Indy Lights - Team E Race Report
BALTIMORE, Sept. 6, 2011: Team E Racing’s Rusty Mitchell of Midland, Texas finished seventh Sunday in the Firestone Indy Lights race at the inaugural Baltimore Grand Prix.
The team battled some problems in practice and qualifying and Mitchell brushed the wall once in the race, so the Tampa Bay, Fla.-based team was glad to be able to finish the event and bring home a top-10 finish for the car’s sponsors, Motorola and Petro Communications.
"Once again Rusty has shown his maturity in taking care of his equipment on a new and very difficult Baltimore street circuit,” said Neil Enerson, the team owner. “He is wisely using the races in this abbreviated season to gain experience and confidence in the Team E Motorola No. 17. Rusty has finished all fours races in which he has competed this season."
The team had a problem with the car’s brakes in practice and only completed eight laps in Sunoco qualifying on Saturday. Mitchell ended up 13th on the starting grid with a qualifying lap of 1:40.8080 (76.851 miles per hour) for the 12-turn, 2.04-mile street circuit.
“The qualifying session started with a bit of rain, but the radar showed us that it would dry out,” explained David Metcalf, the team’s chief mechanic. “We did a few laps on wets to set a time in case the track didn’t dry enough to change to slicks. We then came in and changed to slicks, but we really only got one clear lap in on dry tires because there were yellow flags displayed for our last two dry laps.”
Although Mitchell started near the rear and it’s notoriously hard to pass on street circuits, as it turned out the fastest car didn’t win Sunday’s race and many of the front-runners experienced mechanical problems or made mistakes. Mitchell, who was participating in only his fourth Firestone Indy Lights race ever, concentrated on finishing rather than winning, and that smart thinking was rewarded with a top-10 finish in the 35-lap race that was broadcast live on Versus.
Mitchell ran in 13th or 14th initially before he moved into 12th place on lap nine after Jorge Goncalvez had gearbox problems.
Mitchell had a good battle with Oliver Webb as the race neared the halfway point. Webb passed him on lap 15 to push him back to 13th, but he regained 12th on lap 21 after David Ostella had mechanical difficulties and pitted.
Mitchell moved into 11th on lap 26 after the polesitter and early leader, Conor Daly, had mechanical difficulties and spun while running second.
Two laps later another leader, Esteban Guerrieri, spun and crashed in the hairpin and Webb had mechanical issues, which vaulted Mitchell into eighth place.
Mitchell passed Duarte Ferreira for seventh on a restart on lap 31. He took the checkered flag in that position, finishing a whole lap ahead of Tonis Kasemets, who placed eighth. Kasements has extensive experience in the former Atlantic series, and even ran Champ Car races in 2006.
Mitchell’s fastest lap during the race was lap 22, which he did in 1:28.9786 for an average speed of 82.537 miles per hour.
Gustavo Yacaman won the race over Josef Newgarden and Victor Carbone.
“It was a really cool event,” Mitchell said Tuesday morning. “It looks like it will be a great event for the series in the future. It’s a really demanding, very physical track.
“As far as the racing was concerned we had a tough weekend,” he added. “We had a few mechanical issues in practice that limited our track time, but those kinds of things happen sometimes. The guys worked really hard. Without the guys on Team E and my sponsors I wouldn’t be able to race, so I want to thank them for their hard work and support.
“The race wasn’t terrible considering where we started,” he said. “I made a mistake early and bumped the wall in Turn 12. It bent the right-front suspension, so that killed the speed for the rest of the race really. I just brushed the wall, but it did enough damage to affect the car. So to end up seventh from where we started and after that mistake, we’ll take it.
With the car in one piece after Baltimore, Team E will test at Kentucky Speedway on Thursday, Sept. 22 before returning to that oval in Sparta, Ky., for the next Firestone Indy Lights race on Oct. 2 at noon. Like the Baltimore race it will be broadcast live on Versus.
“I’ve never been to Kentucky Speedway before,” Mitchell said. “It will be good to get some time in the car before we have to show up and race. I think that will help a lot.”