INDIANAPOLIS (May 27, 2011) – Sam Schmidt Motorsports (SSM) driver Josef Newgarden won Friday’s Firestone Freedom 100 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to give SSM its sixth victory in nine races in the marquee event for the Firestone Indy Lights Series.
Newgarden, driver of the No. 11 Copart/Score Big/Robo-Pong Dallara/Firestone for SSM, led 30 of the 40 laps and was followed to the checkered flag under caution by his SSM teammate, Esteban Guerrieri, driver of the No. 7 Lucas Oil Dallara/Firestone for SSM.
It marked the first time in the nine-year history of the event that teammates finished 1-2, and SSM has now won an unprecedented three consecutive Firestone Freedom 100s.
Bryan Clauson, driver of the No. 77 Mazda Road to Indy/CURB Records Dallara/Firestone for SSM, finished an impressive seventh in his Indy Lights debut.
The fourth member of SSM, Victor Carbone, endured a tough outing in his first Freedom 100. The driver of the No. 3 Nevoni Dallara/Firestone for SSM was involved in an accident during the morning warm-up, but his crew was able to repair the car in time for the start of the race. Unfortunately, he was involved in another accident in turn one on lap 8 and finished a disappointing 18th.
The next event on the Firestone Indy Lights Series schedule is the June 19 David Hobbs 100 at The Milwaukee Mile in West Allis, Wis.
Josef Newgarden, Driver of the No. 11 Copart/Score Big/Robo-Pong/Sam Schmidt Motorsports Dallara/Firestone:
Talk about how big of a win this is for you.
“It’s certainly the largest moment in my career. But this is a victory as much for the whole team. Certainly not the way I wanted to win it (under yellow). But either way, we come here as a team and worked so hard to prep four race cars. If I’m not going to be in Victory Lane, we’ve got to make sure one of them gets there. So overall it’s a good day for the entire team and what they worked for. So I’m very happy with that fact. But certainly it wasn’t nice to see all the cautions. I got a little concerned that last one (accident) that people could be hurt and anything like that. You never want to see that. You want to see green flag racing and people fighting hard. But again, a great day for the team. I’m so elated for them, they worked so hard. Everyone works on everyone’s car, it’s not necessarily just my team, it’s everyone and all the work that goes into it on all the cars. I’m very happy for them.”
Sam Schmidt has now won this race as an owner six times. Did you feel any pressure?
“The man knows how to get it done. He knows how to put the right people together and that’s a very good skill set of his. He can put the right people in the right rooms, get them working together and moving in the right direction. That’s a very important thing. I think this year is almost a breakout year for him with what he has done with his IndyCar program. He certainly put a solid plan in place there. A lot of the guys on the Lights team have translated over to that on Townsend’s car. They work as a unit and know how to get the job done. That’s a very positive thing to know. It’s great for me, I love being a part of the team that knows how to do that. It certainly bodes well for the future, I think. I would like to be here a long time. Sam is a great guy to drive for.”
Talk about how winning this race will help you in the championship?
“We were talking about it before the race and we spoke about it during the race, we’re thinking championship points. That’s what we keep telling ourselves is we’ve got to get championship points every weekend. I felt so bad for the guys in Long Beach with the incident that happened. We thought we had another win locked up, I certainly did. It was a mistake to have that mind-set with five minutes to go. It was a learning lesson for myself and we’ve got to try and minimize that all year long. It’s going to be very important to come into each and every weekend and maximize the results, whatever it is. If it’s a third place, you take that third place and take those points and move on into the next weekend. It’s a long year still, this is only the fourth round and we’re going to see what we produce together.”
Esteban Guerrieri, Driver of the No.7 Lucas Oil/Sam Schmidt Motorsports Dallara/Firestone:
Overall thoughts on the day?
“I think I had a good car from the beginning. I started fifth and then I made my way up. It was a lot of fun. It is different when you’re racing than when you’re practicing. In the race you really commit yourself to the overtaking. I was going sixth gear flat out all around and it was working quite good. The car was working great.”
How much have you learned from this race that will help you at other ovals?
“You have to learn different things. Hopefully the car feels good in every of them, in every of the tracks you go. I’m just learning. Here even if we didn’t do many laps, it’s good to, like I said in the beginning, it’s good to have the momentum on the race. Because it’s different in testing. In testing someone is close in your line, you back off because you don’t mind so much. Here you have to really be committed and obviously not to do any silly things.”
Bryan Clauson, Driver of the No. 77 Mazda Road To Indy/CURB Records/Sam Schmidt Motorsports Dallara/Firestone:
Overall thoughts on your day.
“I fell back early there and really didn’t really do my job there at the beginning. I had a hard time figuring it out for a little while. I didn’t have enough green flag laps to make up for those mistakes early on. All the guys on the car did a great job; I had a great race car. I made a lot of moves on the high line, but it just wasn’t enough. It was a whole new ball game, a lot different than anything I’ve ever done. I could have done a little bit better, but all in all it was a great day. This is huge (finishing fifth). It’s a whole new experience for me, from the starts to the restarts, to the draft, shifting in the middle of a race – that’s unheard of for me. It was a lot wilder than I expected, but it was a lot of fun.”
What advice did Dario Franchitti give you before the race?
“I’ve been talking to Dario ever since we did the stock car stuff together with each other (with Ganassi Racing in 2008). We have a very good relationship. He told me he would come out and give me a hard time on the straightaway, and he made it happen.”
Victor Carbone, Driver of the No. 3 Nevoni/Sam Schmidt Motorsports Dallara/Firestone:
What happened out there?
“It was tough to get clean air when we were running back there, so I just lost it.”
Sam Schmidt, Owner, Sam Schmidt Motorsports
You absolutely own the Firestone Freedom 100, don’t you?
“We didn’t have the opportunity the last ten years that we have this year in IndyCar. So our guys on Indy Lights said put a tremendous amount of effort into this race and setup and rubbing on the cars and we go to the wind tunnel every winter. We put a lot of effort into it and it’s all about this race. You know, every year it’s special to win at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway but the 100th anniversary is huge. As we said before, there will only be one of those. We really wanted to win this race and I was disappointed the fans didn’t get a Freedom 100 flag finish there. I don’t know which one of them would have won, I don’t know if Clauson would have made his way up to fight with them but it is truly special.”
Talk about your tremendous month of May thus far?
“I’ve been trying for the last three weeks to put this situation to words and I am just still having extreme difficulty. You know, it’s just been this, like breathing through a fire hose type of situation because we just bought the assets to the IndyCar team in March and, of course, that came with a phenomenal group of people. We’ve always got the Indy Lights expertise, but to have won three out of four Indy Lights this year right now, to be top five in the points in the IndyCar Series, to roll in here and have the 77 (Alex Tagliani), the 99 (Townsend Bell) be so incredibly quick out of the box, almost leading every day of practice, then both 77s get the pole and then win the race here today. The 100th anniversary means so much that it just kind of like multiplies everything by two. I just can’t express it. I mean I feel truly blessed and give all the credit to the crews because the Indy Lights guys are working hard, the IndyCar guys are working hard and I’m just the lucky beneficiary. So I can’t describe it.”