HOMESTEAD, Fla., April 8 Â Jeret Schroeder and the PDM Racing team put in a hard day's work with the Purity Products/Graph to Graphics/Summit Packaging Dallara Aurora ...
HOMESTEAD, Fla., April 8 Jeret Schroeder and the PDM Racing team put in a hard day's work with the Purity Products/Graph to Graphics/Summit Packaging Dallara Aurora #9 Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway. When the checkered waved on lap 200 of the Infiniti Grand Prix of Miami, Schroeder was just where he had started 14th but that finishing position doesn't show how hard Schroeder and everyone else on the team worked to just finish the Indy Racing Northern Light Series' first race on Homestead's 1.5-mile oval.
"It was a long day for us," Schroeder said after climbing out of the pearl-white car that was representing three Florida businesses here: Purity Products of Miami; Graph to Graphics of Pompano Beach and Grout Perfect of Fort Lauderdale. All three companies had guests in the grandstands cheering Schroeder on, while other fans around the country and in Schroeder's hometown of Vineland, N.J., watched the race live on ABC.
"The Purity Products #9 was pushing really bad in one and two and it was loose in three and four today," Schroeder said. "It had a slight push when I was alone, but when I was in traffic it felt like it was going to fly off the track. It just wanted to pull you off line all the time. But the PDM Racing team plugged away all day, and after our last pit stop the car was the best it had been all day. Unfortunately it just took us all day to get there. This is our first race here and we didn't get to do any testing, so we were all just doing the best we could.
"Our pit stops were good, the track conditions didn't really change and our Firestone tires were great like always," Schroeder added. "At least we did finish, so now we're back on track from the disappointment of Phoenix, and we'll build on this and go from here."
In one way Schroeder was very lucky, because he could have had an early day. He was right behind Stan Wattles on lap two when Wattles spun at the exit of turn four and hit the inside frontstretch wall.
"I missed him by less than two inches," Schroeder said. "That was a really close call.
"The car was such a handful, I could have been in the wall 20 times today," he added.
Schroeder was actually as high as fourth once. Only he, Felipe Giaffone, Buzz Calkins and Shigeaki Hattori stayed on the track when everyone else pitted on lap 31 under a yellow for Robbie Buhl, who needed to be towed in after he stopped on the warm-up lane midway through turn two on lap 29.
Schroeder pitted on lap 32. All of the team's pit stops went perfectly all day and the team did everything it could with wing adjustments and tire pressure adjustments to make the car handle better. Schroeder made as many adjustments from the cockpit as he could too, but the combination of a lack of funds for testing and the fact that this was the series' first visit to this track made arriving at a good set-up a challenge. The teams that weren't able to test at Homestead earlier could only go by the data they themselves collected when the track opened for practice on Friday, two days before the race.
"We'll have to go with a stiffer car here next time," PDM's Paul Diatlovich told Schroeder after the race. "We could have used a softer bar and stiffer springs."
Despite having his hands full all day, Schroeder steadily moved up from 22nd after his first pit stop to various positions in the teens. Near the halfway point his main competition was Buzz Calkins, whom he passed around lap 127. Robby McGehee and Billy Boat were also running around the same positions as Schroeder was for most of the race, but time ran out and at the checkered Schroeder was in 14th spot, earning 16 points and $19,050 to move into 21st place overall in the national championship for the Northern Light Cup.
The Infiniti Grand Prix was the second of 13 races in the series this year. The next one is the Atlanta 500 Classic on April 28 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. It's the first of three night races in the series this year.