When Jonathan Summerton signed with RLR/Andersen Racing, it was with a view to getting his eye in during the Firestone Indy Lights double-header at St Petersburg.
However, after posting second and fourth-place finishes on the tricky street circuit, the combination hopes to continue that level of success for the rest of the season.
"It was awesome, tons of fun," said the 20-year old, "We went from 16th to fourth after finishing second on Saturday, and I don't think you could have asked for much more. My goal [on Sunday] was a top five, and we did it. We had a car that I know could have won the race, so it's just a shame we couldn't get clear air to run the lap times [in Saturday qualifying] because I know we had the fastest car out there for sure.”
Summerton had never competed on the St Petersburg street course before, despite only living an hour away, but he gave the home state fans something to cheer about when he finished second in his series debut.
"It was just great following Junior [Strous] through the field," he admitted, "He did a great job, but we were able to keep up with him. We had a car that was very good, and I'm really happy with everything that went on. It was just a consistent car throughout the race, and I was able to keep pressure on Junior, but he didn't make any mistakes."
When many of his rivals took the inside groove into turn one at the start of the second race, Summerton went to the outside and his quick thinking paid off handsomely, as he vaulted from 16th to ninth on the first lap before Duncan Tappy brought out the first full-course yellow on lap one when he rammed into a tyre barrier at turn four.
He stayed in ninth for the next 22 laps, trapped behind Jay Howard, but moved up two more spots on lap 23 when the fifth-placed James Davison and sixth Richard Philippe both encountered problems. When the second-place car of JR Hildebrand and fourth-placed Ana Beatriz tangled in on lap 26, Howard fell from sixth to eighth, and suddenly Summerton was up to fourth.
From there, he chased down Strous, Sebastian Saavedra and James Hinchcliffe but, despite another yellow four laps from home when two of the Guthrie Meyer cars crashed into each other, he was still 0.7453secs behind the final podium spot when the chequered flag waved.
"At the start, everyone went to the inside, so I went to the outside," he recalled, "A gap opened up at the apex of turn one, and I just went flying in. I saw an opening and
I went for it. After that, the yellows helped because the restarts gave me opportunities to pass, and I ended up behind Jay Howard. The car was much better than it was yesterday, and the track conditions were much better today too. I'm very excited about how everything went."
Summerton currently lies second in the point standings, 28 behind Strous, as the series heads to the streets of Long Beach - where he finished fourth in Atlantics last year - in two weekends' time.