Sonoma: Sam Schmidt Motorsports preview

A WILD WEST ADVENTURE AWAITS SAM SCHMIDT MOTORSPORTS AT INFINEON RACEWAY IN CALIFORNIA SONOMA, Calif. - A short race weekend is ahead for Sam Schmidt Motorsports as they tackle the 10th round of the 2010 Firestone Indy Lights season at the ...


SONOMA, Calif. - A short race weekend is ahead for Sam Schmidt Motorsports as they tackle the 10th round of the 2010 Firestone Indy Lights season at the Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, California. Practice begins on Saturday with two sessions. The first starts at 8 a.m. and lasts for 45 minutes. The second takes place at 10:30 a.m. and also lasts 45 minutes. Qualifying follows in the afternoon at 1:30. A warm-up will take place on Sunday at 8:40 a.m. with the race itself starting at noon. The Carneros 100 and all other on track sessions can be seen live on or All times listed are in PT.

J.K. Vernay takes every advantage he can in chasing championship crown.

J.K. Vernay doesn't like losing. Only twice this year has he failed to finish outside of the top-three. Entering this weekend, he's made sure that he's left no detail left out in his preparations. He's trained as hard as he ever has, he's spent a lot of time at the shop working with his crew, and recently, he actually took a step "backwards" by enrolling in racing school - the Jim Russell Racing School. He drove one of the school's Lola F3 racers in a one-day course at the Infineon Raceway. As track time is very limited this weekend, he's used this opportunity to learn the circuit layout since this will be his first race weekend at the facility. With that out of the way, he can step on the hammer out of the box in the first practice and focus on fine-tuning his race car to pursue his ultimate goal this weekend - winning.

Pippa Mann returns to action after missing Mid-Ohio round.

After skipping the most recent event at Mid-Ohio to nurse her broken hand which had been operated on after Edmonton, Pippa Mann is looking forward to getting back into the cockpit this weekend. She lists Infineon Raceway as a favorite course of due to its European style. Her hand feels better than it had in Toronto and Edmonton, and she feels if she could survive Edmonton, the bumpiest track on the circuit, then theoretically, making it through the Infineon event should be no problem. As this is a track that really challenges a driver and has many corners demanding high commitment, Mann looks forward to facing the challenge and hopefully improving on her career-best of eighth-place.

Philip Major looks to quickly adapt to new circuit.

As the story his been for most of the year, Philip Major enters this weekend facing the challenge of learning a new circuit. He's shown to be a quick study at many new events, not being a stranger in the top-five of the timing charts, and after having a string of solid finishes earlier in the season, Major looks to return to form this weekend. He's motivated to do well, and though the lack of track time to get acclimated to the circuit puts him at a disadvantage, he's confident that he can adapt quickly and be a contender come race day.

Alex Ellis joins Sam Schmidt Motorsports as the "local ringer" in Firestone Indy Lights debut.

To call Alex Ellis the "local ringer" might be a bit ironic as the young 18-year old is from Canada, but he does have a lot of laps around the Infineon Raceway. Ellis earned his seat by winning two run-off competitions at the circuit. His most recent run-off win, the "Race of Champions" title, consisted of a six-race series at the home of the Jim Russell Racing School. Entering this weekend, event though this is his Firestone Indy Lights debut, he does have more laps around the circuit than many of his competitors this weekend, including his own Sam Schmidt Motorsports teammates. He hopes to use that small knowledge to his advantage when competition gets underway on Saturday.


No. 7 LUCAS OIL/CJ Motorsport/Sam Schmidt Motorsports Driver J.K. Vernay

"The goal for this weekend is to be on the podium, at a minimum. I'm sure the car will be good. The team did a lot of work since the last race, and I'm very confident that we're back where we need to be. I did a practice day with the Jim Russell Racing School, and I learned a lot. That's definitely going to help me. After the result we had in Mid-Ohio, it's really important that we have a strong result in Infineon and get back on the podium. Every race, every weekend, my goal is to win, especially this weekend. I have extra motivation to get back to winning after the disappointment we had in the last race weekend. I've been working out hard everyday and doing whatever it takes to give myself the best opportunity to win this weekend. It's very important in the championship that we extend our lead. We'll see. I'm very confident, and I'm looking forward to getting going."

No. 11 Sam Schmidt Motorsports Driver Pippa Mann

"Infineon Raceway, like Watkins Glen, is a very European type of road course. I love the fast flowing corners, and the fact I can get a good feel of the car around there. I also like that, if you can really get tucked up behind someone, it is possible to pass here. As with the Glen, it was one of my favorite places that we visited last year, so I'm really looking forwards to going back. As far as my hand, going to any road course with an injury is always a tough thing to do. However, I'm healing now, and if I made through Edmonton before surgery, then I should be fine at Infineon. The track has less loading through my left hand than Edmonton, and it's also a lot less bumpy. Both of those things will make my job easier. The most difficult part of the weekend will be the scheduling. We have three sessions in one day on Saturday with the third session being qualifying. In Edmonton, we ended up sitting out over 70 minutes of running time, about half of what was scheduled, and this time, the intention is to be able to make the most of the track time rather than have to nurse the injury."

No. 49 Sam Schmidt Motorsports Driver Philip Major

"I'm looking forward to racing in Sonoma at the Infineon Raceway. It's going to be another first for me. I'm excited to learn the track, especially since it's such a historic place. There's lots of great scenery, and the rolling hills that the track is built on makes for an exciting circuit layout. Our team has sat down together and pooled everything we have to get back on the right track for this weekend. I'm confident that we'll have a great result, and I can't wait to get back into the car."

No. 77 JIM RUSSELL RACING SERIES/Sam Schmidt Motorsports Driver Alex Ellis

"I'm really excited to race at Infineon. It's a great track, and I have close to 500 laps there. I'm sure that experience will help me quite a bit, especially with confidence, as Infineon is an intimidating track, and pushing to the absolute limit in the Firestone Indy Lights car can be a bit intimidating as well. However, I learned last year at Mosport, another track that I have a lot of experience, that the same track is completely different from one car to another. I plan to get to Infineon with a clear mind, keeping my knowledge of the track in my back pocket and using it where it can help me but not relying on it. Overall, I'm really pleased with my support from Jim Russell and Sam Schmidt Motorsports. The car is just awesome, and I can't wait to race in Infineon!"

Team Owner, Sam Schmidt

"We are for sure looking to rebound with a stronger performance than Mid-Ohio. It will be quite a challenge as both Philip and J.K. have not competed at this circuit previously and it's only a two-day event. It's also very difficult to pass at Sonoma, so qualifying will be critical. On the bright side, Pippa is confident in her recovery and ability at the track, plus we have added Alex with the Jim Russell Scholarship who has done literally hundreds of laps around the circuit. We're optimistic, and we're going to do our best to leave with solid results this weekend."

-source: ssm

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About this article
Series Indy Lights
Drivers Sam Schmidt , Pippa Mann , Phillip Major