IPS: Nashville: Series qualifying report

LLOYD STARTS FIRST GLADEVILLE, Tenn., Friday, July 13, 2007 -- Alex Lloyd won the SWE Pole Award for Saturday's Sunbelt Rentals 100 Indy Pro Series event at Nashville. Lloyd earned his third career pole with a quick lap of 25.7368...

LLOYD STARTS FIRST

GLADEVILLE, Tenn., Friday, July 13, 2007 -- Alex Lloyd won the SWE Pole Award for Saturday's Sunbelt Rentals 100 Indy Pro Series event at Nashville. Lloyd earned his third career pole with a quick lap of 25.7368 seconds, 181.841 mph. Lloyd, who shares the series record for victories in a season, will compete for his eighth win of the year. Wade Cunningham will start second while Robbie Pecorari, Hideki Mutoh and Sean Guthrie round out the top five.

***

The No. 8 Michael Crawford Motorsports car driven by P.J. Abbott will support the One Vet Ahead foundation, which was founded in March 2007 by former Marine Tommy W. Pearce and is dedicated to assisting veterans with the transition into mainstream America. It provides assistance with employment and job training as well as assistance with cost of living expenses dealing with the transition after military service. Abbott served as a Marine in the first Gulf War.

P.J. ABBOTT (No. 8 ultraV -- One Vet Ahead): "It is very exciting to be a vet and drive for a program that will benefit the returning veterans. We hope to generate an awareness and support for the OVA program."

***

Spinal cord injured patients from the Center for Comprehensive Services at Governor Hall Place in Tennessee, the Tennessee State Rehabilitation Center, and their families will be guests at the "Day at the Races" program hosted by the Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation and Sam Schmidt Motorsports at 1 p.m. today in the Andretti Green Racing hospitality tent.

The one-hour event will include a catered lunch courtesy of Andretti Green Racing, speeches from the foundation's president, Ida Cahill, and founder, Sam Schmidt, and a tour of the paddock area of the Nashville Superspeedway.

Visitors to the event will learn through the program what the work of the foundation seeks to do and what resources may be available to them.

For many of the visitors to these events, not only will it be their first time at a race track, but more importantly, their first time out of the hospital. Future "Day at the Races" programs are planned for the race weekends at the Kentucky Speedway and the Chicagoland Speedway.

SAM SCHMIDT (Founder, Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation): "We've had a great turn-out to these events so far this year, and we're looking forward to having another great crowd. I can't thank the guys from Andretti Green enough for all the facilities they've provided for us. They've been a huge help to our foundation in making this and other programs a great success."

***

Brad Jaeger wore a proud smile Thursday night. The 5'11" righthander toed the rubber at Nashville's Greer Stadium and fired the ceremonial first pitch before the Nashville Sounds Triple-A baseball game against the Memphis Redbirds. It was a bit outside, but it didn't bounce.

"It was a great experience having the support of Nashville," said Jaeger, a Cincinnati native who relocated to Nashville to attend Vanderbilt University, where he graduated in May with a degree in mechanical engineering. "Being able to hear the pa guy call me out as a Vanderbilt graduate, it was really special."

Jaeger acknowledged having some nerves prior to the pitch, but he relied on his days in Little League Baseball to help him.

"It was definitely nerve-racking walking out there," he said. "I was more nervous than I am at the start of a race. At the start of the races, I know what to expect. It's what I do every weekend, but this was definitely a new experience.

"I used to be really intense into baseball probably when I was in the third grade or so. I got started in T-ball. I was a catcher and definitely looked up to Johnny Bench as a Cincinnati Reds player. I probably wanted to pursue that for a good four or five years of my childhood, but my seventh grade year was the last year I played. Then I got pretty intense into go-karts, so I focused my time on that as I got into high school. So, baseball kind of fell behind, and I didn't really keep up with it much."

Jaeger, a rookie in the Indy Pro Series with one top-10 finish so far this season, had his own small cheering section in the stands for the first pitch -- a half-dozen he brought along and a handful of friends from Vanderbilt that he ran into outside the ballpark right before the game.

He should enjoy similar attention in the next three races. Nashville, Mid-Ohio and Kentucky Speedway are all "hometown" races for Jaeger.

"It's definitely going to be an enjoyable experience," Jaeger said. "Ever since I started racing go karts back when I was 14, I've always had friends that have been asking, 'Hey, let me know when you're going to be racing close by, I want to come see you race.'

"Unfortunately, until now, they've always been far away. Mid Ohio, I've raced there before, but it's still a two and a half hour drive from Cincinnati. Being able to race in Kentucky is going to be so much fun. I've had so many friends and family that are planning to come down. So just having that extra support may be what I need."

SWE RACE CAR PARTS POST-QUALIFYING QUOTES:

ALEX LLOYD (No. 7 Lucas Oil/Isilon/Sam Schmidt Motorsports, SWE Pole Award winner): (About importance of qualifying on pole when passing is so difficult here) "It's definitely a good thing. We put a lot of emphasis on qualifying. It's been a difficult day. The track has been very weird today, very slippery, although very quick - quicker than the pole time last year. Setup-wise it's been a little bit of a challenge to make sure we got it right, but all credit to the Sam Schmidt Motorsports team. They did a great job, and we got a very good setup in the end. We just etched it, it's pretty close. I expect a close race tomorrow. For sure, we're in the right side of the grid. We'll see how it all plays out."

WADE CUNNINGHAM (No. 27 Automatic Fire Sprinklers, Inc., qualified second): "We weren't really sure how qualifying was going to go after I made friends with the wall in the first practice. We literally slapped the car together for the second session, the short 20 minute session, and went out to try to find some balance. Qualifying was always a bit of a guess. I'm sort of surprised to be in second but also disappointed that we weren't half a tenth quicker because we would have had the pole. I'm sure the accident contributed to our relative lack of speed to Alex (Lloyd) in qualifying. It would have been nice to have some qualifying sims in practice but instead we worked on race setup. In hindsight, it's pretty good considering the morning we had. Now it's time to go make the car better for the race in final warm up."

ROBBIE PECORARI (No. 13 Cabo Wabo Tequila, qualified third): "We changed some things around going into Iowa, and ever since then it's been going a lot better. The results have been showing. Came here, the cement is a little different, but I got used to it right away. They gave me a great car for qualifying." (About importance of starting up front on a track where it is difficult to pass) "I tried a few things in practice, and obviously they didn't work so well on the high line, but it's great to be able to start on the front again where we should be. We'll just hold our position at least and see what happens as the race goes on."

HIDEKI MUTOH (No. 55 Pa e a good start and try moving up to the front. I'm looking forward to the race tomorrow."

SEAN GUTHRIE (No. 4 Trace Die-Cast Car Crafters Special, qualified fifth): "We've been working all day to get a better car. Even though we've been fast, the car has been pretty hard to drive. In qualifying, it was definitely easier to drive. It was probably quicker than we went, but I wasn't really sure what the car was going to do. Overall, I think the car is pretty good. We just need to figure out what it will do in the draft."

SATURDAY'S SCHEDULE: (all times local):
3:30 p.m. Sunbelt Rentals 100 (77 laps/100 miles) (ESPN2, 5 p.m. EDT, July 18; taped)

-credit: irl

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About this article
Series Indy Lights
Drivers Sam Schmidt , Alex Lloyd , Robbie Pecorari , Brad Jaeger , Wade Cunningham , P.J. Abbott , Sean Guthrie , Hideki Mutoh