FONTANA, Calif. (Friday, Sept. 14, 2012) – After 11 races on a combination of ovals, road courses and temporary street circuits in Canada and the U.S., the competition for the Firestone Firehawk Cup has come down to a winner-take-all race Saturday night on the 2-mile Auto Club Speedway oval in Fontana, Calif.
Though Sam Schmidt Motorsport’s (SSM) driver Esteban Guerrieri beat points leader and teammate Tristan Vautier in Friday qualifying, he didn’t win the pole which is what he needed to do to score the one qualifying bonus point and narrow Vautier’s lead. Instead, Vautier of France will lead Guerrieri of Argentina by 11 points – one of the closest title races in Firestone Indy Lights history – into Saturday night’s Auto Club Speedway Foundation 100 in Fontana, Calif.
Guerrieri led the four SSM drivers with a qualifying 2-lap time of 1:16.3421 at 188.625 mph, which will see him start third Saturday night. Vautier qualified fifth with a time of 1:16.8225 seconds at 187.445 mph.
SSM’s Oliver Webb will start next to Vautier after qualifying sixth with his time of 1:16.8355 seconds at 187.413 mph. Victor Carbone will start 10th for SSM with his lap time of 1:17.0836 seconds at 186.810 mph.
Teammates Sebastian Saavedra and Carlos Munoz will start on the front row for tomorrow’s 100-mile race with their speeds of 189.640 and 188.984, respectively.
The Auto Club Foundation 100 at for Firestone Indy Lights will get the green flag Saturday, Sept. 15, at 3 p.m. PT. The race can be seen tape-delayed Thursday, Sept. 20 at 5 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network.
SSM DRIVER QUOTES
Esteban Guerrieri (Qualified 3rd), Driver of the No. 11 Pistas Argentina/SSM Dallara: “We are sitting second right now, but there are more cars to go. I had a touch of understeer on my second flying lap in Turn 3 and we lost a tenth. The car feels good though, and I’ll have a good race car. I’m happy. The race will be long. It will be very hot tomorrow, 100 degrees. It will be greasy and important how we manage our tires. In the second practice session, we’ll see how fast the tires drop off. The engineers will be important in setting up the car for the race.”
Guerrieri on championship scenarios: “One extra point would have been great. Now that we’ve qualified and we know the final points, we can look at the race. I know I just need to win the race and lead the most laps. That’s the plan.”
Tristan Vautier (Qualified 5th), Driver of the No. 77 Mazda Road to Indy/SSM Dallara: “The car was good. There are still a lot of drivers to go and I don’t know if we have enough to get pole. Apparently, I lost some time in Turns 3 and 4, so I’ll have to figure out what I did wrong. We think right now we’re missing just a little something, but we’re working on it for the race tomorrow. We’ll try to make the most out of the last practice, and we’ll see what happens.”
Vautier on championship scenarios: “I have a few scenarios, but to be honest, I did not calculate all of them. I think if you worry about it too much, it’s the best way to screw it up. I for sure looked at them and I know what I need to do, but the main thing is to take it as a normal weekend and see what happens at the end.”
Oliver Webb (Qualified 6th), Driver of the No. 7 Lucas Oil/SSM Dallara: “The way the car was handling, I was pretty happy with it. I’ll speak with the team and see how the other guys handle. It’s just nice to be able to go out straightaway and be flat all around because we’ve had issues with that like at Iowa when I was lifting too early. I’m happy with that run.”
Victor Carbone (Qualified 10th), Driver of the No. 3 Max TV/Nevoni/SSM Dallara: “We just don’t have the speed right now. We’ll go back to the truck and see what happened. The car is quite good, it just doesn’t have the speed. I looked down in the cockpit, and especially on the second lap, we just didn’t see speed. It was slower than my first lap.”
DATE: Friday, Sept. 14, 2012
EVENT: The Auto Club Speedway Foundation 100
SERIES: Firestone Indy Lights Series
LOCATION: Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. (2-mile, D-shaped oval)
POLE WINNER: Sebastian Saavedra of Team AFS (1:15.9334 seconds at 189.640)
Esteban Guerrieri (2nd with a time of 1:16.3421 at 188.625 mph)
Tristan Vautier (5th with a time of 1:16.8225 seconds at 187.445 mph)
Oliver Webb (6th with a time of 1:16.8355 seconds at 187.413 mph)
Victor Carbone (10th with a time of 1:17.0836 seconds at 186.810 mph)