St. Pete I: RLR/Andersen Racing qualifying notes

RLR/Andersen Racing Qualifies Sixth and Tenth in Firestone Indy Lights Action Friday at St. Petersburg ST. PETERSBURG, Fla., April 3 - Despite many challenges, the RLR/Andersen Racing Firestone Indy Lights cars were a solid third and fifth in ...

RLR/Andersen Racing Qualifies Sixth and Tenth in Firestone Indy Lights Action Friday at St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla., April 3 - Despite many challenges, the RLR/Andersen Racing Firestone Indy Lights cars were a solid third and fifth in their qualifying group Friday afternoon at the St. Petersburg street course, and the Palmetto, Fla.-based team's cars will start sixth and tenth in the 27-car season opener tomorrow at 4:45 p.m.

Qualifying well is very important when racing on the tight St. Petersburg street circuit, but a lack of track time and changing weather conditions made that even more challenging than usual Friday.

RLR/Andersen Racing's two rookie drivers only had one hour of practice Friday morning to get acquainted with the 1.81-mile, 14-turn street circuit before qualifications for the first half of this weekend's doubleheader were held Friday afternoon. To make matters worse, the bulk of that practice session was held in a steady rain while it was dry for the 45-minute qualifying session, making progress on set-ups difficult.

The field was split into two groups for qualifying in an effort to alleviate traffic problems and give more drivers clear laps. The polesitter, J.R. Hildebrand, set the fastest overall time with a 1:07.7704 (95.617 miles per hour). The fastest driver from the non pole-winning group, Junior Strous, will start second. The remainder of the polesitter's group earned the subsequent odd-place starting spots, while the remainder of the second-place starter's group will make up the even starting positions.

Both of the RLR/Andersen Racing drivers were in the second group, which unfortunately was slowed several times for full-course cautions. Despite that, Jonathan Summerton of Kissimmee, Fla. set the third-fastest time among the drivers in the second group for sixth overall with a lap in 1:08.9831 (93.936 mph). He drives the RLR/Andersen No. 9 Dallara Honda sponsored by Andersen Racing, Allied Interior Products and Lafarge North America.

His teammate, Mario Romancini, a native of Sao Paulo, Brazil currently living in Miami, qualified fifth in the second group and tenth overall with a lap in 1:09.2736 (93.542 mph). His No. 5 is sponsored by Andersen Racing, Revita Recycling, Win Brazil Marketing, Allied Interior Products and Lafarge North America.

In the rainy first practice session Friday morning, Summerton recorded the eighth-best lap out of the 27 drivers who participated with a 1:18.8650 (82.166 mph) on the 15th of the 16 laps he ran. Romancini was 11th in practice, turning his fastest lap on lap 18 of 19 with a 1:19.0770 (81.945 mph).

Next on the schedule for the official development series of IndyCar is qualifying for race 2 at 9:55 a.m. Saturday. That 40-lap race will be staged at 10 a.m. Sunday.

Summerton and Romancini are two of 17 rookies entered among 27 total drivers competing in the twin 40-lap Firestone Indy Lights races that support the IndyCar and American Le Mans Series headliners. This event is the only doubleheader on the 2009 Firestone Indy Lights schedule this year.

Both of the races will be broadcast at 6 p.m. Eastern time Monday on VERSUS.

Andersen Racing is sponsored by Allied Building Products Corp. and Lafarge North America. It is the official development team of Rahal Letterman Racing. Andersen Racing is based at Andersen RacePark in Palmetto, Fla., home of the team's own 1-mile road course test track. In addition to Firestone Indy Lights, the team competes in karting, Formula BMW Americas and Star Mazda in its efforts to provide the best training young open-wheel drivers can obtain anywhere.

The team's Web site is at andersenracingteam.com, while the track's Web site is at andersenracepark.com. Live timing and scoring is available at indycar.com/pro.

Driver post-qualifying quotes follow:

Jonathan Summerton: "It was another one of those sessions. This morning it was a little bit of a funky atmosphere; it was rain, dry, rain, dry, rain, dry, and we wasted a lot of time. Then this session with three yellows, I think we may have got one or two flyers in, and the one flyer that was our quickest, we got held up in. So it's disappointing that these silly sessions happen, but what can you do? It's racing.

"I don't know what our biggest issue with our car is. We have to sit down and go over the data. I think we're moving around a little too much everywhere. I'm struggling a little with the braking too. I don't know what is up, but we'll have to check the data and see where my bias is and see if we're actually getting full brake pressure.

"I'm very disappointed with sixth place because I know for a fact we probably could have been a second quicker with that last lap, but what can you do? It's over, and we'll have to try again tomorrow."

Mario Romancini: "It's a very nice track. Unfortunately in the morning practice it was raining, but it's a challenging track and very nice to drive.

"It was totally different conditions between practice and qualifying. We had three or four full-course yellows in qualifying and I just did three clear laps, but we can definitely fight for some points tomorrow.

"We're starting in the middle of the grid and it's a long race. But if we can just stay on the track and have good, consistent lap times, I think we can finish this race in a good place.

"We had some troubles with the set-up but this is normal because we didn't have any chance to practice in the dry in the morning. It's just like a lottery. We just put a set-up on the car that we thought was the best one, and then in qualifying we could see where we needed to improve. That's what we will try to do for tomorrow. We still have one qualifying to do tomorrow and then the two races, and we'll try to do better the rest of the weekend."

-credit: rlr/ar

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About this article
Series Indy Lights
Drivers Junior Strous , Jonathan Summerton , Mario Romancini