One of the key ingredients to winning a motorsports championship is team continuity, and Sam Schmidt Motorsports (SSM) will have that in 2012 when Victor Carbone returns as the driver of the No. 3 Nevoni/SSM Dallara in Firestone Indy Lights, which begins March 25 with the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg (Fla.).
The 19-year-old Carbone, from Sao Paulo, Brazil, returns for a second full season in Indy Lights after finishing sixth in the 2011 championship as a rookie. He will be joined on SSM’s Indy Lights team by Frenchman Tristan Vautier and Englishman Oliver Webb. SSM is the most successful organization in Indy Lights history with five championships and 46 race wins.
Carbone was responsible for one of SSM’s wins in 2011 after capturing the season-ending race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in dramatic fashion. Carbone started from the pole, but fell behind teammate and series champion Josef Newgarden early. After patiently following Newgarden lap after lap, Carbone passed his teammate in the last corner of the final lap to win the 100-mile event.
“I’m very pleased to have the opportunity to run with Sam Schmidt Motorsports one more year,” said Carbone. “I really had a steep learning curve last year, coming from F2000, so I will use everything I learned last year in 2012. I want to start the season where I left off, but I also know I still have much to learn. I will work very hard for it. I know how the team works, how the championship is, and how high the level of drivers is, so I’m really looking forward to next year.”
Carbone came to SSM’s Indy Lights team as the 2010 F2000 Championship Series title winner, where he drove for Alegra Motorsports. In 14 events in 2010, he won six races, six poles and finished on the podium eight times. He is a driver who has progressed quickly through the open-wheel ranks after starting his racing career in karting at age 8.
“As rewarding as it was to win the championship with Josef, it was an even greater sense of accomplishment for the team to see Victor’s improvement throughout the season,” Schmidt said. “He came into the series with very little big-car experience and the step up from F2000 into Indy Lights was a big one. But he listened and worked extremely hard all season. We were very pleased and proud to see him in victory lane in Vegas after getting the pole position. With a full season of experience under his belt, I expect to see him battling at the front of every race in 2012.”
SSM won the 2011 Indy Lights championship with Newgarden, who hails from Hendersonville, Tenn. Fellow SSM driver Esteban Guerrieri, from Argentina, finished second in the championship standings. SSM intends to run four cars in 2012 as it did in 2011, with the remaining driver lineup to be announced at a later date.