Sam Schmidt Motorsports takes top three spots in Indy Lights qualifying

ST. PETERSBURG — Esteban Guerrieri will start today's Indy Lights race from the pole after leading a 1-2-3 finish for Sam Schmidt Motorsports in qualifying Saturday.

Guerrieri, a rookie, moved to the front by saving his best for last.

He had the fastest lap of 1 minute, 7.6903 seconds on the 1.8-mile course on the final lap.

Guerrieri is the eighth driver to win a pole in his Indy Lights race debut and the first since Graham Rahal in 2006.

"We've had competitive cars all weekend," Guerrieri said. "Our last lap was our best lap, so we ended up where we needed. It will be great to start my first race from P1, and I hope our race day goes well."

Conor Daly, another rookie, appeared to lock down the pole with a qualifying lap of 1:07.7009 in the final 10 minutes of the 45-minute session. But Guerrieri stole his thunder. Josef Newgarden was third with a lap of 1:07.8731.

"It's a bit depressing, really," Daly said. "I was strongly P1 the whole session, but just at the end, Esteban got me with a good lap. But it's good for Sam Schmidt Motorsports to be 1-2-3. I'm just looking forward to the race now. I think we've got a really fast consistent car, and I think we'll be okay for (today)."

This is the 14th time Sam Schmidt Motorsports has started a race 1-2 and the fourth time it has claimed the top three qualifying spots for a race.

Shifting gears: Patrick Long has won the 24 Hours of Le Mans, 24 Hours of Daytona and 12 Hours of Sebring.

Now the Belleair resident is trying to win in the SCCA World Challenge sportscar series.

Long, the two-time defending American Le Mans Series GT champion, was a late addition to the GT class. He arrived from a prior commitment in Germany in time for Friday's qualifying race.

On Saturday, Long started on the pole and won the first of two races in his class this weekend. For most of the race, Long battled Mike Skeen for the lead. Long took control on the final lap after Skeen was involved in a collision.

Each of the three World Challenge classes (GT, GTS and TC) raced together. Jason von Kluge took the GTS class, and Lawson Aschenbach won TC.

Highs and lows: Pinellas Park High graduate Nick Andries had the second-fastest lap (1:10.921) during qualifying in the Star Mazda series.

But a start near the front of Saturday's race was quickly derailed when he ran into trouble within the first eight laps and finished 17th. Another local driver, Walt Bowlin of Tarpon Springs, finished 16th.

Connor De Phillippi won the opening round race by 2.261 seconds over Martin Scuncio.

From pole to podium: Spencer Pigot, who earned the pole, won the USF2000 opening race Saturday.

Shannon McIntosh, who moved from Ohio to St. Petersburg in December to race for St. Petersburg's Cape Motorsports, finished eighth.

Sam Schmidt Motorsports takes top three spots in Indy Lights qualifying 03/26/11 [Last modified: Saturday, March 26, 2011 10:02pm]

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