SAM SCHMIDT MOTORSPORTS COMES HOME A 'DISAPPOINTING' 2-3-4 IN CHICAGOLAND 100 JOLIET, Ill. - Saturday afternoon's Chicagoland 100 proved to be a career-day for two of the three Sam Schmidt drivers, but in the end, even with a 2-3-4 finish in the...
SAM SCHMIDT MOTORSPORTS COMES HOME A 'DISAPPOINTING' 2-3-4 IN CHICAGOLAND 100
JOLIET, Ill. - Saturday afternoon's Chicagoland 100 proved to be a career-day for two of the three Sam Schmidt drivers, but in the end, even with a 2-3-4 finish in the final standings, it was a tough pill for some involved to swallow given the respective situations of the drivers involved.
Pippa Mann led the way for the team bringing the car home in second, her best finish ever in Firestone Indy Lights. Starting from second, she dueled with her 2008 teammate, Martin Plowman, for the first 29 laps. Then, on lap 30, Plowman had problems, and Mann inherited the top spot. Mann would go on to lead 35 laps through the remainder of the race. With just a few to go, a late race restart on lap 63 gave second-place James Hinchcliffe a chance to chase down Mann, and the two dueled side-by-side for the final sprint. By the checkered after lap 67, Hinchcliffe was ahead by just a mere 0.0159 seconds. It was a disappointment in a way for Mann because she was so close to that first victory, but she also walks away knowing she's a contender to win races and has a great shot to do so in the season's last two oval events. She commented after the race that, though she'll wake up on Sunday feeling accomplished, immediately after stepping out of the car, it was a tough second-place to take.
Following Mann home was Philip Major in third. The finish was also Major's best finish of the season, besting his sixth-place trio of Indianapolis, Iowa, and Watkins Glen. Starting from fourth, he never ran lower than fifth the entire race. He stayed up in touch with the leaders throughout the event making laps and learning on the fly. On the same late race restart, he managed to get around his teammate J.K. Vernay, the series points leader, and steal the final spot on the podium. For only his third oval start, Major was thrilled after the race with the excitement of racing wheel-to-wheel and walking away with his first podium finish of his Firestone Indy Lights career.
The driver most disappointed with their top-four finish was Vernay. Besides losing the final podium spot on the last lap, it was the worst case scenery for the race winner to be the man chasing Vernay in the championship. Vernay's 71-point lead entering the Chicagoland 100 shrunk to 53 points following the race. With just two events to go, it's still a healthy lead, but it's not the situation Vernay was wanting. Not to be overlooked however was how well he performed on the track. Finishing fourth in only his third oval race is no small feat, and for most of the race, he too looked to be in contention to get the win after battling with Mann who had been leading. He learned a few lessons and is ready to try again for a win when the series moves on to the next round.
In a series where most teams would give anything to have three cars in the top-four, the dose of disappointment in the Sam Schmidt team shows the character and desire within - the importance of winning whenever possible.
Next up for Sam Schmidt Motorsports will be another quick turnaround for the penultimate round of the 2010 Firestone Indy Lights championship, the Drive Smart. Buckle-Up 100 at the Kentucky Speedway on Saturday, September 4th.
No. 7 LUCAS OIL/CJ Motorsport/Sam Schmidt Motorsports Driver J.K. Vernay
"I'm really disappointed because we had a chance to win. The last two laps were really odd. I have nothing to say really about this race. The car was great. The team did a great job, and I have to give them a big thanks for giving me a car that could have won. We're showing that we can be competitive on the ovals, and I enjoy the racing. I'm very confident heading into the last two races of the season that we can still win another race or two and have a great result for the championship."
No. 11 Sam Schmidt Motorsports Driver Pippa Mann
"We went into this whole race weekend, and the race, focused on a car that would run well in a pack and in traffic because it's always a big pack race here for Firestone Indy Lights. Unfortunately, when I got out front in clean air, that meant we were a little too conservative. It was totally my call, and for me, in this race, it was definitely still the right call in my opinion. I was still faster than everyone else out there once I got into the lead except one guy, and unfortunately, by the time we got to the last two restarts, he had made his way past everyone in the entire field, and I was the only one left on his list. When I looked in my mirrors and saw him there at the second last restart, I knew that he was the worst possible person to have behind me, and I mean that in a totally complimentary way. Hinch was just the fastest man out there today. He drove a great race, and he beat me fair and square. We were so close throughout the whole of that last lap, but as soon as we got to the line, I knew he'd crossed it first. I would be lying if I said I wasn't a bit heart-broken right now, but I'm sure by tomorrow, I'll start to feel better about it. Bottom line, I did everything I could, but in the end, the better guy beat me today. Congrats to Hinch and Team Moore."
No. 49 Sam Schmidt Motorsports Driver Philip Major
"Oh man, this is probably one of the craziest tracks I have ever raced at. It's my first time here. I don't remember a lap where we weren't side-by-side and almost banging wheels. It was crazy. In the end, you just have to feel out your car and make adjustments, put yourself in the right place and try to finish at the podium. I have to thank the team for giving me a great car. It's fun having a car like that and running up front, and I can't wait to do it again in Kentucky."
Team Owner, Sam Schmidt
"Well, it's impressive that we placed all three of our cars in the top-four, but man, a win would have been nice. In a sense, you feel bad for Pippa because she did such a great job all weekend, but then again, second is nothing to turn your nose up about. She's shown that she can be competitive in the last two rounds. A great day for Philip getting his first podium of his Firestone Indy Lights career. He looked like he had a lot of fun. It's a bummer for J.K. on two counts in that he didn't get the result he wanted and his championship competitor won the race, but with that said, we're still looking pretty healthy from this position, and I'm confident that J.K. will snag a couple more podiums if not another race win before the season is out."