Indy Lights - Sam Schmidt Motorsports Race Report - Long Beach
Long Beach, Apr. 18, 2011: In the week leading up to the 2011 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, team owner Sam Schmidt talked about how special a win there would be for him. The Southern California native not only attended the event with his parents 10 consecutive years as a child, Schmidt also lived in Long Beach as a newlywed.
Consider Conor Daly’s victory Sunday in the Firestone Indy Lights Series race a late wedding gift for his car owner, Schmidt, and his wife, Sheila, who joined Daly and Schmidt in victory lane. Daly, driving the No. 77 Mazda Road To Indy/SSM Dallara, executed a flawless race plan and took advantage of others’ mistakes to claim his first win in the series.
As the race played out, it appeared the SSM trio of Daly, Josef Newgarden and Esteban Guerrieri was going to present the perfect gift today to Schmidt with a sweep of the podium. Unfortunately, a mistake by Newgarden on lap 41 prevented that from happening.
After stalking and passing teammate Guerrieri for second place in turn nine, Newgarden and his No. 11 Robo-Pong/SSM Dallara went in pursuit of race leader Peter Dempsey, who drives for Pulse/O2 Racing. Before Newgarden could reach the leader, Dempsey drove his car into the turn-nine barrier, ending his race. This gave the lead to Newgarden.
From that point Newgarden was on cruise control with Daly, who also passed Guerrieri for second place, with Guerrieri following in third. The trio pulled away from the field and made the podium sweep look closer as each lap ticked off. However, the same corner that gave Newgarden the lead – turn nine – also took it from him. On lap 41, Newgarden appeared to bounce off the rumble strips and buried his car into the tire barrier.
Daly inherited the lead and victory as the race ended under caution for Newgarden’s incident. Daly completed 43 of the scheduled 45 laps before the 60-minute time limit allowed for the race was reached. Guerrieri finished in second place driving the No. 7 Lucas Oil Products/SSM Dallara, and young Victor Carbone finished in sixth place driving the Nevoni/SSM Dallara. Newgarden was scored in 13th.
Andretti Autsport’s Stefan Wilson finished third, while Gustavo Yacamam, driving for Team Moore Racing, and James Winslow, for Andretti Autosport, rounded out the top-five.
Daly’s first Indy Lights win came in just his third series start. His previous best finish was second place in St. Petersburg. He now leads the Indy Lights Series championship with 109 points. Despite his finish, Newgarden trails Daly by only 10 points in second place. Guerrieri is fifth in points with 85, while Carbone is 13th with 66 points.
There were four caution periods for eight laps with five of the 17 drivers failing to finish the race.
The next Firestone Indy Lights Series race is the Firestone Freedom 100 on Friday, May 27, part of the 100th Anniversary of the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race weekend. The race will be televised live on VERSUS beginning at noon EDT.
Conor Daly (Finished 1st), Driver of the No. 77 Mazda Road to Indy/Sam Schmidt Motorsports Dallara:
“It's pretty unbelievable. You know, I got here late and didn't get to practice Friday. I wish I could have run the first session but just missed it. The car was fantastic again. The Sam Schmidt Motorsports team does a great job doing what they do – preparing the cars – and that made it just a little bit easier to kind of jump in and find the limit. The whole race I was really just learning the track, still. I kind of saw a few things Josef was doing, and my car was really consistent through the whole race, so I was able to kind of find little bits here and there and just be able to start putting quicker and quicker laps together. And when I got up right behind him, I was kind of worried because, when I had the best run, my car skipped third gear and went to fourth. The next lap, it did the same thing. So, it was a bit of a stressful situation because I saw Esteban closing on me pretty quickly when that happened, and I just had to really concentrate on getting the car from third to fourth gear. Eventually, I caught back up to Josef and he unfortunately went off, and it was tough to see that when Sam Schmidt Motorsports was in that position for one-two-three. But, I’ll take it.”
Esteban Guerrieri (Finished 2nd), Driver of the No.7 Lucas Oil/Sam Schmidt Motorsports Dallara:
“I had a very good start. I had a good run in the first corner but, straight away, I started suffering a lot of understeer and I started to push instantly from the beginning. I got passed and I got passed again, so I was third. I got into a pace, and it was OK, but still I wasn’t the quickest out there. I was just trying to maintain my rhythm. In the end, there was a restart and I didn’t have very good traction, so I got passed, so I was fourth. There were crashes for Josef and Dempsey, so I got up to second. It’s not too bad to finish on the podium, but you want to win when you start up from pole, but it’s not every day you can do it.”
Victor Carbone (Finished 6th), Driver of the No. 3 Nevoni/Sam Schmidt Motorsports Dallara:
“I am pleased, for sure, with finishing sixth. It is a difficult track, and I avoided all the trouble and continued to move up. It was important for me to finish and get more laps in this car.”
Josef Newgarden (Finished 13th), Driver of the No. 11 Robo-Pong/Sam Schmidt Motorsports Dallara:
“This is probably the toughest moment I have had in my career. It is not something you can plan for. It is certainly the first time this has happened to me, and it isn’t a fun feeling to have. I think I just caught the drain ditch and it popped me up on the ground. I hadn’t hit it all weekend, so it caught me off-guard when it happened. It just caught the front end up and it was very difficult to save it. It is too bad for all the guys. I thought we were going to have a great weekend here, and it is unfortunate that it finished the way it did. There is a long season ahead of us and I am anxious to test on an oval this week”