INDIANAPOLIS (June 15, 2011) – Just like with its big brother, the IZOD IndyCar Series, the Firestone Indy Lights Series and its teams have the month of May circled on their calendars before the season begins. It doesn’t matter how many races are run before Indy. The attitude among all racing teams is one of “now we can get down to business” once the events at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway are over.
With the Sam Schmidt Motorsports (SSM) Indy Lights teams, that is definitely the mindset as they head to The Milwaukee Mile and the David Hobbs 100 this Sunday. In addition to the four Indy Lights cars prepared for the Firestone Freedom 100 for series points leader Josef Newgarden and teammates Victor Carbone, Bryan Clauson and Esteban Guerrieri, the SSM crewmembers had involvement in six cars entered in the Indianapolis 500 in May.
Preparing that many racecars definitely creates extra work and stress on a team, but it was well worth it as SSM had a headline-grabbing month. Driving the No. 11 Copart/Score Big/Robo Pong Dallara/Firestone Indy Lights entry, Newgarden won the prestigious Firestone Freedom 100. Guerrieri followed his teammate for second place in his No. 7 Lucas Oil Dallara/Firestone entry, and Clauson notched a top-five in his Indy Lights debut driving the No. 77 Mazda Road to Indy Dallara/Firestone racecar.
In the Indy 500, SSM’s Alex Tagliani won the pole and teammate Townsend Bell notched the fourth-fastest qualifying time in a car that was maintained by SSM Indy Lights crewmembers. The month was highlighted by watching a car driven by Dan Wheldon, owned by Schmidt and built in the SSM shops pull into the Speedway’s hallowed victory lane.
The same SSM crewmembers who worked on Bell’s Indy 500 program also fielded the car that Wade Cunningham drove at Texas Motor Speedway in his rookie IndyCar outing this past weekend. As this group planned and traveled to Texas with Cunningham, it was also in the middle of preparing the Indy Lights cars for this weekend’s David Hobbs 100 at Milwaukee. In addition to the cars of Newgarden, Guerrieri and Clauson, the team maintains the No. 3 Nevoni racecar for Carbone.
If getting back to normal means a chance for strong performances by the SSM teams at the next few races, this is not a good sign for the rest of the Indy Lights field. Through the first four events, Newgarden and Guerrieri are first and second in the points and SSM has won three of the first four races.
So, to say the SSM team members have been working hard on side projects the last two months is an understatement. That’s why the Milwaukee race weekend may have actually been circled on the SSM shop calendar as the date to “get back down to business.”
Victor Carbone, Driver of the No. 3 Nevoni/Sam Schmidt Motorsports Dallara:
You tested at Milwaukee a few weeks ago. What is your impression of this racetrack?
“It’s another really different racetrack. It’s small with no banking. So, it’s really different from all the other ovals I’ve been on so far. At the end of our test day, I felt pretty good. We were improving throughout the day, and that felt good.”
How do you prepare for a new experience like racing on a short, flat, one-mile track?
“There might be some road courses that have similar turns, but nothing to look back on that will help prepare for Milwaukee. It is just another style of track I will have to learn in the racecar. ”
You’ve been out of the car, now, for a few weeks. What do you do to stay focused?
“I’m trying to spend some time on the simulator, now that I’m up here. (Editor’s note: Carbone moved from Miami to Indianapolis this week.) We set the simulator up to make it feel as real as possible for each track.”
Esteban Guerrieri, Driver of the No.7 Lucas Oil/Sam Schmidt Motorsports Dallara:
Since you tested at Milwaukee, what is your impression of this historic mile oval?
“Yes, I did test at Milwaukee. To be honest, when I arrived at the stadium, I thought, ‘I have never seen such a small racetrack in my life.’ But once I drove on it and started getting closer to the limits, I quickly changed my opinion. Milwaukee is a proper racetrack where you need to be brave to be fast.”
You are new to racing in the U.S. and new to oval racing, yet you are second in the points. How much do you now start thinking about the championship?
“The result will always be a consequence of getting many things right, and the championship is the same thing. As I learn new tracks and learn oval racing, I try to learn all the things the best I can. Then, I try to reproduce what I’ve learned and apply it in the cockpit. If I do this right, results will come.”
You have had a lot of time off between the last two races. What have you been doing to stay focused?
“Again, I try to stay positive mentally and keep the competitive spirit high in me. That is what pushes me to look forward to the next challenge, especially in racing. I try to find competition in almost everything I do. I push myself hard.”
Josef Newgarden, Driver of the No. 11 Copart/Score Big/Robo-Pong/Sam Schmidt Motorsports Dallara:
After testing there, what are your impressions of Milwaukee?
“It adds a lot of different elements that we haven’t necessarily used yet in the series this year. We’ve been to Las Vegas, Chicago and Indianapolis to test or race. Milwaukee is completely different from all three of those, I would say. You add a lot more of a driver element, in my opinion, to where you are not completely flat around the circuit, but you are working up to being flat. Whereas, at all the other oval circuits we’ve been to, it’s been much easier to go flat. It’s going to be more of an engineering challenge to get the car just right. Certainly, I think the possibility of driving away from the field is possible there. We need to keep focused. Our motto has been all year that, ‘We need to get maximum points each weekend,’ and be consistent. Certainly, Milwaukee is not any different from that standpoint. ”
You lead the points going into Milwaukee. The season isn’t halfway, yet. But after Indy, people start talking about the championship. How much are you thinking about the championship?
“We’ve been thinking about it from the beginning. Every weekend, we need to be maximizing the maximum points possible. If it’s a third place, that’s what we need to be getting that weekend. We can’t be wrecking every weekend or having incidents that put us in the back and scoring low points. Certainly, we are thinking about the championship. We’ve been thinking about it all year. There’s still a long season to go, though.”
