Romancini Finishes Sixth, Jackson 11th For RLR/Andersen Racing In Firestone Indy Lights Action at Toronto
TORONTO, Ontario, Canada, July 11 - Mario Romancini came from 11th to sixth and Ali Jackson came from 15th to 11th Saturday as both RLR/Andersen Racing and Firestone Indy Lights make their first appearance ever at the street course at Toronto's Exhibition Place.
Thunderstorms complicated the morning's activities, but the 50-lap Firestone Indy Lights race started on schedule at 12:30 p.m. Eastern time under dry conditions but with puddles on the course. Officials declared a wet start, meaning that all the cars were required to start the race on Firestone Firehawk rain tires. Teams could change to slicks at their discretion after the initial green flag.
Using excellent pit strategy, the RLR/Andersen crew brought Romancini in for dry tires on lap one. He was the first of the 18 drivers in the race to pit, and the team hoped that strategy would give him the advantage of better track position than his rivals when they pitted later. It almost worked to perfection, except that Romancini lost a lap during his stop and some other drivers didn't. He regained that lap quickly, but the highest he got in the standings was fifth.
Romancini was 17th at the end of lap one. The driver from Sao Paulo, Brazil started to move up when most of the other top-runners pitted on lap seven. That put him into seventh place by lap eight, and sixth by lap nine, running between the eventual fourth-place finisher, Stefan Wilson, and Jackson.
Romancini, whose No. 5 advertises Andersen Racing, Revita Recycling, Win Brazil Marketing, Allied Interior Products and Lafarge North America, remained in sixth place through lap 16, advancing to fifth on lap 17 after Ana Beatriz spun. He remained in fifth, sandwiched between Wilson and Wade Cunningham, until lap 40. At that point Romancini was still in fifth but James Davison got around Cunningham. Davison, who set the fastest lap of the race on lap 49, passed Romancini on lap 41 to push him back to sixth again. With no full-course cautions to give him the chance to advance on restarts, he was st ill in that position when the checkered waved on lap 50.
The Palmetto, Fla.-based team brought Jackson in for his pit stop two laps after Romancini pitted, or lap three. Jackson was never lower than 14th, and he rose to eighth by lap eight. After the driver from Belfast, Northern Ireland made one more trip around the 1.75-mile, 11-turn street course he was up to seventh place, right behind his teammate.
They ran together until Cunningham got between them on lap 14, pushing Jackson's Moyvalley Golf and Hotel Resort/Allied Interior Products No. 9 to eighth. Jackson got seventh again on lap 18 after Beatriz spun. Around the halfway point he touched the inside wall in Turn 3 during his battle with Cunningham, which dropped him to eighth. He remained in that position until Andrew Prendeville got around him on lap 31. A subsequent problem with a lapped car dropped him to tenth on lap 33. He just missed his hope for a top-10 finish when Daniel Herrington passed him on lap 39, but he still was able to bring his car home in 11th position.
Both of the RLR/Andersen Racing cars sported the logo of Best Friends Animal Society during the race as a salute to that not-for-profit animal welfare group, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this month. The donated signage drew attention to Best Friends' quarter century of service to the welfare of abused, abandoned animals at its 3,700-acre sanctuary in southwestern Utah, and for its on-going campaign work across the United States. Best Friends' No More Homeless Pets program includes national campaigns in key American cities to address the problems of saving pit bull dogs, speaking out against puppy mills, addressing the problem of cat overpopulation and striving that one day there will be no more homeless pets. More information on the organization can be obtained at bestfriends.org.
Romancini's fastest lap of the race was lap 45, when he had a time of 1:06.9435 for an average speed of 94.378 miles per hour. Jackson's fastest race lap was lap 32, which he turned in 1:07.9780 for an average speed of 92.942 mph.
Romancini is now third in the point standings. Jackson, who hasn't competed in all the races, is 19th. For the second race in a row Jackson was one of the Firestone Lucky Three, receiving a $1,500 bonus from Firestone in a blind drawing among the drivers who didn't finish in the top 10.
VERSUS's TV coverage is slated to air at 11 p.m. Eastern time Monday.
The next Firestone Indy Lights race is July 26 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. For more information on that event see indycar.com/pro.
Mario Romancini: "I wanted to finish at least in the top five, but sixth is not a bad position here. It's important for the championship. I think I'm third in points now.
"Our car was not perfect here. We didn't know if the race would be in the dry or the wet when we made our final set-up decisions. I think it was a good idea to pit right away like we did. I was having some trouble under braking, but still, sixth is a good result here."
Ali Jackson: "In the morning practice we had gearbox problems and only did a few laps. I didn't get a chance to run with a full fuel load at all. But the team did an awesome job. We came from 15th and got as high as seventh. Then I touched the inside wall in Turn 3 during a battle with Wade Cunningham. I got caught up with a lapped car too. From that point on I drifted backwards. But still, considering everything, this was a good result here."