INDIANAPOLIS, Saturday, May 19, 2012 – If you watch Sam Schmidt Motorsports’ four-car Firestone Indy Lights team on any given race weekend, you will see four teams working seamlessly as one.
The engineers, mechanics and drivers all share information with one another. It’s a philosophy that works. SSM is the most successful team in Indy Lights history with five championships, 48 race wins and 49 poles.
That same “we’re all one team” philosophy salvaged a potentially disastrous qualifying day for Schmidt’s two entries in the 2012 Indianapolis 500-Mile Race. After struggling to find speed in the morning Pole Day practice session, Simon Pagenaud and Townsend Bell went back to the garages with their teams to try to find a few more tenths on the stopwatch before qualifying.
Townsend Bell was the first of the two drivers to see if the last-minute changes worked.
At 11:07 a.m., Bell pulled the No. 99 BraunAbility/Schmidt Pelfrey Motorports Dallara/Honda/Firestone car onto the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway for his qualification attempt. Though his time and speed improved from the morning practice, his four-lap time of 2:42.5179 seconds at 221.514 mph was still a concern.
After Bell’s run, the SSM team made more changes to Pagenaud’s No. 77 Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports Honda/Dallara/Firestone car. The Frenchman pulled onto the track at 1:08 p.m. to make his fist-ever qualifying attempt for the Indy 500. In a big jump in speed, Pagenaud produced a qualifying run of 2:41.5138 seconds at 222.891 mph.
It was a time and speed that SSM felt would keep the No. 77 HP car in the top 24, which was the magic “locked in” starting position all teams wanted Saturday.
Knowing that Pagenaud’s qualifying set-up was vastly different, the team quickly put it on Bell’s car. The result was a second qualifying run (2:41.3377 seconds at 223.134 mph) by the Californian that put him solidly in the race.
“That run is the direct result of having a two-car team,” Bell said to his crew chief Dave Higuera upon climbing out of the car.
With starting positions 25-33 to be determined on Sunday at IMS, Pagenaud and Bell are locked into their starting positions for next week’s race. Bell will start 20th, while Pagenaud will start 23rd in his first Indianapolis 500.
Both will practice race setups on Sunday during breaks in qualification activity, which is another advantage of qualifying on Pole Day.
Penske Racing’s Ryan Briscoe won the coveted Pole for the 2012 Indianapolis 500. Joining him on the front row will be his teammate Helio Castroneves and Andretti Autosports’ James Hinchcliffe.
The 96th Running of the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race is Sunday, May 27.
Notes and Quotes
On qualifying for his first Indy 500: “It was really emotional. I just shook the hand of one of my best friends before I got on the track. We remembered a conversation we had six years ago when we agreed this is where we wanted to be. I had a lot more fun than Gil deFerran told me I would. He had scared me. It was a lot of fun. The car was really well balanced, and it made my job a lot easier. The security in the back of the car was really good. I had a little bit of push, which was perfect. We had more speed than before as well, which made it more enjoyable. I wish I had seen a 226.8 on the dash. This place is quite something. It’s full of history. It’s one of the biggest races in the world. I’m amazed to see that many people here for qualifying. Race day will be something different, and we’re looking forward to it.”
After his first qualifying run? “It’s so nice to be back again. I love coming here. It’s great to be back with Sam. We have BraunAbility on the car and so many friends within Sam Schmidt Motorsports. Last year, we were twinkle toes out here floating around the top nine and feeling great. And today, we’re at the other end of the grid. It’s just the life and times of Indy.”
On where he found more speed for his second run? “It was one big science project in the garage, just like in school. After Simon’s run, I told the guys to just throw his exact setup on my car. It was a lot of changes, big changes, but it worked. That’s the advantage of having a good teammate. It was the result of a two-car effort.”
Pulling Double Duty
Townsend Bell is pulling double-duty on this Indy 500 qualifying weekend. Not only is he driving the No. 77 BraunAbility/Schmidt Pelfrey Motorsports car, he is continuing his live reporting duties for NBC Sports Network’s coverage at the Speedway. When his qualification session was over, Bell said it was time to put on his “fanny pack and go to work.”
Sports Lovers – While several of the SSM crew members have been closely following the progress of the Indiana Pacers during the NBA Playoffs, SSM General Manager Rob Edwards had been looking forward to a major soccer game played today in Europe. He was all smiles when he proudly announced in the garage that “Chelsea beat Bayern Munich.”
Sam Schmidt Motorsports Qualifying Summary:
Townsend Bell’s Qualifying Attempt 1 – Saturday, May 19 – 11:07 p.m. (EDT)
Lap Car Time/ Avg. Speed
1 No. 99 BraunAbility Dallara/Honda/Firestone 40.6408 seconds at 221.452 mph
2 No. 99 BraunAbility Dallara/Honda/Firestone 40.5822 seconds at 221.772 mph
3 No. 99 BraunAbility Dallara/Honda/Firestone 40.6294 seconds at 221.514 mph
4 No. 99 BraunAbility Dallara/Honda/Firestone 40.6655 seconds at 221.318 mph
Total 2:42.5169 seconds at 221.514 mph
Townsend Bell’s Qualifying Attempt 2 – Saturday, May 19 – 3:15 p.m. (EDT)
Lap Car Time/ Avg. Speed
1 No. 99 BraunAbility Dallara/Honda/Firestone 40.31141 seconds at 223.247 mph
2 No. 99 BraunAbility Dallara/Honda/Firestone 40.3109 seconds at 223.265 mph
3 No. 99 BraunAbility Dallara/Honda/Firestone 40.3357 seconds at 223.127 mph
4 No. 99 BraunAbility Dallara/Honda/Firestone 40.3770 seconds at 222.899 mph
Total 2:41.3377 seconds at 223.134 mph
Simon Pagenaud’s Qualifying Attempt 1 – Saturday, May 19 – 1:08 p.m. (EDT)
Lap Car Time/ Avg. Speed
1 No. 77 HP Dallara/Honda/Firestone 403749 seconds at 222.911 mph
2 No. 77 HP Dallara/Honda/Firestone 40.3646 seconds at 222.968 mph
3 No. 77 HP Dallara/Honda/Firestone 40.3800 seconds at 222.883 mph
4 No. 77 HP Dallara/Honda/Firestone 40.3943 seconds at 222.804 mph
Total 2:41.5138 seconds at 222.891 mph