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Firestone Indy Lights: St. Pete 100 Race 1

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  St. Pete 100 Race 1

Firestone Indy Lights: St. Pete 100 Race 1

J.R. Hildebrand
Junior Strous
Jonathan Summerton
April 4, 2009


THE MODERATOR: We're joined by our top three finishers for today's race, race winner Junior Strous, second place finisher Jonathan Summerton, three third place finisher J.R. Hildebrand. J.R., talk about your day out there.
J.R. HILDEBRAND: A little bittersweet really. We got out in front early and unfortunately my teammate had some issues at the beginning of the race. I don't know what happened with him. We got off to a pretty hefty lead and was just pulling away and I think had the car to win the race. Then we had a couple yellows kind of middle of the race, and on the second yellow flag I had cleared out the motor and stuff and then came onto the front straight and couldn't pull up through fourth and fifth gears, so I was a little bit of a sitting duck for Junior; he got a good exit, but I think I had a tough time even getting it top speed down there.
So he got by and made a good pass, but I just ended up kind of off in the marbles. Had a tough time getting back together and a couple guys went by, and from there on out just couldn't really pull it on the top end. We had a really good car, the guys did a great job.
I'd like to thank R Pro and AFS for all their help, but like I said, a little bit bittersweet today, and hopefully we'll get them tomorrow.
THE MODERATOR: Jonathan, a second place finish for you. Talk about your day.
JONATHAN SUMMERTON: Well, it was an exciting race. I think it was three cautions we had. It was just great following Junior through the field. He did a great job. We were able to keep up with him. We had a car that was very good. Allied Building Products and Anderson Racing, just like to thank them. And really happy with everything that went on. Just a consistent car throughout the race, and was able to keep pressure on Junior, but he didn't make any mistakes, so good job to him.
THE MODERATOR: Junior Strous, our race winner. He started second, and with his win today becomes the seventh driver in Firestone Indy Lights history to win in his maiden race for the series. Junior, talk about your day if you would.
JUNIOR STROUS: Today was just great. I'd like to start off thanking my team again, Winner's Circle Group Racing. We're a new team. Got a warm welcome from the IndyCar Series and I'd like to thank them again. Today was great. We had a good qualifying again on the second spot tomorrow, so in the front row for race two.
I had a bad start today. I came by on fourth on the first lap, so it was like, oh, damn, this is not going okay. I had a good race. On lap 23 I was able to make the move on J.R., had a really good exit out of the last turn, and slip screened him, put the car right next to him, we braked so late, and we touched for a moment, I believe, and we went really wide, both of us, but I managed to come through the corner quite well in first position.
I don't know what to say. I'm just so happy. The crew worked so hard. We only had one day of testing last Monday on Sebring, and the people came together so late and I'm just so happy to be up here and to win the first race in the Firestone Indy Lights Series.

Q. Junior, did you ever imagine this would be the result? On Monday when you were testing for one day at Sebring, did you imagine you could come here and win this race?
JUNIOR STROUS: No, I've never imagined this in my wildest dreams. Obviously as a driver you go for it and you go with your team for it. I've never had such a motivated crew as I have now. We had all the odds against us, had a late program coming together, had rain on the first day, didn't have a lot of running in the dry, only short qualifying sessions. The group 2 qualifying had a lot of yellow flags, and I didn't have a lot of track time, so it was good.

Q. This is for Junior and I guess also J.R. I don't know if you've already talked about this so I'm sorry if I'm repeating it, but on the start, maybe Junior, you can explain what you were doing -- I don't know if you were being cautious going into that first turn. I understand the track is really slippery there. Or maybe J.R. can answer whether you just set Junior up and were able to take the lead on the start.
JUNIOR STROUS: Well, as I found out on lap 1 and J.R. Hildebrand on lap 23 on the outside of Turn 1 is so, so slippery. If you get off your line, you just almost fly off. It's really tricky. On the first lap of the start I ran a bit too wide, braked a bit too late, was a bit too aggressive and went too wide.
J.R. HILDEBRAND: Just from being on pole, if you're stuck on the inside, that's definitely a preferred line through there. I was a little bit cautious on the brakes getting into 1 because I didn't want to overcook it, and then everybody ended up on the outside. But I knew a got a good jump on the last corner off the initial start. So just being two by two, Junior just kind of got stuck out there, I guess. As I found out later on, that's really not the place to be. You're just racing.
THE MODERATOR: If you all would just comment a little bit about expectations for tomorrow. We'll start with you, J.R.
J.R. HILDEBRAND: I'm hoping to capitalize on today. I'm starting third, my teammate is starting first, so hopefully just like we did today, the other way around, I was able to get through pretty clean through the first corner and he was right behind me and was able to slip underneath Junior, so hopefully we can catch the big boy out here tomorrow and slip on by.
But I think like I said, we've got a really good race car. If we hadn't had the battery voltage problem I think we would have been clear sailing for most of the race. I think we just play it smart.
Obviously we're looking towards the championship, as well, so we've got -- everybody has got to use their heads and get through the race. But we've got a really good race car. The guys have done a great job all week, so we're looking to better our position tomorrow.
JONATHAN SUMMERTON: Yeah, definitely starting back where we are, I think it's 14th or 16th, I'm not sure, like Junior said, the group 2 qualifying, well, let's just say it's an interesting one. I think we got possibly one flier, this morning's qualifying, which really sucked for us because I know we have a car that could have been up in the top three there. I'm going to have to fight like crazy to get up there, and that's all I can say. Hopefully it's a clean race and hopefully we can get into the top five. That's my goal.
THE MODERATOR: Junior, no pressure tomorrow. You won your first race, what more can you do, right?
JUNIOR STROUS: Yeah, we're leading the championship so that's a good thing, early lead. I want to maintain the lead in the championship tomorrow no matter what happens. Again, I start on the front row, second position again. Try not to run wide in the first corner and I think I will be good. Winner's Circle Group car is good over the long runs, keep it together, don't make any mistakes and I think we'll be just fine.

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