Sam Schmidt Motorsports: St. Petersburg Advance


'Experienced' is in the eye of the beholder;


Schmidt Motorsports boasts three top rookie drivers

Monday Mar 28, 2005

Holding three of the top five spots in the series standings, Sam Schmidt Motorsports roars into the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Grand Prix this week for Sunday's Menards Infiniti Pro Series race.

Travis Gregg, who drives Schmidt's #7 Lucas Oil Special, is second in the championship battle with 82 points, five behind leader Jon Herb. Gregg, 26, is a native of Camden, Ohio, and has won both poles this season (Miami and Phoenix), and won the Miami race.

Chris Festa, 19, is fourth with 60 points after his second-place finish at Phoenix. Festa is from Atlanta, Ga., and is a freshman at Florida State University. He drives Schmidt's SpacePak, CareCentric entry.

Jaime Camara, 24, is a Brazilian native living in Miami, and holds fifth with 59 points. Driving Schmidt's CELG, Goias entry, Camara has captured both outside poles this season and finished second in the Miami race, right behind race winner Gregg.

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 and owner Schmidt had to say going into St. Petersburg:

SAM SCHMIDT, Owner, Sam Schmidt Motorsports:

"I have very high expectations for all three cars. We've tested for the road courses and feel pretty good about what we can do there. Also, since our entire crew has several years of experience in road racing at the highest level, they definitely know how to make the cars turn right as well as left.

"Chris Festa and Jaime Camara have run primarily road courses with similar equipment in their careers. Chris has even raced on this particular circuit, so he brings some additional experience to our team.

"With the background of these three guys, it was our goal to come away from the first two oval races at least where we are in the points, and hope to improve positions on the road courses because of the experience our drivers and crew has."

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

"Road courses are just a lot busier than ovals. Better explained, there is just a lot more to do in a shorter period of time. You leave one turn and you are setting yourself up for the next. And you do that the entire race. You have to pay a lot of attention to a lot of details all of the time.

"I'm not saying one is more difficult than the other or requires more concentration. They are simply different and require different skills. You do things on a road course that you don't need to do on an oval and vice-versa.

"Street courses add a whole new perspective. The surface changes and tends to be rough in a lot of places. That adds a whole new dimension into things.

"St. Petersburg is wider than most street courses but there is still a pretty big difference between a street course and a permanent road course. Instead of a 'run off' area, you have a jewelry store. There's a big difference in trying to work your way around a gravel pit and work your way past a Starbucks.

"I think we're going to do fine. I'm pretty excited about the chance to race at St. Petersburg, and I know Chris (Festa) and Jaime (Camara) are too."

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

"The first street race I ever ran was at St. Petersburg in 2003, so it's a nice feeling to be going back there for my first Infiniti Pro Series street race. It's a good course and it should be fun. It's definitely my favorite street course.

"The course is wider than a lot of street courses, which certainly helps the racing. It's not a follow-the-leader type place like a lot of street courses. You can be a little bit more aggressive there because it is wide, and because it is a little smoother than a lot of street courses. From a fan's perspective, it should be a fun race to watch but, from a driver's perspective, I think it's going to be a fun race to run too.

"I think you'll see some passing in the Infiniti race and the Indy car race. There is room enough to do that. The front is going to be the place to be the whole race but if you are not up front, the course is set up so you will have a chance at getting there. It doesn't have to be single-file racing. I think you're going to see guys mixing it up."

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

"There is a difference between oval-track racing and road-course racing, obviously. Road racing is simply more complex. How could it not be? Instead of two long corners you have 12 corners to negotiate.

"You are looking for balance on the road course. Every corner is important every time you go through it. That's the same as an oval but you have so many more corners on the road course. If you make a mistake on an oval and it cost you a tenth of a second in each turn, then you have lost two-tenths of a second. If you make that same mistake for a full lap on a 12-turn road course, you've lost over half of a second. Big difference.

"There are just different skills involved for road courses and for ovals. It takes a lot to be successful on either one but what it does take is different too. Many drivers run well on both. That's the type of driver I want to be, one who is good on ovals or road courses. But it takes time and experience. I have more experience on the road courses but am learning more and more about the oval tracks every time out." 


Richard N. (Chip) Williams, Williams Company of America, Inc.

502 E. Center Ave., Mooresville, NC   28115   (704) 660-0796   FAX:  (704) 660-0886

email:  chip.williams@mindspring.com

www.williamscompany.com  (digitized high-res photos available for media downloading)

www.samschmidtmotorsports.com   www.samschmidt.org

goiasnet.globo.com/jaimecamara  www.travisgregg.com   www.chrisfestaracing.com