Discord and dissension plagued this weekend’s Firestone Indy Lights event. The minimal car count on Saturday for qualification got smaller still on Sunday as Peter Dempsey pulled off the track refusing to take the green flag in protest to what he and his team, O2 Racing Technology, feel is favouritism shown to some teams by INDYCAR by ignoring technical violations found in post-race and post-qualifying inspections over the past years. In a release issued by the team later Sunday evening, it was revealed that not only were team officials and Mr. Dempsey upset, but so were O2 Racing Technology’s sponsors:
Due to recently discovered integrity issues (outside of our control) with the 2011 Indy Lights series championship, O2 Racing Technology’s sponsors and investors have decided to temporarily take a step back and to reconsider their participation. Unfortunately, this also impacts the teams’ ability to participate.
After a series of discussions with the other team owners, drivers, and INDYCAR, we have been generally assured that INDYCAR is aware of the issues with the tech inspection reporting and penalty procedures and will be addressing them at some point in the future.
We’re heartbroken over the knock-on affects that this situation has on our team members’ families and on the careers of our drivers, but we’re hopeful that confidence will be restored in the integrity of the Indy Lights championship in a timely manner and that our partners will be encouraged to resume their participation.
There’s some things that we know, but many other details are still a bit shrouded. Its obvious that there’s a lot of people that are extremely angry, upset, and disgusted by the situation. Andretti Autosport driver, Stefan Wilson, expressed his displeasure on Twitter saying, “The more I learn of the cheating scandal, the more disgusted I get. 2 cars in the top 3 at Indy clearly cheated and nothing was done!? #WTF?” As of yet, only Mark Olsen, owner of O2 Racing Technology, has made any public statement. Everyone else has been remaining silent or replying to us that they have no comments at the moment. We’ll continue to scour out more details throughout the week and next weekend in Iowa.
Enough of the politics and drama, though, let’s talk about racing! The Firestone Indy Lights race this week was sponsored by the legendary David Hobbs! From what Tab and I could tell during our trip to Milwaukee, he’s sold cars to every single resident of the city. Every where you looked, there was a car with a David Hobbs badge. Well, at least we know that he’s got something to fall back on if the Formula 1 on Speed gig falls through. Qualifying was interesting, and the source of much of the above mentioned drama as the Sam Schmidt Motorsports trio of Esteban Guerrieri, Josef Newgarden, and Bryan Clausen secured the top three spots. Turns out that between final practice and qualifying, the Newgarden found nine tenths more in the #11 machine. That certainly raised some eyebrows. Slotting up in P4 was Team Moore Racing’s Gustavo Yacaman.
As the field was coming to the green flag, there was trouble in Turn 4 as Victor Garcia, Brandon Wagner, and Duarte Ferreira got tangled up on a very green track and never made it to the S/F line. Belardi Auto Racing’s Anders Krohn didn’t make it much farther as his fuel pump would fail him during the caution laps, and with Dempsey having already pulled off in protest, that left only eight cars to contest the remaining 95 laps once the green flag flew once again.
Esteban had an easy time holding off his teammate and cruised to the win with Newgarden taking second. Clausen, still new to formula open-wheel racing, held pace early on, but soon started to fade as the more experienced drivers began to overtake him. He dropped back to fourth before passing Gustavo Yacaman late in the race to make it back to fourth. The drive of the race, though, goes to Belardi’s Jorge Goncalvez. Mind you, Jorge has a pinned-together femur from a passenger car accident prior to the start of the season, and several stitches for a gash he acquired in his crash at Indianapolis. Jorge took the #4 machine from his qualifying position of 7th and fought his way up to the podium, passing Yacaman for the spot on Lap 80 of the 100-lap race.
“In the beginning when we come here, it’s my second time on oval, it’s very hard in practice to come back, the time, to go fast. But I feel pretty good with the team because the engineer gave me a really good car, just a good car for me, strong, every single lap.
In the race, we just work in the beginning for making reservation, good tires for the end. And we have ‑‑ we are really strong at the end of the race, we are really fast. And I feel, too, I have the best car I think in the end and that ever that I have. I feel pretty good with the team because they make a really good job and make the car ready for this race.
And I’m working hard, too, because I race with a leg broke, so it’s very hard for me to make a strong goal. I’m pretty tired after the race, but I feel pretty good. That’s why I say, it’s a hundred percent every time.” — Jorge Goncalvez, #4 Belardi Auto Racing
So now we head to Iowa, with not much time for repairing and resetting equipment. It will be interesting to see what happens this coming weekend and how many entries show up. I’ll be at Iowa as well this weekend and will share with you what news and info I can dredge up as well as taking as many photos as my memory cards will allow.