IRL: Giaffone leads rookie standings

David Reininger - motorsport.com After two races in the Indy Racing Northern Light Series, Felipe Giaffone leads the rookie of the year standings by 31 points over Casey Mears. In addition to a commanding lead in the rookie standings, Giaffone...

David Reininger - motorsport.com

After two races in the Indy Racing Northern Light Series, Felipe Giaffone leads the rookie of the year standings by 31 points over Casey Mears. In addition to a commanding lead in the rookie standings, Giaffone is currently third in the season long battle for the championship.

Giaffone moves to the Northern Light Series from Indy Lights, where he was fourth in the season championship last year, scoring one victory and three pole positions.

In his first Indy Racing event, Giaffone earned a solid sixth place finish at Phoenix, backing it up with a fourth place finish at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

"The goals that I had was just to gain a lot of experience this first year," said the 26 year-old, Giaffone. "Maybe just because I was not in a hurry to get the results as quickly, it just came to me. Sometimes when you push a little bit too hard, it goes the opposite way."

Giaffone gives much of the credit for his early success in Indy racing to his team, Treadway Hubbard Racing. The team, led by team owner Fred Treadway, has scored five victories in Northern Light competition, including the 1997 Indianapolis 500 with Arie Luyendyk.

"I never imagined that I could be doing just like this," said Giaffone. "I think again, it's up to the team. They are doing a great job. Almost never do they break down, so I think that's my biggest advantage over the other teams."

Longer races, and hence different race strategy, in the Northern Light Series, will be Giaffone's biggest challenge this year. "In the Lights, you had to be really aggressive at the start." With race distances up to 500 miles in Indy racing, "you have to save yourself to the end," said Giaffone. "You start adjusting the car as much as you can and then the last 40 laps you go as fast as you can go."

Giaffone's conservative approach to his rookie season has paid big dividends in the first two races. "I don't want to crash the thing. I've learned in the past that once you crash, you lose a lot of time after that to gain back your confidence. I try to be really smooth and just think about what the car is doing. Once I'm 100 percent confidant with the car, for qualifying, we try to give 100 percent."

The Northern Light series moves to the Atlanta Motor Speedway for the Atlanta Classic 500 on Saturday night, April 28, the first night race of the season. Giaffone, whose Lights win came at the high-banked Michigan superspeedway, looks forward to his first race at Atlanta.

"The experience I had in Lights in Michigan and from Fontana is going to work for this track because it's going to be a two-groove racetrack.

Last season, Giaffone earned the pole position at Fontana and Michigan, where he scored his victory by leading flag to flag.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Felipe Giaffone , Casey Mears , Arie Luyendyk