Apr 15, 2012
LONG BEACH, Calif. -- Esteban Guerrieri has recorded podium finishes in all three Firestone Indy Lights races this season. This week, in the Grand Prix of Long Beach, he stood on the top step for the first time.
Guerrieri overtook Sunoco Pole Award winner Sebastian Saavedra in Turn 1 of Lap 1 on the 1.968-mile, 11-turn street circuit and went on to the victory by 1.5989 seconds. It was the fourth career victory (11th top-five finish in 17 races) for the 27-year-old Argentinian.
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Picking up two bonus points for leading the most laps, Guerrieri heads to the Freedom 100 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway two points behind Saavedra (129) in the championship standings. Tristan Vautier, the points leader entering the race, was credited with third place and has 128 points.
"It definitely feels good after last year when I started on pole and then couldn't manage a very good pace in the race," said Guerrieri, who first, second and third in the three races this season. "But we got experience from last year. We understood how the tires would work, and we just went for a low downforce setup to try to gain the position in the start from Sebastian."
Vautier joined the duo in Victory Circle because of a 30-second penalty assessed the No. 2 TMR-Tuvacol-Xtreme Coil Drilling car driven by Gustavo Yacaman for ignoring the instructions of Race Control. The car lost one of its mirrors with about 15 laps left in the 45-lap race, and the driver was called to pit lane to replace it (a rule). However, the team didn't have a replacement mirror and he continued.
Vautier was 0.8765 of a second behind Yacaman, who had advanced two positions relative to his starting spot, at the start/finish line. Yacaman was credited with 10th place.
That moved Victor Carbone, who started sixth and set the fastest lap of the race (1 minute, 14.6652 seconds on Lap 37) in the No. 3 Mav TV/Nevoni/Sam Schmidt Motorsports car, to fourth. Carlos Munoz recorded his initial top-five finish in the No. 26 Team Dialy-Ser car for Andretti Autosport.
Following the lone full-course caution for the No. 8 Brooks Associate Racing car of Alex Jones into the tires, Guerrieri got a good jump on Saavedra on the Lap 24 restart to maintain the point. Saavedra closed the gap to 0.6273 of a second four laps later and was 0.8275 of a second back with 10 laps remaining.
Guerrieri pushed the advantage to 1.3946 seconds with five laps remaining and was further challenged by Saavedra in the No. 27 Team AFS car.
"I didn’t have anything to make the pass," Saavedra said. "I was just pushing to the limits to induce his mistake. Right now, we are tight for the lead in points. It’s a great situation for us. We didn’t get first place, but we keep it where we are right now. We are looking very good for the start of the ovals."