You can add Iowa Speedway to the list of venues where Sam Schmidt Motorsports (SSM) rookie Josef Newgarden has won a Firestone Indy Lights Championship race in his rookie year, following his dominating performance in Saturday’s Sukup 100 on the .875-mile oval in Newton, Iowa.
Driving the No. 11 Copart/Score Big/Robo-Pong car, Newgarden led the final 90 laps to capture his third victory of the season. His first two wins came at St. Petersburg and Indianapolis.
Newgarden started fourth, surged into second on lap 14 and 11 laps later, the 20-year-old Hendersonville, Tenn., native stormed past his SSM teammate, Esteban Guerrieri, to take over the top spot. Once in front, he steadily built his lead and finished 5.4725 seconds ahead of Team Moore Racing’s Gustavo Yacaman. The winner averaged 152.478 mph in the 100-mile race.
SSM teammate Bryan Clauson, driver of the No. 77 Mazda Road To Indy/CURB Records machine, earned a career-best third-place finish to give Schmidt a pair of drivers on the podium. After starting third in just his third Indy Lights race of his career, the USAC standout made several runs at Yacaman for the second position during the final 20 laps, but ultimately finished third.
In his strongest race of the season, SSM driver Victor Carbone overcame vision issues during the middle stages of the race to finish seventh. He was threatening to enter the top-five during the first 25 laps in his No. 3 Nevoni car when the young Brazilian began having difficulties seeing through his visor. He lost several track positions during the middle stages of the race. After finally opening his visor slightly to help him see, the rookie was able to turn laps consistent with the leader late in the race.
Polesitter Esteban Guerrieri’s race was difficult from the beginning behind the wheel of the No. 7 Lucas Oil car for Sam Schmidt Motorsports. Guerrieri, who on Friday earned his third Sunoco Pole Award of the year, made contact with Yacaman on the opening lap to bring out the only caution of the race. On the restart, Guerrieri returned to the lead and was in command of the race during the first 20 circuits. Over the next five laps, his car began to slow allowing Newgarden and Yacaman to close the gap. He lost the lead on lap 26 in turn two and seven laps later pulled onto to pit road without power. He was unable to return and credited with a 12th-place finish.
Clauson turned the fastest lap of the race when he toured the .875-mile oval in 20.0362 seconds at 160.629 mph on the 85th lap.
The victory allowed Newgarden to increase his lead in the Firestone Indy Lights Championship point chase. His 243 points lead Guerrieri’s 197 points. Carbone is 9th in points after five races, while Clauson is 14th after his three starts.
The next Firestone Indy Lights Series race is Sunday, July 25 and part of the Honda Toronto Indy weekend on the Streets of Toronto course in Ontario.
Josef Newgarden (Finished 1st), Driver of the No. 11 Copart/Score Big/Robo-Pong/Sam Schmidt Motorsports Dallara:
“I think it was really exciting for everyone at the beginning. Unfortunately, I think it got a bit processional throughout the race. We put a really good, strong car together for that race. It felt so good. I could go anywhere on the track, and that’s just a tribute to the team. I was so disappointed that we didn’t qualify a little bit better. At least we didn’t put ourselves too far back. So starting from fourth, we just came in with a conservative approach, but still aggressive enough to get in the lead early on and just hold it all the way through. It was a great job by the Sam Schmidt Motorsports guys and everyone that supports us.”
Bryan Clauson (Finished 3rd), Driver of the No. 77 Mazda Road to Indy/CURB Records Sam Schmidt Motorsports Dallara:
“We didn’t give each other an inch, and it was just good, hard racing. We just didn’t have a good enough car to slip underneath him (Yacaman). We were a little bit tight. We just didn’t have enough to finish the corner on the outside. It was a lot of fun. I threw everything I had at him, and I just didn’t have quite enough. I spent the last 40 laps trying to get a run and do something. I tried high, I tried low, I tried diving under. I tried throwing everything I could at him, but just never got quite the run I needed to beat him off the corner and take the spot.”
Victor Carbone (Finished 7th), Driver of the No. 3 Nevoni/Sam Schmidt Motorsports Dallara:
“We had a really good car and were really fast, but halfway through the race I couldn’t see. It was like my visor was fogged, and I thought it was the tear-offs. I started taking them off and that wasn’t the problem, so I finally cracked open the visor. And I could see again. By then, I had lost so many positions. The car was really good, and I want to thank all the guys for that.”
Esteban Guerrieri (Finished 12th), Driver of the No.7 Lucas Oil/Sam Schmidt Motorsports Dallara:
“We don’t exactly know why the motor stopped, but we think it was from the hit we received from the number two car (Gustavo Yacaman) on the first lap. We think we ran out of water from the radiator. We’re guessing that’s what caused it. I was on the low line and he went even lower and didn’t have any place to go and hit me. I was able to save it, but the yellow came out. I was fourth and had a really good restart and came back to first and pulled away. The car was feeling perfect. There were no issues. I could run it flat out all the time and run any line I wanted. I’m really happy the team gave me such an excellent car. I really wish we wouldn’t have had any issues, because the car was really good. We just had some bad luck, but that’s racing. It just started to not pull (the engine). Early on, I could see my lights on the dash not coming up anymore, so I asked my crew if I should use fourth gear, because I was a bit confused about what was going on. They said no, no don’t use fourth, try sixth. Maybe the gears were the wrong way around, but that wasn’t the case either. When we started to slow, we realized something was really wrong. Finally, my oil temperature came up so I had to stop.”
Date: June 25, 2011
Event: Sukup 100 (Round 6 of 13)
Series: Firestone Indy Lights Series
Location: Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa (.875-mile oval)
Winner: Josef Newgarden of Sam Schmidt Motorsports
SSM Team: Josef Newgarden (Started 4th, Finished 1st/ Running, completed 115 of 115 laps)
Bryan Clauson (Started 3rd, Finished 3rd / Running, completed 115 of 115 laps)
Victor Carbone (Started 6th, Finished 7th / Running, completed 114 of 115 laps)
Esteban Guerrieri (Started 1st, Finished 12th /Mechanical, completed 33 of 115 laps)