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March 28, 2010 News
Indy Lights: Vernay Wins Wild St. Pete Season-Opener

JK Vernay emerged from an weather shortened and incident filled Indy Lights season-opener with a win in his series debut (Photo: IMS Photo)
JK Vernay emerged from an weather shortened and incident filled Indy Lights season-opener with a win in his series debut
(Photo: IMS Photo)

French rookie JK Vernay captured the win in his Firestone Indy Lights debut on Sunday (March 28) on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla. In a race that was shortened due to weather concerns and featured multiple incidents, the Sam Schmidt Motorsports driver led fellow series rookie Jan Heylen in a Team E Racing entry and Bryan Herta Autosport’s Stefan Wilson to the checkered flag in Round One.

Despite overcast skies and threat of rain, the Indy Lights season-opener got underway with all the cars on slicks. Unfortunately for polesitter James Hinchcliffe, the highlight of his race was getting the green flag, as he was immediately punted in turn one by the Sam Schmidt Motorsports car driven by Philip Major, who was looking to make a big move on the inside - having started ninth - but braked too late to make the sharp right-hand turn, impacting Hinchcliffe, ending his fellow Canadian's race.

Sebastian Saavedra emerged as the leader, but only retained the top spot until lap five, when he spun and continued in turn four. Vernay, able to avoid the mid-track mess took the lead, and held until the red flags waved one lap later for crews to change to rain tires.

When the racing action re-started, a full-course caution on lap 26 for Saavedra's Bryan Herta Autosport car contacting a tire barrier provided the lone challenge for Vernay to overcome. While Heylen - a two-time podium finisher in the Champ Car World Series - challenged the French rookie, he was unable to find a way past on the subsequent restart with time running out.

While Vernay ran unchallenged to the checkered flag, the order among the final two podium positions was not decided until the stripe. Heylen in the end took home the runner-up spot in his series debut, while Wilson, having advanced an impressive 11 positions, captured his inaugural podium finish. AFS Racing/Andretti Autosport's Charlie Kimball finished fourth in his first start with the two-time defending series champion, while Gustavo Yacaman gave series newcomers Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing a top-five result in its first series start via a fifth place finish.

"I am really happy today," said Vernay. "It was a very good weekend since the start of practice. I didn't know this track, so I had to learn a lot. It helped with the work I did with my team. We had a great setup on the car. Practice after practice, I was pushing more and more, and we were there, so it was good. It was hard not to have the pole, but I was very careful on the first lap. I didn't want to crash at the start of the race. It was great to win in my first weekend in Indy Lights."

"I hope that there will be more entrants after this race," commented Heylen, who currently was only scheduled to drive for Team E racing in St. Petersburg. "I hope we got people motivated. The conditions were difficult, especially in turn one. I think we made a bad setup on the car. It was too bad I couldn't give my good friend Stefan a run for his money during the race. It was nice being back in the car. I have not been racing for almost three years. So it's good to be back, and I really hope that I can race in some more this year. I very much enjoyed it."

"I want to thank all my crew guys for working hard late last night," added Wilson. "I started the weekend off pretty happy with my car. I was position one in practice and position three in the race. I thought it was going to be a good weekend, but it was a bit of a roller coaster in qualifying. We had a small mistake and it cost me a great amount, and I had to start from the back of the field in the race. That quickly changed when the rain started to come down. People started going off the road as it was pretty slick out there. The white lines on the runway were treacherous, and a lot of people started making mistakes in front of me. I was in the P5 position, and after we went green after the break, I started moving up."

The Firestone Indy Lights season resumes on April 11, with Round Two at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama.

The top-three will be posted following every session on the EFCN Facebook page as well as via twitter at https://twitter.com/EFCNInsider

Indy Lights
Round #1 – Race Results
March 28, 2010
Streets of St. Petersburg – St. Petersburg, Florida

Pos.DriverTeamDiff.Fast Time
1.JK VernaySam Schmidt Motorsports-1:19.6098
2.Jan HeylenTeam E Racing11.23381:19.8169
3.Stefan WilsonBryan Herta Autosport11.57851:20.4354
4.Charlie KimballAFS Racing/Andretti Autosport20.40411:22.8722
5.Gustavo YacamanCape Motorsports/Wayne Taylor Racing21.80131:20.8780
6.Martin PlowmanAFS Racing/Andretti Autosport23.09061:20.8429
7.James WinslowSam Schmidt MotorSports24.67361:21.0278
8.Jonathan SummertonWalker Racing46.06261:19.9565
9.Rodrigo BarbosaPDM Racing1 Lap1:20.5998
10.Junior StrousHVM Racing1 Lap1:20.3075
11.Carmen JordaAndersen Racing2 Laps1:28.0352
12.Sebastian SaavedraBryan Herta Autosport10 Laps1:19.0338
13.Pippa MannSam Schmidt Motorsports29 Laps1:29.3054
14.Philip MajorSam Schmidt Motorsports34 Laps1:54.5644
15.James HinchcliffeTeam Moore Racing35 LapsNo-time
16.Adrian Campos Jr.Team Moore Racing35 LapsNo-time

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