RICHMOND, Va., June 29 - Jeret Schroeder learned that he'd be behind the wheel of Tri Star Motorsports' Dallara/Olds/Firestone ...
RICHMOND, Va., June 29 - Jeret Schroeder learned that he'd be behind the wheel of Tri Star Motorsports' Dallara/Olds/Firestone #6 this weekend on Wednesday night around midnight. On Thursday morning he made a bee-line drive from his home in Vineland, N.J., to Richmond International Raceway, and on Friday afternoon he qualified 12th for Saturday night's SunTrust Indy Challenge, the Indy Racing Northern Light Series' inaugural event at RIR's three-quarter-mile oval and the series' first appearance ever at a track shorter than a mile.
Schroeder's qualifying speed was 155.197 mph. He'll start outside of row six beside Al Unser Jr. His second lap was the fastest, as his first circuit was run at an average speed of 154.079 mph.
Saturday night's 300K/250-lap race will be broadcast live on ESPN beginning at 8 p.m. EDT, preceded by a pre-race show a half-hour earlier on ESPN2. Friday's MBNA Qualifying is set to be televised on a tape-delayed basis at 12:30 a.m. Saturday on ESPN2.
As is often the case, tires played a key role Friday. The USAC Coors Silver Bullet cars had a session right before MBNA Qualifying for the Indy Racing cars, and the different tire compounds laid down on the track played a factor. Some Indy Racing teams even pulled out of the qualifying line, forfeiting one of their qualifying laps, to go to the end of the line in an effort to get a cleaner track surface.
"You see all those little beads of rubber on my tires?" Schroeder explained after climbing out of his car after qualifying. "That's rubber from the Silver Bullet cars. They run different tires than our Firestone Firehawks, and with their session being ahead of our qualifying, you pick up a lot of their rubber. You're always hunting for grip, and there's less grip now than there was earlier in the day. That's why all of our speeds in the last practice session were faster than what we ran in qualifying."
Schroeder said this will be a factor in tomorrow night's race, too.
"Compound that by their feature being before our race tomorrow and all the cars being on the track at the same time for more laps, plus all the sessions earlier in the day, and you get an idea of what we're going to face tomorrow during the race," he added.
Schroeder complimented the Tri Star Motorsports crew for their preparation of his car.
"For qualifying, my car's balance felt the same as it did earlier in the day," he said. "Right now it's just a matter of a lack of grip.
"We'll add more downforce, but other than that tomorrow's race is going to be a patience thing," he added. "We're going to have to wait until all of our cars scrub all of their rubber out of the way. It's going to be really crowded out there, too."
The team didn't participate in the first practice session on Thursday. Schroeder made his first lap at RIR ever during a practice session Thursday night at 7:20 p.m. He was 16th in that session, with his best lap being the 52nd one out of 57 he turned that night. He was clocked at an average speed of 152.728 mph on that lap.
"The balance feels nice," he said after that session. "I really need laps here to get the feel. We should have a good car by race time. My car needs some fine tuning. I followed people to learn. I wanted to see what kinds of lines people are taking. I'm just trying to get comfortable with the car and get laps in."
There was only other practice session before qualifying. Schroeder was 17th in that session, held earlier on a very hot Friday afternoon, but he picked up quite a bit of speed. His best lap of the 37 he ran in that session was at an average of 156.632 mph.
Schroeder was pleased that he picked up five positions for qualifying a few hours later.
"I have never raced here before, but actually I'm pretty comfortable," Schroeder said. "This track reminds me of my old Hooters Cup two-liter days. I wish we could have tested here, but we're pretty much in the ballpark of where we thought the car would run."
Jaques Lazier won his first career MBNA Pole and the first pole for Sam Schmidt Motorsports when he was the fastest of the 19 qualifiers with an average speed of 160.417 mph.