Guerrieri hunting fora championship

It's not often that a rookie comes into a new series and has as much success as Esteban Guerrieri did last season. With three race wins, six poles and a runner-up finish in the championship, the Argentinian is back with eyes on an even better result in 2012.

Guerrieri has returned to the series with Sam Schmidt Motorsports, last year's championship team, and will drive last year's championship-winning car. He will drive the No. 11 ACTC/PISTAS ARGENTINAS entry at the season-opening St. Petersburg 100 on March 24.

Click it: St. Petersburg 100 entrant list

“I felt comfortable in every aspect with Sam Schmidt Motorsports,” Guerrieri said. “I felt comfortable with them as a group, which is the most important, and I feel respected. They try to do the best for you even in tough situations, and I work very good with my engineer. I know which way we’re going with the cars, and with the setups, and that was basically it.”

Before joining Firestone Indy Lights, in 2010 Guerrieri participated in the World Series by Renault and earned a third-place finish in the standings with six victories, nine podiums and three pole positions.

Last season, he won at Milwaukee, Edmonton and Trois Rivieres, and finished second in the chapionship standings to teammate Josef Newgarden, who moved to the IZOD IndyCar Series as a result of the Mazda Road to Indy scholarship program.

“My goal is to make it to the IZOD IndyCar Series in 2013, so I felt like driving again for Sam in Indy Lights is the best thing for me to do this year,” Guerrieri said. “Though I will be focused on winning the championship in 2012, it will be good for me to spend another year in the INDYCAR paddock and at their tracks before stepping into an Indy car.

“Sam’s team is a wonderful organization, and it provides me a professional team in which to learn and grow. I look forward to working with all the SSM guys again. I also have to thank Argentine Association of Turismo Carretera (ACTC) and Iron Box S.A., an Argentinian company, for supporting me this season through its brand – Pistas Argentinas.”

He’ll be joined by three teammates, including former F2000 champion Victor Carbone, winner of the season-ending Las Vegas 100. 2011 Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear title-winner Tristan Vautier joins the lineup in the No. 77 Mazda Road to Indy car, as well as Englishman Oliver Webb, who raced in a handful of Firestone Indy Lights races last season.

The quartet will take to the track March 23 for two practice sessions, qualify on race day morning and take to the track for the season-opener at 3:30 p.m. (ET) March 24. The race will be aired at 5 p.m. (ET) March 29 on NBC Sports Network.