Is a track like Milwaukee, where you said engineering will be important, a place where it’s a definite advantage to have three teammates and their engineers to share ideas with?
“It’s a huge advantage. Every engineer has his own philosophy, and everyone wants to go in his own direction. That’s a good thing. The more guys on the track going in different (engineering) directions, it’s not a bad thing. You can take ideas from four different cars instead of two and sort of join them all together for just the right set-up that you need. Whereas, other guys might be limited by only two minds. It’s never a bad thing, and we’re in a good position by having four cars on the track. ”
Bryan Clauson, Driver of the No. 77 Mazda Road To Indy/Sam Schmidt Motorsports Dallara:
You have raced at Milwaukee before in a NASCAR Nationwide Series car. Is there anything from that experience that can carry over and help you this weekend?
“I don’t think so, but anytime you go to a place where you’ve run something, it’s a lot nicer. You know all the little ins and outs, and the layout of the track, and maybe some of the bumps and other things to look out for. But the three types of cars I’m racing this weekend are so different than the stock, that even the line will be quite different. So there won’t be a ton of in-car knowledge I’ll be able to take advantage of. I have been able to watch a lot of video from past races and in-car footage from the test that my teammates went and did, and that will help me get up to speed as fast as possible.”
How do you attack running three entirely different types of race cars in one weekend at the same track?
“This weekend shouldn’t be too bad from the standpoint that everything is broken up pretty nicely. We’ll kind of get in USAC mode Thursday and Friday and get everything but the race out of the way, and then get back into Indy Lights mode on Saturday until I’m completely done with qualifying. Then, I’ll race the USAC cars. I jump between the Midget and Silver Crown cars so much, that adjustment isn’t so big, anymore. I’ll just need to make sure I get in the right mindset for the Indy Lights car when I get back in it and make sure I’m thinking rear-engine and not the USAC cars. ”
What’s more difficult, getting behind the wheel and racing three different racecars in one weekend or effectively communicating what each car needs to its respective crewmembers?
“Staying in the right mindset for each car and knowing what you need for each car. You’ve got a 25-lap Midget race, so you’re going to need something a little different than you’ll need in the 100-lap Silver Crown race. In both of those, you are definitely going to need something different from what you’re going to need in the Indy Lights race. So just staying focused on each car when you’re working on it and thinking about what you need to win the race will be the toughest part, and relaying that in the correct manner. It’s tough when you’re running between three cars to make sure you get everything across that you need to because you just have so much time to sit there and spend on it. So, you’ll need to make sure you relay what you want to the team the first time because, by the time you get back around to it, it’s three practices later on and you’ve been in two types of cars, which makes it tough to dig back through there and remember.”
Meet the No. 3 Nevoni/Sam Schmidt Motorsports Team
|Driver: Victor Carbone
Hometown: Sao Paulo, Brazil
|Chief Mechanic: Derrick “Tex” Stepan
Hometown: Cypress, Texas
|Engineer: Kent Boyer
Hometown: Yorkville, Ill.
|Mechanic: Kevin Conley
Hometown: Richmond, Ind.
|Tire Specialist: Steve Kisner
Hometown: Danville, Ind.
Meet the No. 7 Lucas Oil/Sam Schmidt Motorsports Team
|Driver: Esteban Guerrieri
Hometown: Buenos Aires, Argentina
|Chief Mechanic: Dave Higuera
Hometown: Costa Mesa, Calif.
|Engineer: Tim Neff
Hometown: Surfers Paradise, Australia
|Mechanic: Taylor Kiel
|Tire Specialist: Chad Potier
Hometown: Santa Barbara, Calif.
Meet the No. 11 Copart/Score Big/Robo-Pong/Sam Schmidt Motorsports Team
|Driver: Josef Newgarden
Hometown: Hendersonville, Tenn.
|Chief Mechanic: Sean Birmingham
Hometown: Torrance, Calif.
|Engineer: Doug Zister
Hometown: Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
|Mechanic: Mike Meyer
Hometown: Westfield, Ind.
|Tire Specialist: Carlos Fernandes
Hometown: Macau, South China
Meet the No. 77 Mazda Road to Indy/Sam Schmidt Motorsports Team
|Driver: Bryan Clauson
Hometown: Noblesville, Ind.
|Chief Mechanic: Jason Robb
Hometown: Romeo, Mich.
|Engineer: Chris Finch
Hometown: Hoffman Estates, Ill.
|Mechanic: Max Neyron
Hometown: Montreal, Canada
|Tire Specialist: Brad Kreutzer
Hometown: Las Vegas
Sam Schmidt Motorsports Milwaukee Indy Lights History
|2009||5/31||Gustavo Yacaman||6||4||Running, 100/1000||0|
|2009||5/31||James Hinchcliffe||10||7||Running, 100/100||0|
|2009||5/31||Wade Cunningham||5||6||Running, 100/100||0|
|2008||6/1||James Davison||4||6||Running, 100/100||0|
|2008||6/1||Richard Antinucci||11||16||Running, 99/99||0|
|2008||6/1||Ana Beatriz||21||9||Running, 78/78||0|
|2007||6/2||Alex Lloyd||1||1||Running, 100/100||100|
|2007||6/2||Ryan Justice||3||6||Running, 99/100||0|
|2007||6/2||Logan Gomez||12||18||Contact, 1/100||0|
|2005||7/24||Jaime Camara||1||5||Running, 100/100||0|
|2005||7/24||Travis Gregg||11||8||Running, 98/100||0|
|2005||7/24||Chris Festa||8||10||Accident, 63/100||0|
|2004||7/25||Thiago Medeiros||1||6||Wheel Bearing, 76/100||76|
|2004||7/25||Arie Luyendyk Jr.||6||9||Accident, 0/100||0|
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