INDIANAPOLIS (June 22, 2011) – Iowa Speedway in Newton has been good to Sam Schmidt Motorsports (SSM) through the years, and that can’t be good news for its competitors in the Firestone Indy Lights Series. The team is heading to the fast Iowa track where it has seen success with a full head of steam in 2011.
SSM’s Indy Lights teams have two victories on the .875-mile oval and countless other top-five finishes. When Ana Beatriz won in 2009, she led a dominating weekend there for SSM. She was followed across the finish line by her SSM teammates Wade Cunningham and James Hinchcliffe in second and third place, respectively.
If that kind of weekend sounds familiar, it’s because SSM is heading into Saturday’s Sukup 100 at Iowa after showing a similar kind of dominance at Milwaukee this past weekend. Argentinian Esteban Guerrieri, driving the No. 7 Lucas Oil Dallara/Firestone car for SSM, won the pole and led flag to flag to score his first Firestone Indy Lights victory.
Right behind Guerrieri in both qualifying and the race in Milwaukee was his teammate Josef Newgarden, who qualified the No. 11 Copart/Score Big/Robo Pong Dallara/Firestone Indy Lights car second and finished second. Fellow SSM teammate Bryan Clauson slipped a spot from his third-place qualifying effort to finish fourth in Milwaukee driving his No. 77 Mazda Road to Indy Dallara/Firestone racecar.
In addition to Newgarden, Guerrieri and Clauson, the fourth SSM Indy Lights driver, Victor Carbone, drove his No. 3 Nevoni racecar to a sixth-place finish, his best of the season.
Though SSM fell just short of sweeping the qualifying podium and race podium at Milwaukee, the slight slip isn’t expected to slow the SSM locomotive as it powers into Iowa. Consider these facts:
- Guerrieri has won three Sunoco Pole Awards in five races this year.
- SSM has swept the front row three times and has had at least one car start on the front row of every race in 2011.
- Guerrieri has finished second, second and first in his last three starts.
- Newgarden and Guerrieri are first and second in the Indy Lights point standings.
- Newgarden has three podiums in the first five races, including two wins.
As Clauson gets more experience in the rear-engined Indy Lights car, and as the young Carbone continues to improve, the SSM locomotive is expected to continue gaining speed. Don’t look for it to slow down in Iowa.
Victor Carbone, Driver of the No. 3 Nevoni/Sam Schmidt Motorsports Dallara:
When you go to a track for a first time, what do you do in advance to prepare for it?
“I watch lots of video the team has gathered over the years. Video is the best way for me. I also look at lots of data the team has on all the tracks. Now that I’m living in Indianapolis, I will drive the simulator the team has at the shop. It should be a huge help, as well.”
Do you talk to the other drivers about a certain track, as well?
“Sometimes. But I don’t think any of my teammates have been to Iowa in a Lights car, either, so that won’t help much.”
Esteban Guerrieri, Driver of the No.7 Lucas Oil/Sam Schmidt Motorsports Dallara:
How do you prepare for a new speedway like Iowa, at which you’ve never raced nor have you seen?
“I hope the team will give me the right tools to start learning. I’ve heard it is quite challenging. It might be a bit easier than Milwaukee, but it is quite a different oval. Of course, I will take full advantage of the practice sessions.”
Esteban Guerrieri, Driver of the No.7 Lucas Oil/Sam Schmidt Motorsports Dallara (continued):
What kind of tools does the Sam Schmidt team give to the driver to prepare for a new track?
“I’ve never seen a team and group of engineers that give so many tools to a driver to prepare for a race than Sam Schmidt Motorsports. They give you video from various practices and races, history in data, track maps and an understanding of the set-ups. No team that I’ve ever been with has given me these kinds of things. I use all these tools so I can do my best in Iowa, for sure. ”
Coming from a road-racing background, does it build your confidence going into more oval races like Iowa knowing you can win on ovals, now?
“Actually, yes. I haven’t thought about that but, yes, I will. It’s good to go as a winner to another oval, but we have to see what happens. It’s even better for the confidence and happiness of the team”
Josef Newgarden, Driver of the No. 11 Copart/Score Big/Robo-Pong/Sam Schmidt Motorsports Dallara:
Having never raced at Iowa, how will you prepare this week?
“The preparation with the engineer the week before is very key. Doug (Zister, engineer) and I will get on Skype together to talk about strategy and go over some data. In this modern era with Internet and everything, it’s a lot easier to get together with someone to plan and strategize when you’re in two different states or areas of the world.”
What have you heard about Iowa?
“I’ve heard it’s a very interesting track. Obviously, it’s very fast. I’ve heard about the bump between (turns) one and two and that it can catch you off. It’s something I definitely have to get used to, as well as some of the other elements. I’m sure it will be another great weekend for Firestone Indy Lights.”
Is a track like Milwaukee, where you said engineering would 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’ve raced before at Iowa Speedway. In what type of cars have you raced there?
“I’ve raced a (USAC) Silver Crown car, the Midget and even a (USAC) Sprint car there. I’ve driven a (NASCAR) Nationwide car there, but never raced one there.”
Talk about Iowa’s racetrack?
“It’s a great racetrack. Everything I’ve ever driven there has been racey because there is a lot of room to move around and drive through the field. It’s a place I always look forward to going to with our USAC cars, so I’m excited to go back there in an Indy Lights car to see what it’s like. It’s always nice to go to a place that you’ve seen and have an idea of your surroundings a little bit. ”
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 Iowa Indy Lights History
|2010||6/19||J.K. Vernay||3||3||Running, 115/115||0|
|2010||6/19||Philip Major||7||6||Running, 115/115||0|
|2010||6/19||Pippa Mann||8||8||Running, 115/115||0|
|2009||6/20||Ana Beatriz||6||1||Running, 115/115||9|
|2009||6/20||Wade Cunningham||2||2||Running, 115/115||103|
|2009||6/20||James Hinchcliffe||5||3||Running, 115/115||0|
|2008||6/21||Ana Beatriz||6||3||Running, 115/115||0|
|2008||6/21||Richard Antinucci||14||9||Running, 115/115||0|
|2008||6/21||James Davison||13||13||Running, 115/115||0|
|2008||6/21||Travis Gregg||19||21||Running, 67/115||0|
|2007||6/23||Alex Lloyd||2||1||Running, 115/115||10|
|2007||6/23||Ryan Justice||12||4||Running, 115/115||0|
|2007||6/23||Logan Gomez||12||18||Running, 115/115||0|