St. Pete: Series Friday notes

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (Friday, April 3, 2009) - J.R. Hildebrand won his first Firestone Indy Lights pole in qualifying for Race 1 of the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Hildebrand recorded a best lap of 1 minute, 7.7704 seconds, 95.617 mph. Junior ...

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (Friday, April 3, 2009) - J.R. Hildebrand won his first Firestone Indy Lights pole in qualifying for Race 1 of the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Hildebrand recorded a best lap of 1 minute, 7.7704 seconds, 95.617 mph. Junior Strouss, one of 16 rookies in the 27-car field, was second.

Firestone Indy Lights drivers will participate in an additional qualifying session for Race 2 on Saturday morning before the 40-lap Race 1 in the afternoon. Race 2 is scheduled for Sunday.

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FIRESTONE INDY LIGHTS QUALIFYING NOTES:

J.R. Hildebrand wins the pole. This is the first career pole for J.R. Hildebrand. He has made 18 starts over the last two seasons.

This is the ninth pole for AFS Racing.

Junior Strouss will start second in his first race in the series. It is also the first race for Winners Circle Group.

Sebastien Saavedra will start third in his first race in the series.

James Davison will start fourth. Davison's career best start was first at Nashville last season.

James Hinchcliffe will start fifth in his first race in the series.

FIRESTONE INDY LIGHTS QUALIFYING QUOTES

J.R. HILDEBRAND (No. 26 ARPRO, Pole winner): "You can't start a season much better. We had a really good session. It was a little bit broken up because the cars were really slipping around, because the track hasn't really gripped up after the rain. I think I went out too aggressive, because I remembered how the track was last year at the end of the day. I had to tone it down a little bit because I actually knocked the wall a little with my first set of tires. But I got it all together and was able to put in a good lap at the end. It was just a good session for me and a good session as a team. It's a great way to start the season."

JUNIOR STROUSS (No. 18 Shell V-Power Knaus HTP, second): "We had a great day today. This morning it was raining, and I was bummed out about it because I knew it was going to be dry during qualifying. In the rain it went really well. Each time we were on the track we were fastest, so that gave me a lot of confidence. But you never know how the car is going to be in the dry. But the car was also good in the dry. Qualifying was only 20 minutes, and we had two long full-course yellows. But I was up front right away, and then we had three more minutes to go, so it was do or die. On the second-to-last lap, I had a guy in front of me, so I did a do-or-die move to pass him, because I knew the last lap had to be perfect. The last lap was amazing. It felt really good. It's good to be up front."

SEBASTIEN SAAVEDRA (No. 27 Automatic Fire Sprinklers, Inc., third): "Today's qualifying was unbelievable. Since I have never been on this track, I didn't know what to expect. We went out this morning and it was raining, so it was hard to really learn the track, but then we went back out after the rain had cleared and I did. I was P1 at one point and then spun out at the last turn, but my teammate (J.R. Hildebrand) got the pole, so I'm very happy for him and his crew. The AFS/AGR crew has done a great job both on the track and off the track. It shows what a great team I'm on and makes be even more excited about this season."

JAMES DAVISON (No. 21 Vision Racing, fourth): "To be honest, it's been a challenging day with practice this morning being wet and then going into qualifying with an unknown setup. In my qualifying session, we were all sliding around a lot and struggling for overall grip. It's a good starting position for the race but we need to do some work tonight to make sure we are competitive in qualifying tomorrow for the second race."

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 7 Hinchtown/Sam Schmidt Motorsports, fifth): "I don't think you can ever be satisfied with your qualifying unless you're sitting on the pole. For us, it was a very difficult sort of day because we had the rain in the morning practice, and then it was dry during the afternoon qualifying. As a result, we had to learn the track along with qualify at the same time in only 10 laps or so. For me, having never been here, that was a pretty tall order. I guess maybe we shouldn't be too disappointed with our overall position, but at the same time, I think we missed a little bit on the setup on the car. I'm actually confident that if we can get it sorted that we'll be a challenger for the pole in qualifying for the second race. I say that because knowing the car didn't feel great, and being only four-tenths (of a second) off, I think that's pretty manageable. So, we'll put our heads together, and tomorrow we'll make the best of it. Again, it's not a long session, but we'll try and put the No. 7 car on the front row."

ANA BEATRIZ (No. 20 Healthy Choice/Sam Schmidt Mtrspts, seventh): "Qualifying was tough. We expected to be so much better. The track was so much different from last year. What we had expected wasn't the case, and we really didn't have time before qualifying to try things out because of the rain. I think I may have been over-driving the car a little bit. Starting seventh isn't the worst thing. We just have to work on a fast Healthy Choice/Sam Schmidt car for the race and overtake people and try to get into the top five."

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James Hinchcliffe makes his Firestone Indy Lights debut this weekend and leading laps will have an extra meaning for the Canadian.

Hinchcliffe has aligned himself with the Waldenstroms Macroglobulinemia Foundation of Canada (WMFC) and pledges to donate five dollars for every lap the #7 Hinchtown.Com entry leads throughout his entire 2009 campaign. The selection of the WMFC was an easy one for Hinchcliffe as it holds special meaning for him.

"Waldenstroms Macroglobulinemia (WM) is a very rare blood cancer that my Grandfather passed away from over ten years ago. Being such a rare condition it doesn't get a ton of attention and I have always wanted to do something to help the foundation raise money to find new treatments," Hinchcliffe commented.

He will carry the WMFC logo on his Indy Lights car this season while including a link to a WMFC donation page on his website www.hinchtown.com

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FIRST Motorsports announced it has signed www.flipNbags.com as an associate sponsor for the #19 entry of Stefan Wilson.

FlipNbags.com is the place to shop for a collapsible backpack cooler specially designed for the racing and general sports enthusiast. These unique coolers have features not found in other coolers like integrated seat cushions and a lifetime "no leak" guarantee. New additions to the flipNbags brand will include lunch boxes and back packs for children and a line of business accessories.

"We are very proud that flipNbags.com has chosen our team to represent them in open-wheel racing in North America," said team owner Jon Lewis. "Their products are representative of the quality of our team. If you're looking for the best coolers and bags on the market, there is no better place to go then to www.flipNbags.com."

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SATURDAY'S SCHEDULE (all times local):

9:55-10:35 a.m. Firestone Indy Lights Qualifying

4:15 p.m. Grand Prix of St. Petersburg pre-race

4:45 p.m.Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Race 1 (40 laps/72 miles)

-credit: irl

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About this article
Series Indy Lights
Drivers Sam Schmidt , James Davison , Junior Strous , James Hinchcliffe , J.R. Hildebrand