth going into the third race of the year, which will be held on the other side of the country at the Long Beach Grand Prix in Long Beach, Calif. on April 19.

When many of his rivals took the inside groove into Turn 1 at the start of the race, Summerton went to the outside. The quick thinking paid off handsomely, as he vaulted from 16th to ninth on the first lap before Duncan Tappy brought out the first full-course yellow on lap one when he rammed into a tire barrier in Turn 4.

Summerton stayed in ninth for 22 laps, trapped behind Jay Howard. He moved up two more spots on lap 23 when the fifth-place driver, James Davison, and the sixth-place driver, Richard Philippe, encountered problems, with Davison bringing out another full-course caution when he got stuck in a runoff area off Turn 14.

The second-place car of J.R. Hildebrand and the fourth-place car of Ana Beatriz tangled in Turn 1 on lap 26, Howard fell from sixth to eighth, and suddenly Summerton was up to fourth on lap 27. He chased Strous, Saavedra and Hinchcliffe the rest of the way, despite another yellow from laps 34 to 36 in the 40-lapper due to two Guthrie Meyer Racing cars crashing into each other in Turn 2. Summerton was just 0.7453 of a second behind the final podium finisher when the checkered waved.

Romancini passed Gustavo Yacaman on the first lap to move into 11th. He broke into the top 10 on lap 16 when the driver who had been right in front of him, Martin Plowman, ran into problems. That put the two RLR/Andersen Racing cars in ninth and tenth, positions they retained until lap 23 when Summerton moved up to seventh and Romancini advanced to ninth.

Romancini jumped to sixth when Hildebrand and Beatriz tangled in their incident on lap 26, which also involved Stefan Wilson to a lesser extent, and that's where he finished.

Despite all the yellows, the fastest lap of the race was 0.5174 of a second faster on Sunday that the fastest lap recorded on Saturday. That trend held true for Romancini too. Summerton's fastest laps were very close both days, but his fastest lap on Saturday was 0.0368 of a second faster than the 1:08.0482 (95.227 mph) he posted on lap 39 Sunday. Romancini's fastest lap on Sunday was his lap 18, when he was following Summerton and holding off Herrington. It was done in 1:08.4216 (94.707 mph).

VERSUS taped both races for broadcast at 6 p.m. Eastern time Monday.

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.

The team's Web site is at andersenracingteam.com, while the track's Web site is at andersenracepark.com. The series' Web site is at indycar.com/pro.

Post-race quotes follow:

Jonathan Summerton: "It was awesome; tons of fun! We went from 16th to fourth. I don't think you could have asked for much more. My goal was a top five, and we did it. We had a car that I know could have won the race. It's just a shame we couldn't get clear air to run the lap times, because I know we had the fastest car out there for sure. The car was awesome. Allied Interior Products and RLR/Andersen Racing have done a good job putting the car together. I really thank them this weekend. We started off rough and ended on a high.

"At the start everyone went to the inside, so I went to the outside. A gap opened up at the apex of Turn 1, and I just went flying in. I saw an opening and I went for it.

"The yellows helped because the restarts gave me opportunities to pass. I made a few passes during the race too, and ended up behind Jay Howard.

"The car was much better than it was yesterday. The track conditions were much better today too.

"Starting 16th, my goal today was a top five, and I was fourth. I'm very excited about how everything went."

Mario Romancini: "My car felt good. I preferred to make a safe start rather than risk getting into an accident, but I still gained one position on the first lap. Our car was well balanced. We had some problems with traction, but it wasn't too big of an issue.

"I wanted to be as intelligent today as I was yesterday, bring the car home, and score as many points as I could. I think we achieved our goals. The team did a fantastic job.

"In some places the track was dirty because of cars bringing debris onto the course when they went off, but there was more rubber on it than there was yesterday.

"It was a tiring race because it was hot. But Jonathan did a good job too. We should be pretty good in the team standings.

"Now we will be more relaxed when we go to Long Beach because the cars are not damaged and we have two races together as a team. I feel confident with the team and the car. I think we can do a good job at Long Beach too."

Dan Andersen (RLR/Andersen Racing co-owner): "In a caution-filled race with a lot of questionable moves, our two drivers remained poised and brought their cars home in one piece. I'm very pleased with how they didn't make high-risk moves in the heat of the moment and were patient. We're thrilled the cars were both in the top six today and back in one piece. Our next race is across the country in just two weeks, and it's a very busy month.

"About 50 people were here from Allied Interior Products, and they really loved it. They were down in Turn 1, cheering Jonathan and Mario on. They had a lot of fun too!"

-credit: rlr/ar

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About this article
Series Indy Lights
Drivers James Davison , Daniel Herrington , Richard Philippe , Junior Strous , Jay Howard , Sebastian Saavedra , Martin Plowman , Jonathan Summerton , J.R. Hildebrand , Duncan Tappy , Stefan Wilson , Mario Romancini , Gustavo Yacaman