Pack chasing Vernay at Edmonton

By Arni Sribhen

EDMONTON, Alberta – J.K. Vernay knows he’s a marked man by the other 12 Firestone Indy Lights drivers entered in this weekend’s Edmonton 100.

But his goal remains the same: Protect his championship lead and get up to speed quickly.

“Every track has been new to me,” said the French rookie, who has won four of the five previous Firestone Indy Lights races on road/street courses. “But I have been successful on every new track, so I hope I can still finish well and protect my lead in the championship.”

Chasing Vernay and hoping to keep the Sam Schmidt Motorsports driver for strengthening his hold of point lead is the plan for three drivers who finished in the top-five in the series’ first visit to the 1.98-mile Edmonton City Centre Airport circuit. Bryan Herta Autosport’s Sebastian Saavedra finished third a year ago while driving for AFS Racing Andretti Autosport.

“Edmonton is a very physical track, very tough, and I’m hoping that the experience I have from last year will help me again this time with Bryan Herta Autosport,” Saavedra said. “It’s a track that I like very much and I’m ready to start fighting back for the championship again.”

James Hinchcliffe and Charlie Kimball – who currently stand second and third in the championship respectively – also recorded top-five finishes at Edmonton last year. Hinchcliffe hopes to atone for his 10th-place performance in his race at Toronto last weekend.

“I enjoy Edmonton and I’ve done well in the past here,” Hinchcliffe said. “Certainly a good run here will help ease the sting of Toronto and hopefully I can fly the Canadian flag on the podium.”

While some drivers – including Walker Racing’s Dan Clarke – have experience on the track, others will only have the first practice session to learn the track and get up to speed quickly.

“I’ve never been to Edmonton so it’s going to be a big learning curve for me,” Stefan Wilson said. “I’ve heard it’s a difficult track, really fast and really bumpy, but I don’t fully know what to expect until I try it myself. It’s going to be important to run as much as possible, and finish the race to get some good points because right now I need to try and close the gap to the top three. We gained some good ground last Sunday (in Toronto)and I want to continue to work on that gap and try and improve our position in the championship.”


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