Sam Schmidt Motorsports: Phoenix Advance

Looking to backup Homestead domination;

Schmidt Motorsports 1-2 in opener, wants it again

March 14, 2005

Coming off a spectacular, blow-the-field-away, one-two finish in the season opener, Sam Schmidt Motorsports heads to the one-mile Phoenix (Ariz.) International Raceway this week for Sunday's 100-mile Menards Infiniti Pro Series race.


Travis Gregg, 26, of Camden, Ohio, won the opener with second-place Jaime Camara, 24, a native Brazilian now residing in Miami, Fla., right on his tail. The pair won by nearly seven seconds of third place and at one point enjoyed an 11-second lead before a caution bunched the field. Chris Festa, 19, of Atlanta, Ga., and a freshman at Florida State University, was well on his way to a probable finish of at least third-place before another car started a crash that put him out of the event. Prior to that, Festa had started ninth and was running fourth.


The three were also among the fastest in testing at Phoenix a few weeks ago. Gregg is the only series-experienced driver but has won two poles, including Homestead, and has two outside poles in his four career starts in the series. Camara, who started on the outside pole in his series debut at Homestead, and Festa are two of the hottest young drivers in the sport. Festa is one of the few natives of the southeastern U.S. who have cast their eyes on open-wheel stardom.


Sam Schmidt Motorsports is also a means of promoting and publicizing the Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation. The Foundation was created by Schmidt to help individuals overcome spinal cord injuries and other neurological disorders. Schmidt is currently recovering from serious upper spinal cord injuries suffered in a testing accident on January 6, 2000 while practicing for the season-opening Indy Racing League event at Walt Disney World Speedway in Orlando, Fla. Further information is available at www.samschmidt.org or (317) 236-9999


Here is what the drivers, owner Schmidt and general manager Michael Crawford had to say going into Phoenix:


SAM SCHMIDT, Owner, Sam Schmidt Motorsports:


            "Things change at Phoenix, which is pretty much the way motorsports is. It is how you adjust to those changes that determines how successful you are going to be, whether you are talking about an Infiniti Pro Series car, an IRL car or a stock car.

            "Phoenix is much more of a technical track than Homestead. Homestead was flat out with the car trimmed and smoothness was critical. At Phoenix, even if everything is exactly the way you want it, you will be extremely lucky to get through one lap flat out in qualifying.

            "This is a real driver's track, if you ask me. The car is obviously pretty important but the driver is the one who is getting to play the larger role in getting it through the turns. I still expect all three of our drivers to run up front. We tested really well there. But I think you are going to see more competition than you saw at Homestead."



TRAVIS GREGG, #7 Lucas Oil Special, Sam Schmidt Motorsports Entry:


            "When you've had a really good weekend like we had at Homestead, you can't wait to get back on the racetrack again. That's pretty much where I've been since Victory Lane at Homestead.

            "I think all three of us have a pretty good feeling about Phoenix. We tested really well there and we feel we can run pretty well again, just like we did at Homestead. There are obviously differences between the two tracks but we were able to make the cars run really well.

            "Phoenix is a lot more of a driver's track than Homestead. That makes it even more fun to run. The car has to be working just right to make it fast, so practice is going to be pretty crucial. But the driver comes into play a whole lot more at Phoenix in making the car go fast.

            "The track does have kind of a strange shape to it but it doesn't change a whole lot of things. From the surface, you might think the dogleg (in the backstretch) is a major factor but it's not a problem at all. You use that dogleg to set yourself up to get through (turns) three and four fast. That's big.

            "It is going to be a tough track to pass on. Because of that, qualifying is going to be really important. Then again, qualifying is always important, no matter where you are racing, and is going to be even more important in a race without pit stops. No matter how wide a track is, it is always a lot easier if you are already in front of someone than if you are trying to get around someone.

            "We know we're going to have a pretty good qualifying package and a pretty good race package. How good a job we do at taking advantage of that is going to determine how things turn out for us over the weekend."


CHRIS FESTA, #19 SpacePak, CareCentric, Sam Schmidt Motorsports Entry:


            "Phoenix is more of a driver's track than Homestead. It has a much different layout and it's a good bit flatter. The whole package is obviously important but the driver is going to play a larger factor at Phoenix than at Homestead. You can simply do more with the car at Phoenix.

            "Jaime and I do have more of a road racing background than Travis but racing is still racing, pretty much. We went flat out around Homestead but that wasn't any big deal. It was still a matter of getting the car to where you wanted it to be, hitting your marks and doing the things any driver in any series has to do to be successful.

            "I feel pretty good about Phoenix and what we can do there. We tested pretty well and I think all three of us are going in feeling pretty confident about our potential there. The cars showed a lot at Homestead and there is no reason to think they are going to be any less strong at Phoenix this week.

            "We're pretty excited about the possibilities with Sam Schmidt Motorsports."


JAIME CAMARA, #1 CELG, Goias, Sam Schmidt Motorsports Entry:


            "Qualifying is going to play a big, big part in how the race turns out. The better you qualify, the more it is going to help you at Phoenix.

            "Phoenix is a pretty narrow track, so passing is going to be a little harder than it was at Homestead. Passing isn't impossible, just a little more difficult. I was able to make up some spots in the Homestead race. We moved from ninth to fourth. I don't doubt someone could do the same thing at Phoenix, it's just going to take longer to do it. Then again, the race was 67 laps at Homestead and will be 100 laps at Phoenix, so technically you have a little longer to get it done.

            "To me, Turn One and the exit to Turn Two are really tricky, and probably the toughest part of the track. Then again, there really isn't a true line around Phoenix like there is at Homestead. There are several ways to get through the turns and to set yourself up for getting through the turns. The driver comes into play a lot more at Phoenix."

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