St. Pete: Sam Schmidt Motorsports qualifying report

SAM SCHMIDT MOTORSPORTS EARNS FRONT ROW STARTING SPOT AFTER QUALIFYING IN ST. PETE ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Sam Schmidt Motorsports took part in qualifying today for the first race of the Firestone Indy Lights season at the downtown city street...

SAM SCHMIDT MOTORSPORTS EARNS FRONT ROW STARTING SPOT AFTER QUALIFYING IN ST. PETE

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Sam Schmidt Motorsports took part in qualifying today for the first race of the Firestone Indy Lights season at the downtown city street circuit in St. Petersburg, Florida, and series rookie J.K. Vernay led the way for the team earning the second starting position for Sunday's race.

His teammates followed in sixth (James Winslow), eighth (Philip Major), and 12th (Pippa Mann).

Times were quickly dropping among all the competitors throughout the session, and at its peak in the end, a late yellow stopped the efforts of everyone to improve any further.

Vernay missed out on the pole by just .14 seconds. As much as he wanted the pole, he knows he has a good car for the race and didn't want to put his car at risk when he knows he has a great shot at a solid finish on Sunday to get the championship off on the right foot.

Though starting positions are important, history has shown that passing is possible during the race, as the track works well in allowing drivers to challenge each other and force others into mistakes. Winslow and Major look to continue moving forward on the grid as they continue to improve their cars in Sunday's final warm-up session.

One driver that will have a major battle ahead of her is Mann. Since Tuesday, per doctors orders, she hasn't had a solid meal and has fought dehydration as her body is fighting off a virus she's had for a couple of weeks. As much time as she's spent in the car, she's spent nearly as much, if not more, in the Indy Racing League's medical trailer receiving fluid injections to rehydrate her. Just finishing Sunday's race will be an accomplishment for her.

No. 7 LUCAS SLICK MIST/Sam Schmidt Motorsports Driver J.K. Vernay

"Being on the first row is a good thing, but I really wanted to be on the pole because it is an advantage for the first corner here. It's not bad. We have the performance and the car is really fast. We worked really well with my engineer (Tim Neff). I know I don't have to take too much risk because I need to score points for the championship, but we will see what happens tomorrow. I'm happy, but it would have been nice to win the pole for my first race."

No. 11 Sam Schmidt Motorsports Driver Pippa Mann

"This morning's session went pretty well again. We were all really pleased to be running in the top-10 on the discipline I find most difficult of the three we race on, and we all felt it was heading in the right direction. In qualifying, in the first part of the session I was hovering roughly where we've been just around the inside/outside edge of the top-10, but as the session went on, and the track got quicker, my engine started to overheat and lose torque. I have to give a big shout out and thank you to the IRL medical staff because without them, I wouldn't have even made it out onto track for qualifying. I'm going to keep fighting and do my best to bring home a strong finish in the race tomorrow."

No. 49 Sam Schmidt Motorsports Driver Philip Major

"I think all in all, things went fairly well in my first Firestone Indy Lights qualifying session. I think at one point, we were running around fifth but then got bumped back a bit. It was a good first effort, and I'm happy, but I'm definitely not satisfied. We'll look to improve on that at the next qualifying session in the next race. I'm really looking forward to tomorrow's race though. It's a long race. I think we'll be able to make up some positions, and a solid top-five finishing position for us would be great."

No. 77 BSS/BRIGHT SIDE OF THE ROAD/Sam Schmidt Motorsports Driver James Winslow

"Today's result was a decent effort. We're still close enough to the front that a podium finish is still definitely a realistic expectation. The race is going to be a long one, and a lot can still happen. My team and I will try a few things in the warm-up on Sunday morning, and we'll fight for a good result in the race."

-source: ssm

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About this article
Series Indy Lights
Drivers Sam Schmidt , Pippa Mann , Phillip Major , James Winslow