WADE CUNNINGHAM EARNS TOP-FIVE AT CHICAGOLAND; 'HINCH' AND 'BIA' TAKEN OUT IN ONE-TWO PUNCH JOLIET, Ill. -- After starting from third for Saturday's Firestone Indy Lights race at the Chicagoland Speedway, Wade Cunningham led 39 laps around the...
WADE CUNNINGHAM EARNS TOP-FIVE AT CHICAGOLAND; 'HINCH' AND 'BIA' TAKEN OUT IN ONE-TWO PUNCH
JOLIET, Ill. -- After starting from third for Saturday's Firestone Indy Lights race at the Chicagoland Speedway, Wade Cunningham led 39 laps around the 1.5-mile oval before having to settle for a fourth-place finish for Sam Schmidt Motorsports.
Teammates James Hinchcliffe finished 12th and Ana Beatriz finished 14th after being involved in an accident on Lap 31 of the 67-lap race.
At the start of the race, Cunningham jumped around cars running in first and second to take the lead on the first lap. He would go on to lead the first 23 laps.
Hinchcliffe, starting from seventh, settled into a pace early and ran in the top-five. Beatriz, who had to start 15th out of 16th due to a fuel pump issue in qualifying, charged her way to the front before a Lap 6 caution, where she was forced to pit for a new set of tires.
When racing resumed, the three Sam Schmidt drivers found the action to be intense. The drivers in the field were able to drive around the track four-wide at times with huge drafts keeping all the competitors in touch with one-another.
While Cunningham led the way, Hinchcliffe and Beatriz hooked up flirting near the top-five and began working together. Unfortunately for them, their proximity to each other would end up being their demise.
On Lap 31, Mike Potekhen entered Turns 3 and 4 below Beatriz and Hinchcliffe, but his car began washing up the track and eventually collected Beatriz. As Beatriz began spinning, Potekhen's car also found Hinchcliffe's car, putting two of the three Sam Schmidt cars into the wall and out of the race.
After several laps of yellow, Cunningham led the field back to green on Lap 41. He found himself fighting off James Davison and Daniel Herrington. The two drivers, who are technical partners under Vision Racing and Bryan Herta Autosport, teamed up to pass Cunningham on the outside and pull away. With no teammates left to help Cunningham, he was forced to fend for himself amongst the Vision/BHA cars as well as the Andretti Green teammates that joined the fight.
With the laps closing down and the racing intensity turning up, Cunningham turned his fastest lap of the race six laps from the end. It wasn't quite enough, however, as he had to settle for fourth when the checkered flew.
Though the overall title for the Firestone Indy Lights Championship has been clinched by AGR's J.R. Hildebrand, Cunningham still has a chance to finish second overall with one race left. He trails James Davison, currently in second, by 28 points. Hinchcliffe also is still mathematically to accomplish winning the Rookie of the Year title, being 32 points behind current leader Sebastian Saavedra. The winner at the season finale on October 9th at the Homestead-Miami Speedway will inherit 50 points for the championship.
#7 HINCHTOWN.com/Sam Schmidt Motorsports Driver James Hinchcliffe
"That was a very interesting half day. The race was crazy. Our car took a little bit to come in, but I think we just sort of got there. The high line was definitely where to be, and it took me a couple of laps to find a good enough gap to move up there and make some moves. Like I said, the car was just starting to come to us. We were only 25 laps or so into the race, and you really had to go high to try and make a move. I got a good run coming off of two and got a run on (Ana Beatriz) Bia, and pretty much anytime you went into three, there was three-wide happening somewhere. That time, I was on the outside of it, and Potekhen lost control and starting moving high a little bit and slid into Bia, and I was just there. I got the wall pretty hard and Bia pretty hard, which is unfortunate. It's a really bad way to end the day. I think the race was coming to us a little bit. It was just crazy out there. It's a shame that we wrecked and a shame that our teammate was involved. "
#11 LUCAS OIL/Sam Schmidt Motorsports Driver Wade Cunningham
"The racing was definitely crazy out there. Conditions weren't as ideal in practice with a green track because of the rain and stock cars, so we didn't see any sort of running that we saw in the race during practice at all. There was a bit of two-wide running, side-by-side sort of racing. We had a strong car in the lead. I know James (Davison) was protecting himself in second-place. I knew we weren't sitting out there on pure speed. I felt like the car was handling well. I had a good balance, and the speed was always there. It's just on that last restart, James (Davison) had a teammate to help out, and that makes all the difference around here. I was just sitting up front alone. Once James (Davison) and Daniel (Herrington) got together, it was going to be tough because once they got to the lead, the two team cars could use up one and a half lanes, and we couldn't go around them on the outside because we were too under-geared for that. We couldn't go under them because there was no room, so I was fighting for third-place at that point. With a couple of laps to go, I made some heavy contact into the back of someone's car, and I thought I gave them a flat tire so I gave them so more room going into three, and unfortunately, we lost third-place. At that point in the race, third would have been the best scenario for us. It's just unfortunate with the way the yellows fell and the way the run unfolded that we couldn't get out a better result, but that's why it's racing."
#20 HEALTHY CHOICE/Sam Schmidt Motorsports Driver Ana Beatriz
"We were having such a promising weekend. During the practice session, I was really happy with the Healthy Choice/Sam Schmidt car. I was very confident that we were going to have a good race. We had a problem in qualifying with the fuel pump that put us in the back for the race, but when the race started, the car was so good that we moved to the front pretty quickly. Even though I had to change tires under caution, we managed to stay on the lead lap, and when the race got going again, I was able to move to the front. Once I got to the main pack, passing was a bit difficult, but I'm confident that we could have been fighting for the win. When the accident happened, I was going to the outside in three, and I felt Potekhen hit me in the rear. I think he just lost control or had some understeer, but unfortunately, it ended the race for us. It's such a shame because we were running so competitive, but there was nothing we could do."
Team Owner, Sam Schmidt
"Well, disappointing doesn't even begin to describe our emotions. Things were looking pretty good for awhile. All three cars were running competitively, but unfortunately, it wasn't meant to be for us. If there's one positive, besides that we were running competitively, it's that we have several weeks before the final race to get our cars put back together. Wade still has a chance to finish second in the points, and James has a chance still to win Rookie of the Year. We'll do what we can to maximize our chances to accomplish both in Homestead."