Sonoma: Sam Schmidt Motorsports race report

J.K. VERNAY WINS AT INFINEON RACEWAY AND EXTENDS POINTS LEAD; CAREER DAY FOR PIPPA MANN SONOMA, Calif. - J.K. Vernay won the Carneros 100 at the Infineon Raceway on Sunday afternoon, giving him his fifth race victory of the 2010 Firestone Indy...

J.K. VERNAY WINS AT INFINEON RACEWAY AND EXTENDS POINTS LEAD; CAREER DAY FOR PIPPA MANN

SONOMA, Calif. - J.K. Vernay won the Carneros 100 at the Infineon Raceway on Sunday afternoon, giving him his fifth race victory of the 2010 Firestone Indy Lights season and a 71 point cushion in the season standings over second-place James Hinchcliffe with three races remaining.

Following Vernay home was Pippa Mann who finished in fifth, her career-best finish in Firestone Indy Lights. Starting from seventh, she slotted into eighth on the opening lap. She drove a consistent, mistake-free race, and took advantage of the mistakes of others to move forward through the field. Her left hand was proving to make things difficult for her, but she managed to grit through the pain and endure through the day to bring home a very satisfying result for her and the team.

It was a tough day for the young guns of Sam Schmidt Motorsports. Philip Major finished in 11th and newcomer Alex Ellis finished in 14th. Major had a spin about halfway through the race, and as he was trying to correct it, he collected Martin Plowman. Though Major was able to go on to finish the race, the track position he lost was too much to overcome and regain. It wasn't the finish he wanted, but it was still a finish. He's looking forward to getting back onto the ovals and finishing the season strong in the final three events.

Ellis ran impressively in his Firestone Indy Lights debut. Starting from ninth, he moved his way to seventh by Lap 11 of the 40 lap race and stayed there for the next 10 laps. He looked to be on pace to finish where he was running. However, unexpectedly, his car stopped running, and though he was able to get going again for a few laps, his car would eventually die for good. It was a disappointing end to a very strong debut for the 18-year old Canadian who hopes to get more opportunities provided to him such as this one courtesy of the Jim Russell Racing School and Sam Schmidt Motorsports.

The star of the show, however, was Vernay with his win. Starting from pole, he and the top-three took off from the rest of the field. He had Charlie Kimball and James Hinchcliffe chasing him throughout the race, but in the end, Vernay dominated by leading flag-to-flag. It was a welcome result for the Frenchman who had to agonize for the past couple of weeks over the performance he and the team had in Mid-Ohio. The victory gives Vernay a bit of vindication and a lot of confidence heading into the last three events of the 2010 calendar.

From here, it's a very quick turn around for the next event on the Firestone Indy Lights schedule. Sam Schmidt Motorsports will head straight to Illinois for the Chicagoland 100 at the Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois.

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

"Just a great weekend. After such a disappointing weekend at Mid-Ohio, I really wanted to win here. My family came for this race so it's beautiful for everybody. I'm really happy. We had a good car. I wanted to take care of my tires and wasn't really pushing. We did the fastest lap of the race at the end. You always worry when you have a Safety Car because you never know what will happen, but we won, and it's fantastic for the team."

No. 11 Sam Schmidt Motorsports Driver Pippa Mann

"I've had a lot of bad luck with Indy and then the broken hand. This is the potential we thought we had with our best finish so far. I flat-spotted the tires early on, but the Firestone Firehawks hung on. My hand was beaten up, so we sat out most of the morning's practice. The crew has been working really hard, so it was good to be able to give them a good finish. I'm really looking forward to build on this finish and carry on the momentum to the last three oval events of the season."

No. 49 Sam Schmidt Motorsports Driver Philip Major

"It's been a tough weekend. We had some small problems with the car, and we got bumped back because of the penalty in qualifying. I had a bit of a moment in the race that sent us to the back. We managed to salvage the race and get back to 11th. It's not bad, but it's not where we wanted to end up. We just need to regroup and look forward to the ovals we have coming up. We're going to focus on Chicago and get in a good mindset for these last few races."

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

"It was a good race for us. We ran in seventh for most of it. We ran into some mechanical problems. Exiting Turn 2, I shifted up to fourth gear, and the engine just kind of shut off. I think it was some sort of electrical problem. I'm not too sure what it was, but it was a mechanical issue that took us out. I was able to get going again, but eventually, it just died again. It's unfortunate because two of the drivers ahead of me crashed out, and I'm sure I would have had a top-five finish. It would have been nice to have. With only three days in the car, and really, just one day in it coming into this event, not being in the back and being able to challenge for a top-five makes me very happy. It's too bad I couldn't get that result. It would have looked nice, felt really good, and been a great way to cap off my debut. Things happen. I just have to hope that I get another opportunity with Sam Schmidt Motorsports and keep my partnership with the Jim Russell Racing School again. I really feel that with a little bit more time in the car, I can be a front-runner and contender for race wins. I felt awesome in the car. I love it. I'm just looking forward and hoping to get another opportunity. I'm just itching to get back out there."

Team Owner, Sam Schmidt

"A great weekend. As a team, we love coming out to Infineon Raceway as we always seem to do well here, and personally, it's one of the closer races for me. I'm thrilled with the way J.K. and Pippa performed today, and I just wish that Alex would have been able to finish that race. He was impressive the entire weekend, and we couldn't ask for anything more out of him. Philip had a bit of trouble there, but he was able to rebound and cross the checkered-flag. With just three events to go, we're heading to three tracks that we've historically been very competitive on, so I couldn't be more excited to get going and continue pursuing that championship and a few more race wins."

-source: ssm

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About this article
Series Indy Lights
Drivers Sam Schmidt , Pippa Mann , James Hinchcliffe , Phillip Major , Martin Plowman