Watkins Glen: Series race report

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (Sunday, July 4, 2010) - French rookie J.K. Vernay strengthened his Firestone Indy Lights championship points lead with a victory in the Corning 100 at Watkins Glen International. Vernay, driving the No. 7 Lucas Oil/CJ/Sam ...

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (Sunday, July 4, 2010) - French rookie J.K. Vernay strengthened his Firestone Indy Lights championship points lead with a victory in the Corning 100 at Watkins Glen International.

Vernay, driving the No. 7 Lucas Oil/CJ/Sam Schmidt Motorsports car, overtook pole sitter James Hinchcliffe entering the "Bus Stop" on Lap 19 of the 3.4-mile, 11-turn circuit and went on to his third victory of the season.

Hinchcliffe, driving the No. 2 TMR-Xtreme Coil Drilling car, finished .2135 of a second behind. Sebastian Saavedra, who won at Iowa Speedway on June 20, finished third in the No. 29 William Rast/Bryan Herta Autosport car.

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CORNING 100 POST-RACE NOTES:

* This is the third career Firestone Indy Lights victory for series rookie J.K. Vernay. He also won the first two races of this season, at St. Petersburg and Barber Motorsports Park.

* J.K. Vernay's margin of victory, .2135 of a second, was the closest of the season in Firestone Indy Lights on any type of circuit. The previous closest was .4388 of a second in the Firestone Freedom 100 in May on the oval at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

* This is the fourth margin of victory of less than one second in six Firestone Indy Lights races this season.

* This was the second-closest margin of victory, .2135 of a second, on a street/road course in Firestone Indy Lights history. The closest was .0758 of a second in 2007 at Watkins Glen when Wade Cunningham edged Hideki Mutoh.

* Watkins Glen has been the site of three of the five closest margins of victory on a street-road course in Firestone Indy Lights history (.0758 in 2007, .2135 in 2010, .5499 in 2009).

* Series points leader J.K. Vernay has led laps in three races this season - St. Petersburg, Barber Motorsports Park and Watkins Glen. He won all three races.

* Winner J.K. Vernay recorded his fifth top-three finish in six starts this season. His only result off the podium came in May in the Firestone Freedom 100 at Indianapolis, where he finished 13th.

* There have been eight different winners in eight Firestone Indy Lights races at Watkins Glen since this series first ran here in 2005. There were two races each at The Glen in 2007 and 2008.

* This is the fifth consecutive top-five finish this season for James Hinchcliffe. His only finish outside of the top five came in the season opener at St. Petersburg, in which he was involved in a first-turn accident after starting from the pole.

* This is the third podium finish of the season for Sebastian Saavedra. He won on the oval at Iowa and finished third on the road course at Barber Motorsports Park.

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CORNING 100 POST-RACE QUOTES:

J.K. VERNAY (No. 7 Lucas/CJ/Sam Schmidt Motorsports, winner): "It was a really hard race. I didn't know the track when I arrived here. The track is so beautiful and so complicated. We improved practice after practice, and by the race, the car was just fabulous. (James) Hinchcliffe made a little mistake in the corner, and I was able to overtake him. It's just fantastic. The team did a great job. This is very good for the championship. Three wins for a rookie isn't bad."

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 2 TMR-Xtreme Coil Drilling, second): "This was not the result we were looking for. There's no doubt that the No. 2 car was the fastest of the field. On that second lap of the restart, I got into the kitty litter put down for Stefan Wilson's motor. I said under caution that I was surprised that they were letting us go green with so much stuff on the track, but at the end of the day, it was there. I saw it; I knew it was there. I just tried not to drive down the inside of the track and get a good run. I got a bit sideways out of Turn 1 and gave JK (Vernay) the run. We were all over him at the end, but there was nothing we could do. It was just unfortunate. My boys deserved better."

SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA (No. 29 William Rast/Bryan Herta Autosport, third): "It was a crazy start. The outside position is not a bad way to go because it is so wide going into Turn 1. We were able to go through it, but I lost my position with (Martin) Plowman in that corner. But I was able to get it back. From then on, I was able to maintain pace with the front. We were able to do our own race and just save the tires until the end. At the end with the last yellow, we were very close fighting each other. The amount of downforce needed at this track, it is not very easy to go through. So we're very happy with third place. It's very important points for the championship."

MARTIN PLOWMAN (No. 27 Automatic Fire Sprinklers/KEP Printing, fourth): "I have to say that this race was kind of like a victory. Coming into the weekend, I would have never been happy with fourth, but considering the weekend we've had and getting the damage early on in the race. We just had a really dogged performance and we never gave up. One day, we're going to get a win. But now we're happy with the points in the championship."

(What happened to the car?): "Something broke at the rear of the car. On right-handers, it was fine, but turning left, it felt like I had a flat tire for the whole 30 laps."

JAMES WINSLOW (No. 77 Focal Point/Sam Schmidt Motorsports, fifth): "We totally transformed the car for the race. We didn't get many laps in practice and qualifying because of a sump problem. I ran over a curb, and it lost all the oil. I didn't qualify so we started in the back. The car was fantastic today. Full credit to the team for finding the setup. I found the car more comfortable, and I was able to push. I was catching Plowman for fourth, and I thought there was a potential for a top-four finish. But Charlie Kimball got around me even though he was a few laps down and slowed me up and kept me from passing his teammate. It's really frustrating, but that's racing, and I'm very happy with fifth place."

ANDERS KROHN (No. 4 Andersen Racing, 10th): "It was the gearbox. When I hit the brakes going into the corners, it went into neutral. I had to do about 15 downshifts going into Turn 1. I have blisters on my hands from it. I don't know what we broke in the gearbox, but we broke something. We were running in fourth place comfortably. I was so comfortable. I thought for sure I could get third if we had another restart. But halfway through the race was when the gearbox started acting up. After that, all my focus was just on finishing the race. We were running so strong. I came in 10th, but it was one of the best days of my life ever. This was my first Firestone Indy Lights race ever, but we showed we could run with the big boys. I'm so happy. Today was a big motivation for me. You could write a book on everything that happened over the last two days. It was a fantastic experience. Now we'll go back to focusing on Star Mazda for the rest of the year, and try to work on moving up the Road to Indy ladder to Firestone Indy Lights next year."

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The 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series season continues July 18 with the Honda Indy Toronto at Streets of Toronto. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 12:30 p.m. (ET) by ABC. The race will air live on the IMS Radio Network, XM channel 145 and Sirius channel 212. The race also will be carried on www.indycar.com. The 2010 Firestone Indy Lights season continues with the Grand Prix of Toronto on July18 at the Watkins Glen International.

-source: irl

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Series INDYLIGHTS