Birmingham: Sam Schmidt Motorsports qualifying report

VERNAY STAYS AHEAD OF THE COMPETITION AFTER QUALIFYING AT BARBER MOTORSPORTS PARK BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - J.K. Vernay dominated the first race of the season, and he's given notice that he doesn't intend to relinquish that top spot as he and Sam...


BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - J.K. Vernay dominated the first race of the season, and he's given notice that he doesn't intend to relinquish that top spot as he and Sam Schmidt Motorsports earned the pole on Saturday morning for Sunday's inaugural Firestone Indy Lights race at the Barber Motorsports Park.

The pole is Vernay's first in only his second career Firestone Indy Lights race.

Teammates James Winslow followed in ninth, Pippa Mann in 12th, and Philip Major in 13th.

Saturday's qualifying session was plagued with yellow caution periods, and drivers were forced to get in their hot laps as soon as an opportunity presented itself. Time was limited for on-track running, so drivers didn't have the luxury of making big changes in the pits. With track conditions different from Friday, many drivers experienced ill-handling cars that they had to battle through during their qualification runs.

Compounding difficulties during the session was the traffic out on the circuit. With the frantic pace being set by everyone, if a car were to catch up to a car in front of them, the lead car would have no reason to slow down and yield as they were racing against the clock, and the track itself doesn't present itself to many passing opportunities for the faster car in back. It was a difficult balance of timing and luck that everyone had to play.

Vernay and his No. 7 crew made the best of all the challenges and timed their runs better than the rest as they were able to secure the top spot on the starting grid for the race.

No. 7 LUCAS SLICK MIST/Sam Schmidt Motorsports Driver J.K. Vernay

Starts Sunday's race in first; best lap of 1:14.8762. Second Firestone Indy Lights start; winner in series debut in St. Pete. In 2009, competed in Formula 3, highlighted by two wins, and a track record at the Macau street circuit.

"I am very happy to be on pole because yesterday we didn't have very good practice runs. I finished P7 in practice and wasn't very confident heading into today. We worked really late and my crew did a great job on my car. This proves that when you work hard, it pays off. My car was fast today, and I felt prepared. Now we have to focus on the race, especially the starts because my starts have not been very good. I think it will help that I am starting first. I want to thank the team for all of their hard work in getting me the pole position."

No. 11 Sam Schmidt Motorsports Driver Pippa Mann

Starts Sunday's race in 12th; best lap of 1:16.3594 Enters second . season of Firestone Indy Lights competition In 2009, had three top-10s . with best finish of eighth (Homestead) A member of the 2010 Indy Racing. League Pace Car Team .

"This morning, the track was very different to yesterday, and although we tried to guess how it would be and compensate for that, we didn't quite get it right. As a result, we had a car with quite a lot of over-steer, and due to the way the yellows fell, we never had time to really make a change before it would go green again. The whole session was very broken up with a lot of yellow flags, and no one, including me, ever got a run of more than two flying laps at any point during the session. As someone who normally sets their quick time on lap three or four of the run, this was something of a disadvantage. They don't award points for qualifying; they do that tomorrow. So we're going to dig deep, keep working hard, and try to bring home the top-ten result my crew deserves in the race."

No. 49 Sam Schmidt Motorsports Driver Philip Major

Starts Sunday's race in 13th; best lap of 1:16.3995. Second Firestone Indy Lights start. In 2009, made 12 starts in British Formula 3 with Carlin Motorsport with best finish of 10th at Spa.

"Things didn't go exactly as planned. I don't think we played the yellows as best as we could. I think we were sitting around ninth or tenth position when a yellow came out. I think we got out just a bit late on new tires. It's unfortunate because we definitely had a car to be in the top-10, but tomorrow, I'm sure we'll be more than strong enough to make up for it. I'm looking forward to it."

No. 77 BSS/BRIGHT SIDE OF THE ROAD/Sam Schmidt Motorsports Driver James Winslow

Starts Sunday's race in ninth; best lap of 1:16.0341. Second Firestone Indy Lights start. Former A1GP Team Britain Driver; Champion in Australian F3, Formula Renault V6, and Asian F3. Full member of the British Racing Drivers' Club (BRDC).

"It was a very frustrating session for me. The team had done a really good job to give me a good car for qualifying. I got held up by my teammate right at the crucial stage on my last lap which was my fastest lap up until then, but I caught her while she was backing off which was a bit unfortunate. So, we qualified ninth, but I think we had serious potential to be somewhere around fourth. I lost about four or five tenths just in one corner on my fastest lap. This is a tough track to pass on, and tomorrow's race is going to be difficult. I'm adamant that I'm going to finish in the top-five and I'm just going to have to make it happen and over-take people on a track that's tough to over-take on."

Team Owner, Sam Schmidt "So far, it's been a fantastic start to this season. J.K. Vernay is the real deal. I'm looking forward to an exciting race tomorrow for him tomorrow. Unfortunately, the other three cars and got jammed up in qualifying and didn't get times reflective of their speed, but hopefully they can move up in the race tomorrow. I can see that there aren't too many opportunities to pass other cars on this track, but in racing, anything can happen, and we're looking forward to a great result for the whole team."

-source: ssm

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About this article
Series Indy Lights
Drivers Sam Schmidt , Pippa Mann , Phillip Major , James Winslow
Teams Carlin