Sam Schmidt Motorsports news 2010-08-16

SAM SCHMIDT MOTORSPORTS TEAMS WITH JIM RUSSELL RACING DRIVERS SCHOOL TO GIVE A UNIQUE OPPORTUNITY INDIANAPOLIS -- Sam Schmidt Motorsports, in conjunction with the Jim Russell Racing Drivers School, have awarded up-and-coming driver Alex Ellis ...


INDIANAPOLIS -- Sam Schmidt Motorsports, in conjunction with the Jim Russell Racing Drivers School, have awarded up-and-coming driver Alex Ellis a one-race deal to run the Carneros 100 at the Infineon Raceway during the Firestone Indy Lights weekend of August 22nd.

To provide Ellis the opportunity to run a Firestone Indy Lights car gives team owner, Sam Schmidt, great satisfaction.

He said, "Sam Schmidt Motorsports is honored to work with Chip Pankow and the Jim Russell Racing Drivers School to provide this series champion with a Firestone Indy Lights test and seat for the upcoming Carneros 100 event at Infineon Raceway."

Ellis was awarded a test day and the race weekend as his prize for winning the "Race of Champions" title, a run-off consisting of six races among six invited participants on different variations of the Infineon Raceway. Ellis earned the prize in a close battle by winning the final two events in the championship.

"Chip has a fantastic west coast series utilizing advanced Lola F3 cars providing an intense, economic, and valuable experience for up-and-coming drivers," Schmidt said.

The test for Ellis took place on August 11th at Putnam Park. He completed 200 miles flawlessly, and he was given the green light by the Firestone Indy Lights officials to receive a competition license and race during the August 22nd weekend.

"At Putnam Park, Alex proved the Jim Russell series and school was a great learning tool as he adapted quickly to the Firestone Indy Lights chassis and turned really impressive times," Schmidt said. "I'm quite positive that, combined with a full day test and his knowledge already of Infineon Raceway, he will have a very good run during the upcoming race."

Schmidt hopes to see more programs like this to give potential up-and-coming talent a shot in the higher ranks of the American formula car ladder.

"As a series, Firestone Indy Lights needs to foster more relationships such as the Jim Russell scholarship program as this is a system for our future stars," Schmidt said.

For the 18-year old from St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada, the whole experience has been a dream come true for Ellis. Having to win one run-off just to earn his spot in the Race of Champions run-off, he has shown that he's a fast learner, quick to adapt, and not afraid of the pressure. He's had fun every step of the way, and the taste he's had during his initial test is fueling his excitement to get behind the wheel for race weekend.

"It's all happened so fast, but just the way I'd like it to," Ellis said. "I'm really pleased with the professionalism of Sam Schmidt Motorsports, and I'm really enjoying the support from Jim Russell. The last few days have been a blur, but I have loved every second of it. I just can't wait to get on track again at Infineon."

The young driver's initial taste of the car was a joy for Ellis, who was surprised at how quickly he was able to adapt to the vehicle.

He said, "The test at Putnam Park went amazingly well. I was so pleased with how quickly I was able to get up to speed in the car. As odd as it sounds, I feel that the faster a car gets, the more power and grip that I have, I feel more at home and comfortable. I love the Firestone Indy Lights car as it is a truly fast vehicle. The transition wasn't that hard to make. Jim Russell's FJR-50 is a great car to prepare a driver for a high level of racing due to its high horsepower and relative lack of overall grip. This made the Indy Lights car feel more solid and a pleasure to drive."

Ellis has raced since the age of 14. He began by racing an F1-K arrive-and-drive style go-kart in 2006 and proved to be a quick learner. From then until the end of 2007, he raced in various karting divisions, including the SKUSA Florida Winter Tour and SRFKC Rotax Series where he had five top-five finishes in six starts. In 2008, he competed in Formula 1200 and won five races along with 11 podiums in 15 races. He transitioned to the Formula BMW USA Americas Championship in 2009 where, despite not having any pre-season testing, earned three podiums, two fastest laps, and a pole position en route to third in the rookie standings and sixth in the overall standings. Later that year, he won one of two scholarships in the Jim Russell Future Driver Search, allowing him to compete and eventually win the Jim Russell "Race of Champions" series. For more information on Ellis, visit

The Jim Russell Racing Drivers School offers a complete driver training program that includes instruction from some of the finest coaches in the world, technical instruction from industry leaders, and educational seminars on being a complete racing driver. The school is the only racing school in the world to offer modern F3 racecars as their learning platform. With the addition of Mitsubishi Motors, Jim Russell has increased its breadth and depth of programs available to consumers to experience an automobile for themselves, experience the product differentiation for themselves and help build brand loyalty. Jim Russell Racing Drivers School is located in Turn 1 of Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, California. For more information, visit

Sam Schmidt Motorsports has been the dominating force and all-time win leader of Firestone Indy Lights having won 36 races to date (including four Freedom 100 victories) and three driver championships. The 2010 Firestone Indy Lights season continues on August 21st when practice begins at the Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, California. Coverage of the event will be available on and For more information on the team, visit

For more information on Firestone Indy Lights, visit

-source: ssm

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Series Indy Lights
Drivers Sam Schmidt