IndyLights – Goncalvez and Yacaman On The Podium at Daytona

Last weekend, Firestone Indy Lights journeyman Gustavo Yacaman and rookie Jorge Goncalvez teamed up with stock car veteran Michael McDowell and British Formula Three Champion Felipe Nasr in the #6 Michael Shank Racing Ford-Riley Daytona Prototype. McDowell qualified the car in 8th, but the squad quickly advanced and kept the car in the top-5 for much of the 24-hour race. One would expect with racers unaccustomed to multi-class endurance racing, that there would have been a mistake or three that would jeopardize the teams success. As it turned out, the three junior formula drivers and the stock car veteran were clicking off laps with the pace and consistency of the series regulars.

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“Short racing in Indy Lights, and right here you have a little bit of pressure because you have the whole team pushing you, so you have to be fast and give the car to the other guys and don’t crash. So I think we all did a really good job. Nobody crashed the cars and then it go to the guys. That’s why we are on the podium, I think.” — Jorge Goncalvez

What’s most impressive to me is that the #6 car fell two laps down during the course of the night, but the squad battled back and were back on the lead lap in the closing hours. As the race was winding down, the squad found themselves back on the lead lap and in P4. When gearbox problems struck the #01 Ganassi car, piloted by Scott Dixon at the time of the failure, McDowell was able to advance the #6 into a podium position where it finished still on the lead lap.

“It’s a long race and a lot of complicated things happened. They had a lot of problems. We had a flawless race. Michael Shank did an amazing job preparing, getting ready both of the cars. We had no mechanical failures. We had no driver mistakes. Ozz Negri was, as well. He guided me through the team and everything. I really want to thank them, too, because thanks to them, I think we had the result that we had today, especially Ozz. Obviously we had more contact and more time together, explain how the car works, explaining situations.

You know, I had probably 1,000 questions to ask Mike before the race started, and he answered them all in one email. It was a seven-page email, but he answered them all. Everything was really clear. I think we were all — I wasn’t nervous at the beginning of the race. I knew what I had to do. I knew in case of emergency what we needed to do. If I had a flat tire, I knew exactly what we needed to do if I had a flat tire.I think it’s preparation and being cool-headed, and also, you know, a little bit of luck. At the end of the day, it’s 24 hours, and a lot of things can happen, and you need to have some luck.” — Gustavo Yacaman

Its so fantastic to see junior formula drivers given a chance to demonstrate their skills in one of the cornerstone races in American motorsports. Jorge suffered a broken femur as a result of a road accident immediately prior to the 2011 season, and that greatly affected his results early on, and a wicked crash at Indianapolis during the Firestone Freedom 100 really hurt his confidence. Later in the season he really began to show serious pace and results.

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Gustavo had a breakout year in Firestone Indy Lights in 2011, racing for Team Moore Racing. He scored his first win in the series at Baltimore, and found his way to the podium on three other occasions, Iowa, Toronto, and Trois-Rivières. He’s been in Indy Lights long enough. Perhaps he hasn’t won the championship, but he’s demonstrated that he knows how to race and be competitive. Now that he’s also a podium finisher in one of the biggest sports car races of the season, the confidence, if it wasn’t there before, should be fully manifested now!

For the rest of 2012, Jorge Goncalvez rejoins his 2011 team at Belardi Auto Racing for another full season driving in Firestone Indy Lights. Gustavo Yacaman who has been in Firestone Indy Lights for the past three years, most recently with Team Moore Racing, is seeking to move up into the IZOD IndyCar Series in 2012 as well as continuing his training and competition as a triathlete.

You can follow Jorge on twitter at @JGoncalvez and Gustavo at @GustavoYacaman.

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