SAM SCHMIDT MOTORSPORTS REFLECTS ON A DOMINATING CHAMPIONSHIP-WINNING SEASON
INDIANAPOLIS -- With the year 2010 just hours away from being completed, the Sam Schmidt Motorsports crew is enjoying a well-deserved break before getting back in the shop on Monday in preparing to defend its Firestone Indy Lights crown for the 2011 season.
But first, with the time left in 2010, a quick moment to reflect on the season that has been:
In 13 events this season, Sam Schmidt Motorsports has won seven races and started from the pole position six times.
A Sam Schmidt team driver appeared on the podium in 12 of 13 races.
Three different drivers visited victory lane this year for the team. J.K. Vernay led in the win column with five victories for himself (Streets of St. Petersburg, Barber Park, Watkins Glen, Toronto, Infineon Raceway), followed by a victory each for Wade Cunningham (Indianapolis) and Pippa Mann (Kentucky).
Of the total 686 race laps run this season, a Sam Schmidt team car has been in the lead for 312 of those laps (49.84%).
In addition to his five wins, championship winner Vernay finished outside of the top-four only three times with one second, three thirds, and a fourth.
Vernay's championship is the fourth for Sam Schmidt Motorsports. Previous championship seasons include 2004, 2006, and 2007.
Since the inception of the current Firestone Indy Lights in 2002, no other team has won even half as many races or championships in series history.
SSM Drivers and Team Owner, Sam Schmidt
"Coming into this season, it had been a few years since Sam Schmidt Motorsports had won the championship, and I know they were very determined to win it again. To have selected me to chase that championship was quite a lot of pressure as a rookie, but we worked very well as a team to accomplish our goals. The crew and engineers did a great job. We improved everything at every race. I had great teammates as well, and everyone contributed to the team's success, especially on the ovals. Being new to them, I had to rely on our teammates that had experience on those types of tracks, and they helped a lot to allow me to earn good results like at Iowa, Chicago, and Kentucky. Even at Indy, if we didn't have the problems we did, we could have been in contention to win. This was a season of many highlights for us as a team. Personally, Watkins Glen was an especially satisfying weekend for me. The race was difficult, and we were not the quickest, but we won because we never gave up and tried to improve the car every time we were on the track. It was a total team effort. I also have fond memories of the Sonoma weekend because we had a perfect weekend on a difficult track, and all of my family was there to share the joy with me. I'm not sure what 2011 will bring, but I'm confident that whatever comes my way, I will do whatever I can to make the most of the opportunity and give it my best effort."
"The 2010 season was a solid year with great results, but there were a few races that stood out more for me. Racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the first time was a surreal experience. We ended up sixth, and for my first oval race, I gained a huge amount of experience which I want to bring back for next year. The race in Chicago was another high-point in the year. We ended up on the podium, and I don't think I had ever seen closer racing before in my career. Racing with Sam Schmidt Motorsports this year has been a pleasure. Sam has always been there to give great advice and answer any questions I may have had. I've definitely learned a lot from Sam on and off the track this year in pursuing excellence, and I can't wait for the next season to get going."
"At Sam Schmidt Motorsports this year, I had the opportunity to work with some great people, and in particular, the guys on my car were just amazing. Everyone from the tire guy to both of my mechanics up to my engineer just did a fantastic job for me all year long. I had no mechanical issues all season, and the guys stood behind me through thick and thin . We had a tough start to the season and then some great results towards the end of the year. The fact that we all stood together so well through the difficult times made it even more rewarding to win as a whole team during the good times. I think my personal highlight of the year is fairly easy to pick. It has to be winning in Kentucky. We had a perfect weekend with the pole, leading the most laps, and winning the race. It was just a fantastic job from start to finish by not only me, but everyone on the #11 car team. The two other poles at Indy and Homestead and the podium at Chicagoland also stand out as highlights in terms of results. However, in terms of achievement, wrapping up fifth-place in points at the last race of the year at Homestead probably comes a very close second to Kentucky in terms of a highlight, and for me, passes it in terms of an achievement. I missed the race at Mid-Ohio post-surgery on my hand, drove in the two Canadian races with a fully displaced fracture, and we had some truly rotten luck in the first part of the season. I am so proud of everyone on my team for the way we came back to fifth in the points after everything we went through this year. Everyone on the entire team helped when my car needed to be put together, and everyone on the entire team celebrated when we had the good results. But again, to go back to my guys on my car, I just want to shout out to Carlos, George, Trey, and Kent, and thank them again for everything they did for me this year."
Team Owner, Sam Schmidt
"I think when you look back at this season, having won seven races in itself is a huge highlight. That gets us to 39 overall and now four championships. Winning the Freedom 100 was also a huge highlight. Capturing that event five out of seven years ranks as one of the team's major accomplishments. The Freedom 100 is our Indy 500. That's a 70% win ratio at the world's greatest motorsports venue. That is a record we are very proud of. When you have race victories, they turn into championships. If you look a little deeper, I'm really proud of all four crews that we've assembled. They dug deep at some times and really did a good job. It's a shame that (James) Winslow couldn't finish the season on a high note, but we had some success there. Philip matured tremendously from the beginning of the year. If not for a couple of mistakes, on both sides, we could have been fifth or sixth in the points with the #49 entry. Then, there's Pippa. A huge, HUGE improvement this year over last year. Three pole positions, a race victory, just a tremendous advancement over last year. Even more important is her fifth-place at Sonoma. She not only picked it up on the ovals, but she showed a big improvement on the road courses. And then J.K. He's been great to work with. J.K. did a superb job all year, especially considering that he had to learn all these new tracks, and he'd never run on an oval prior to this year. I think he has all the talent in the world to move up. Hopefully we can figure out a way to get him there."
"I think this championship means as much, if not more, than the other championships simply because we were away for two years. We were so, so close those two years, if not for a couple of mistakes on our side. To get it back, and to get it back with seven wins as a team, makes it really special. The caliber of the teams we compete against has stepped up substantially since we won our last championship. Because of that, it also makes this really important now and moving forward. I'm just really pleased with all the crew members because it's not just a #7 car deal. Everybody works together to make every car equal on any given day, and that's really important.
"Looking at 2011, Sam Schmidt Motorsports will continue to campaign three cars in Firestone Indy Lights and defend the championship. We are also quite hopeful that we will be competing at the Indy 500 once again and possibly a few more events."