J.K. VERNAY GIVES SAM SCHMIDT MOTORSPORTS VICTORY IN FIRST RACE OF 2010 IN ST. PETE ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Newcomer to Sam Schmidt Motorsports and a rookie in Firestone Indy Lights J.K. Vernay took the checkered flag in the downtown city street...
J.K. VERNAY GIVES SAM SCHMIDT MOTORSPORTS VICTORY IN FIRST RACE OF 2010 IN ST. PETE
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Newcomer to Sam Schmidt Motorsports and a rookie in Firestone Indy Lights J.K. Vernay took the checkered flag in the downtown city street circuit of St. Petersburg, Florida, on Sunday afternoon in the season's first race, but arguably, the bigger story of the day was the impact that weather had on the race.
Precipitation had made for a slick racing surface, giving the drivers a challenge they hadn't faced prior to the race. As the drivers had to start the race on slick tires, just keeping the car in the straight line proved to be a challenge for everyone.
Things got hairy early when team driver James Winslow lost control of the car just exiting the pits on the parade lap. He was able to recover and bring his car home in the seventh finishing position.
The rain also wrecked havoc for Philip Major and Pippa Mann at the start of the race. Major, who started seventh, got a great jump on the field heading into the first turn. Unfortunately, in hindsight, it was too great a jump as he over-shot his braking point and made contact with another car, taking them both out of the race early.
Mann also had an early exit in a similar incident, although in her case, she was just the victim, as Adrian Campos tapped her from behind. The incident damaged her car's radiator and would eventually force the ill car (and driver) to retire early.
After the carnage and melee, the race was stopped after just a handful of laps so that competitors could change from slick tires to rain tires. When the race resumed, Vernay took the lead and never looked back as he dominated the remainder of the event, leading 31 of the races 35 laps.
The debut race victory for Vernay was the fourth time Sam Schmidt Motorsports has won in St. Petersburg, and the 31st overall for the team (including a joint victory with Andretti Green Racing in 2006).
No. 7 LUCAS SLICK MIST/Sam Schmidt Motorsports Driver J.K. Vernay
Started Sunday's race in second; finished first. 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 am really happy today. It was a very good weekend since the start of practice. I didn't know this track, so I had to learn a lot. It helped with the work I did with my team. We had a great setup on the car. Practice after practice, I was pushing more and more, and we were there, so it was good. It was hard not to have the pole, but I was very careful on the first lap. I didn't want to crash at the start of the race. It was great to win in my first weekend in Indy Lights."
No. 11 Sam Schmidt Motorsports Driver Pippa Mann
Started Sunday's race in 12th; finished 13th. 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.
"At the start, it was already raining, and everybody was out on slicks since the track hadn't been declared wet yet. A lot of us assumed we'd have to start on wets, but we had to change the tires on the grid. Campos didn't change his in time, so he had to start at the back of the grid. Unfortunately, I guess he tried to make up all the spots he lost on the grid in the first corner. He collected my inside rear corner, and it punctured one of the oil radiators. I was able to restart and go around, but I was having a lot of issues with grip, even just behind the safety car. I now know it was because I had oil on the tires. As soon as they red flagged the race to get everyone onto wets, the guys saw the oil running down the side of the car, and we had to call it a day. It was a pretty tough end to a pretty tough weekend. I'm just going to go home and focus on getting healthy and coming back out at Barber Park fully charged and ready to go."
No. 49 Sam Schmidt Motorsports Driver Philip Major
"Obviously, the race didn't turn out how I would have liked. I made a mistake. I out-braked myself going into (Turn) 1, and I just ended up taking myself and another car out. I'm sorry it turned out the way it did. It's a tough way to start the season, but I'm ready to get on to the next race and put on a better showing there. My team did a good job all weekend, and I'm looking forward to rewarding their efforts."
No. 77 BSS/BRIGHT SIDE OF THE ROAD/Sam Schmidt Motorsports Driver James Winslow
"What a crazy race. Even before the event began, we were swapping positions on the grid, unintentionally of course. We had to battle a lot out there with the circuit being so wet. Considering all that happened, finishing seventh isn't too bad. The most important thing is that we finished. Some very good cars didn't. We'll look to put this weekend behind us and start fresh at the next race."
Team Owner, Sam Schmidt
"Well, anytime we come away with a victory, there's obviously some form of gratification. That was quite the event. The rain definitely threw everyone a curve ball, but it also gave J.K. the platform to showcase just how talented he is. The others drivers had a tough day, but we can rebound from and make that up in the next race at Barber Park. I'm glad to get the season off on the right foot with a victory, and I hope it's the first of many for this year."