IndyLights – Iowa Wrap-up, and a Soap Opera Update

The Firestone Indy Lights series heads north of the border this weekend to race on the Streets of Toronto as part of their three-event Canadian Tour. Before coming to Toronto, though, the Firestone Indy Lights series was in the middle of corn country at the Iowa Speedway for their last oval race until the middle of August in Loudon. There’s been quite a bit happen in the Firestone Indy Lights series since the Iowa race, some good, some not so good. Let’s recap the Iowa weekend first.

Iowa Sukup 100 Race Recap

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There really isn’t much to say about the Sukup 100. There was some great racing back in the pack, but the sharp end of the grid belonged to Sam Schmidt Motorsports. In the opening laps of the race, it really looked to be the Josef and Esteban Show all over again, just like at Indianapolis. Esteban lead the race from pole until a radiator failure ended his race prematurely. Newgarden took over and never looked back. Gustavo Yacaman followed, but could never close after being passed by Newgarden early. He would finish in P2, reaching the podium for the first time in this rocky season for the Indy Lights veteran. Bryan Clausen had a great qualifying run, starting the race in P3, but quickly fell back to P4 once the race started. He would maintain that position until his teammate, Esteban, would retire, elevating him back to P3 where he would finish and claim his first Firestone Indy Lights Podium.

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“We didn’t give each other an inch and it was just good, hard racing. We just didn’t have quite a good enough car to slip underneath him. We were a little bit tight. We just didn’t have enough to finish the corner on the outside. It was a lot of fun. I threw everything I had at him, and I just didn’t have quite enough. I spent the last 40 laps trying to get a run and doing something. I tried high, I tried low, I tried diving under. I tried throwing everything I could at him but just never got quite the run I needed to beat him off the corner and take the spot.” — Bryan Clausen, #77 Sam Schmidt Motorsports

While the action at the front was processional, two racers made the mid-pack action well worth watching. Belardi Auto Racing’s Jorge Goncalvez started back in P11 after a poor qualifying effort. He would find pace during the final practice session and set the fastest time for both sessions. Jorge would slice his way through the mid-pack field and make his way up to P6 before the race’s end. The drive of the race, though, belongs to Team Moore Racing’s Victor Garcia. His drive from P12, slowest of all qualifiers who posted a time, to finish in P4 just shy of the podium was simply an amazing feat.

“We knew we had a car capable of being at the top but (in qualifying) we had a fuel pump problem. My team was telling me to relax and go faster and faster each lap. At the end I was catching people and overtaking. I’m really happy for the team after they worked so late. I have to thank everyone for all the hard work they did. I’m really happy because we are third in the championship now.” — Victor Garcia, #22 Team Moore Racing

By securing his third victory of the season, and having his closest competitor, Esteban Guerrieri, finish dead last, Joseph Newgarden was able to extend his championship points lead to near insurmountably large 46-point gap. With seven more race weekends, and eight races, anything can happen, but at this point it’s definitely Newgarden’s championship to lose.

O2 Racing Technologies and Mark Olsen Suspended Until 2013 Season

The troubles never seem to end for O2 Racing Technology. Not long after the Iowa race, the league issued a ruling that the O2RT team and team owner Mark Olsen were to be excluded and their licenses revoked for the duration of this season and for all of next season as well. Apparently, INDYCAR is mightily upset by Mr. Olsen’s actions at Milwaukee! For those who have not yet seen the release from INDYCAR, here you go.

INDYCAR, the governing body of Firestone Indy Lights, has suspended the entrant license/membership of O2 Racing Technology and the individual membership of team owner Mark Olson until December 31, 2012, for actions during The Milwaukee Mile event June 18-19.

Olson was suspended for attempting to impede the conduct of the event by encouraging others to breach contracts with INDYCAR and withdraw from the David Hobbs 100. O2 Racing Technology was the only entrant to withdraw, removing its No. 36 and 63 entries from the participant list.

The actions were in violation of multiple rules as listed in the Firestone Indy Lights rulebook:

  • Rule 1.1: Actions threatening the integrity of INDYCAR, Firestone Indy Lights and/or orderly conduct of an event.
  • Rule 2.11 (C): Conduct creating adverse notoriety with respect to INDYCAR, Firestone Indy Lights or an event.
  • Rule 9.3 (A): Attempting to or engaging in unsportsmanlike conduct or conduct detrimental to racing, INDYCAR and/or Firestone Indy Lights.
  • Section 14 of the Event Entry Form: Engaging in tactics which would disrupt or delay the events.

“The mere act of attempting to impede the conduct of the event is something we will not tolerate,” said Roger Bailey, executive director, Firestone Indy Lights. “We believe we have a great championship with Firestone Indy Lights that will help develop drivers and teams to prepare to move to the top level of open-wheel racing in North America, and we must maintain the integrity of our series.”

The penalized parties may protest/appeal as prescribed in the Firestone Indy Lights rulebook. A protest/appeal may result in an increase, decrease or no change to the penalty.

O2 Racing Technology has claimed that the league’s accusations are false, and that they had never encouraged any other party to breach any contracts, and their formal protest was submitted this morning.

New Drivers for Toronto

There have been three new driver announcements since the Iowa race. Oliver Webb, a Brittish Formula 3 driver, will join David Ostella and drive for Jensen MotorSports, Peter Dempsey, formally of O2 Racing Technology, join Stefan Wilson at Andretti Autosport, and Bruno Andrade, a South American Formula 3 driver, joins Duarte Ferreira at Bryan Herta Autosport. Thanks to Junior Open Wheel Talent for breaking the Bruno story. We’ll have more on these new driver stories later in the week, so stay tuned!

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