Esteban Guerrieri's car
Esteban Guerrieri's car. Photo by Lynne Huntting

The Left Coast Weatherman must be a race fan. The weather continues to be gorgeous at the 37th annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Saturday the temperatures rose quickly, so that by the time the Firestone Indy Lights were on track for mid-morning practice, it was 82 degrees F.

Fourteen of the 17 drivers are Rookies. However, in the words of Indy Lights officials as well as others, the talent pool runs deeper than in a long time. There are several really hungry young lions looking to move up the IndyCar Ladder to Success, and maybe beyond.

That’s not to say there haven’t been some on-track problems. While no red flags, there were seven yellow flag situations for single-car crashes into tire and concrete walls.No drivers were injured.

ESTEBAN GUERRIERI of Argentina has been the fastest driver in all three sessions, including qualifying. Guerrieri, one of three Sam Schmidt Motorsports driver, broke the driveshaft on his car during the first lap Friday. So he jumped into the empty car of his teammate, CONOR DALY and was fastest without any fitting changes to the car. This allowed Rookie Guerrieri to learn the track and also shake down Daly’s car.

Meanwhile, Daly was still making his way back to California from Barcelona where he was testing GP3. Flight delays between Spain, Paris and US made him miss Friday’s one and only Lights session. Daly ordinarily would have had to skip the entire LBGP weekend, but he would have none of that. “Long Beach is such a mega event that even if the gamble did not pay off, and I had to miss the first session, I still wanted to be part of the weekend.” Daly is his own logistician, making all travel arrangements and flight plans, all on commercial aircraft – no private charters.

Daly spent time with his crew and engineer, CHRIS FINCH, Friday afternoon, and quickly got up to speed. He was seventh in Saturday morning practice, and overall for the sessions. He ran as high as second in qualifying before finishing fourth behind two of his teammates.

Guerrieri’s pole lap in No.7 was 1:13.6957/96.126 mph, a new qualifying track record. It was his second pole of the season, the first being at St. Petersburg, and he’s been on the front row for all three races this year.

Guerrieri said “Our car was very quick this weekend. I like this track and I feel comfortable on it.The team put on the second set of Firestone tires, and we made some slight changes to the car. I was able to go back out and in the heat of the moment get my fastest lap and claim the pole.”

Second was PETER DEMPSEY/No.36 02 Racing Technology; followed by JOSEF NEWGARDEN/No.11; Daly/No.77; and ANDERS KROHN/No.9 Belardi Auto Racing. All are Rookies.

The top/only non-Rookies were STEFAN WILSON/No.5 Andretti Autosport, and GUSTAVO YACAMAN/No.2 Team Moore Racing, gridding sixth and seventh, respectively.

James Winslow
James Winslow. Photo by Lynne Huntting
Rounding out the top ten are VICTOR GARCIA/No.22Team Moore racing; JUAN PABLO GARCIA/No.12 Jensen MotorSport; and JAMES WINSLOW/No.26 Andretti Autosport.

Four of the drivers are from the United States, two from Canada and one from Mexico City, making seven for North America. England has two drivers. Other countries represented with one driver each are: Angola; Argentina; Brazil; Colombia; Ireland; Norway; Spain; and Venezuela. All seventeen are males.

One recent female Lights alumni is now running IndyCars – ANA BEATRIZ of Brazil. She had two poles and two victories in her two years of Lights. She moved up to selected IndyCar races last year and is running the full IndyCar season this year.

Second-year IndyCar racer, SIMONA De SILVESTRO of Switzerland came from the now defunct Atlantic Series, which was a rival series to the Lights Series.

Sunday’s Firestone Indy Lights Series hour-long race will start at 11:05 local time.