Championship decided in fastest-ever Fontana race

By Ken Plotkin - Motorsport.com Fontana, Calif. (October 29, 2000) - Scott Dixon won today's Dayton Indy Lights 100 at California Speedway, beating Townsend Bell by .018 of a second and clinching the Dayton Indy Lights Championship for ...

By Ken Plotkin - Motorsport.com

Fontana, Calif. (October 29, 2000) - Scott Dixon won today's Dayton Indy Lights 100 at California Speedway, beating Townsend Bell by .018 of a second and clinching the Dayton Indy Lights Championship for 2000.

The race was a high-speed drafting duel that would stand up to the best of NASCAR. The entire field was separated by two seconds or less for most of the event, and at the finish the first fourteen cars were separated by 2.173 seconds.

Despite the wheel-to-wheel racing at close quarters, often three abreast, there was only one yellow flag incident all morning.

The race was timed at 33 minutes, 08.441 seconds, for an average speed of 183.672 mph, a new race record for both the Dayton Indy Lights Championship series and the California speedway.

"What a great feeling," said race and championship winner Dixon. "This is definitely the biggest championship I've won in my career. This was not the finish we wanted based on having to fight it out in the final event, but I finally had some luck after two bad races. I'm happy for myself, my sponsor Invensys Powerware and for PacWest. My team was incredible all year and it finally paid off in spades. I owe Tony (Renna) a lot for staying up behind me almost the whole race, and I just wish he could have finished second."

Finishing second was Townsend Bell, who started 16th. While his qualifying run was disappointing, he ran second quickest in the morning warm-up and was prepared for a run to the front.

"The strategy was to pick up a lot of positions and work myself into the top five. Then I wanted to lock into that position and wait till the end to sort it out. That's exactly what we did. Unfortunately, Scott and Tony Renna were the two waiting for me when I got to the front.

"It was a little dicey among the top four or five drivers on the back straightaway. Everybody was fighting for Scott's draft. You're not going to make any friends doing that and everybody realizes that going in. It's not fun for anybody because it's a game of chicken fighting for that draft bubble. I was able to sneak in and lock behind Scott for the last 10 laps or so. I knew I had to hold tight because if I broke rank, I probably wouldn't get a lot of help from Renna and Gaffione."

Dixon's teammate Tony Renna ran a solid race, with the goal of helping in the championship battle.

"We worked hard all day with our spotters to always know what our positions were. I knew what I needed to do to help (Scott Dixon) and really I was just a buffer in third place. We got a great start and held on to first and second for most of the race, then when Townsend (Bell) got ahead of me, I knew that I just needed to make sure Scott finished second in order to help PacWest win their first championship. I'm happy for my teammate and I'm happy that I was able to finish fifth in the championship."

Casey Mears, entering the race with the championship lead, finished fourth after an up-and-down day where he bounced between second and fifteenth place. When situations allowed, he hooked up with Dorricott Racing teammate Jason Bright for a two-car draft. Even then, the pair found themselves both slicing through the pack and getting hung out to dry. Despite losing the championship, Casey was satisfied with his race and looked to the future.

"We had a good race. Congratulations are in order for Townsend in running a great race, and Scott for winning the championship. He did a hell of a job all year. I'm warmed up and ready for the next one. I haven't had any time to reflect on my Indy Lights performance since the Champ car race is coming up and I have to literally shift gears and seats."

The only incident of the race came at the end of the final lap, when Luis Diaz clipped the rear of Felipe Gaffione's car coming out of Turn 4. Diaz spun and became airborne, while Gaffione continued to the checkered. Diaz landed on his left side, and then was hit by his teammate Mario Dominguez. Both cars slid down the front straight, separating when Diaz's car slid down the banking and onto the grass, where it flipped upright. He climbed out of the heavily damaged car, unharmed. Despite the wild ride, Diaz finished 15th, 5.443 seconds behind the winner. Dominguez also continued past the finish line (right side up, going straight ahead) just a shade behind, for sixteenth place. Both drivers were classified as running at the finish.

The final lap yellow was the second yellow flag of the day. The first lap of the race was run under yellow due to a bad start.

Scott Dixon led the most laps, leading but two laps out of 50. Pole sitter Felipe Gaffione led the other two, with his first being the initial yellow lap. On Lap 38, he put two wheels below the line on the trioval, squeezing past Dixon to lead one more. He was re-passed by Dixon on the following lap - in the same place, with Gaffione again two wheels under the line. Gaffione eventually finished seventh, just over a second behind Dixon.

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series INDYLIGHTS