St. Pete: Sam Schmidt Motorsports preview

SAM SCHMIDT MOTORSPORTS KICKS OFF EIGHTH SEASON OF FIRESTONE INDY LIGHTS TODAY IN ST. PETE ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The first race of the 2010 Firestone Indy Lights season takes place this weekend on the 1.8-mile downtown street circuit in St.

SAM SCHMIDT MOTORSPORTS KICKS OFF EIGHTH SEASON OF FIRESTONE INDY LIGHTS TODAY IN ST. PETE

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The first race of the 2010 Firestone Indy Lights season takes place this weekend on the 1.8-mile downtown street circuit in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Four new drivers behind the wheel of Sam Schmidt Motorsports machines this year.

Sam Schmidt Motorsports enters the 2010 Firestone Indy Lights campaign with four new drivers piloting the team's machines, including three rookies to the series. The sole veteran, Pippa Mann, enters her second season of competition in the series and first with the team. She'll be joined by series rookies J.K. Vernay, Philip Major, and James Winslow. Though short on experience in Firestone Indy Lights, all four have various backgrounds and skills that enable them to run competitively in their maiden outings with the team this weekend in St. Petersburg.

Streets of St. Petersburg a good track for Sam Schmidt Motorsports. Since 2007, Sam Schmidt Motorsports has enjoyed six podium finish results on the streets of St. Petersburg, including three victories (Alex Lloyd twice in 2007; Richard Antinucci once in 2008). With a long season ahead, the team recognizes the importance of getting off to a good start in the first race of the year and setting a strong foundation for the remainder of the season. James Hinchcliffe kept the Sam Schmidt Motorsports podium streak alive with a third-place finish in 2009, and this year's crop of four drivers looks to get the team back into the St. Petersburg victory lane.

Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation kicks off a busy year with two events in St. Pete.

The Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation is as active as ever entering the 2010 racing season. Their special events kick off this weekend with a Run, Walk 'N Wheelathon on the downtown city circuit on Friday evening. The event, run in conjunction with The Challenged Athletes Foundation of Florida and Shoot for a Cure, allows participants to run, walk, or wheel their way on the same track used by the racing machines. Then on Saturday, the foundation will be hosting several guests in wheelchairs and their families to a "Day at the Races," where Sam Schmidt and the team will entertain with a lunch and a day of watching racing activities.

No. 7 LUCAS SLICK MIST/Sam Schmidt Motorsports Driver J.K. Vernay First Firestone Indy Lights start.
In 2009, competed in Formula 3, highlighted by two wins, and a track record at the Macau street circuit.

"I'm looking forward to making my debut in America with Sam Schmidt Motorsports in St. Pete. Testing has gone really well with the team, and I'm confident that we can run up front and be a contender during the race. I'm ready to get the season off on the right foot."

No. 11 Sam Schmidt Motorsports Driver Pippa Mann
Enters second season of Firestone Indy Lights competition.
In 2009, had three top-10s with best finish of eighth (Homestead).
A member of the 2010 Indy Racing League Pace Car Team.

"Last year I did more street racing in one year than I had in my whole previous career, so that was almost like learning a new discipline for me. This year I'm hoping for some much stronger top-10 results on the street courses and road courses. I think my goal for this weekend is to start the year off the right way with a top-10 finish in the race. It's not going to be easy, as although the car count is lower this year, the competition up front and for those top ten spots is going to be just as strong as it was last year. We've all been working really hard over the winter so for me being able to start out with a top-10 would be a good reward."

No. 49 Sam Schmidt Motorsports Driver Philip Major
First Firestone Indy Lights start.
In 2009, made 12 starts in British Formula 3 with Carlin Motorsport with best finish of 10th at Spa.

"I have entered into this season knowing that it is going to be no small challenge, but I feel we will be ready for it. After testing with Sam Schmidt Motorsports, I have confidence going into the first event this weekend. Most of the tracks will be new for me this year, but I'm a quick learner. This season my goals are to always be running in the top-five, and if we can do that, podiums and wins will follow."

No. 77 BSS/BRIGHT SIDE OF THE ROAD/Sam Schmidt Motorsports Driver James Winslow
First Firestone Indy Lights start.
In 2009, made 11 starts in Atlantic Series with best result of sixth (Mid-Ohio).
Full member of the British Racing Drivers' Club (BRDC).

"I'm feeling very confident after the strong testing times at Sebring and Homestead. It's my debut on the St. Pete track, series, team, and car, but I think I'll be able to put on a good showing. I'm hoping to be able to run at the front. I'm sure I would be quicker if I was in my second season, or even been to the track before, but I think a strong debut would be finishing in the top-five, and if we could sneak a podium in the race, I'd very happy!"

Team Owner, Sam Schmidt
"For some reason this off season seemed longer than most. The team is anxious to get out there and apply some of the ideas we learned over the winter. Also, we have a totally new lineup of drivers, so that will be an exciting challenge. We have had a great deal of success at St Pete in year's past, and hope to be challenging for a victory on Sunday."

-source: ssm

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About this article
Series Indy Lights
Drivers Sam Schmidt , Richard Antinucci , Alex Lloyd , Pippa Mann , James Hinchcliffe , James Winslow , Philip Major
Teams Carlin