Championship news, notes 2000-08-25

DETROIT (Aug. 25, 2000) - Dayton Indy Lights Championship points leader Scott Dixon (Invensys/Powerware/PacWest Lights Lola) took another step toward a full-time FedEx Championship Series ride Thursday when he joined CART Champ Car regulars for...

DETROIT (Aug. 25, 2000) - Dayton Indy Lights Championship points leader Scott Dixon (Invensys/Powerware/PacWest Lights Lola) took another step toward a full-time FedEx Championship Series ride Thursday when he joined CART Champ Car regulars for the first on-track session of a two-day open test at Laguna Seca Raceway.

Dixon, who has won three of the year's first seven Dayton Indy Lights races, has tested PacWest Champ Cars before, but the Laguna Seca run is the first time he has taken to the track with a full field of FedEx Championship drivers.

The 20-year-old New Zealander drove a PacWest Reynard Mercedes-Benz while teammate and veteran driver Mauricio Gugelmin lapped in his usual Nextel-sponsored race car. Gugelmin clocked in a solid fourth fastest of the 23 drivers posting times while Dixon did well to record the 17th fastest lap of the day.

Dixon did a total of 67 laps Thursday and set a fastest lap of 1:10.422 seconds (114.407 mph) around the 2.238-mile road course. Gugelmin's quick time was 1:09.315 seconds (116.235 mph) and he will turn his race car over to teammate Mark Blundell for today's final practice.

"Basically it was a pretty good day as I tried to get myself fitted into the car," said Dixon, who finished second in the Indy Lights race at Laguna Seca last year in his first appearance at the track. "I had a goal of doing as many constructive laps as possible and getting up to a reasonable speed without falling off, and we managed to achieve that. My quickest time was OK, but I messed up my new tire run to some degree. I will have three new sets of tires to run (today) so we will see how we go. Obviously the car is a lot different to the Lights car and I really enjoyed driving it. It was the first time I had run on a track with so much Champ Car traffic, but it wasn't a problem because everyone was trying to stay out of everyone else's way. I think we can certainly pick up some time (Friday), but I won't be doing anything stupid."

Gugelmin, who completed 59 laps in a day which was delayed a couple of hours due to fog, had one keen observation about his young teammate's solid first day with the CART cadre.

"Scott (Dixon) did a good job and kept his car on the black stuff when a couple of regular drivers could not," Gugelmin said.

Dixon leads currently leads the Dayton Indy Lights Championship with 93 points, 13 ahead of nearest challenger Townsend Bell (DirecPC Lola). Round Eight of the series will be run at the Molson Indy Vancouver, Sunday, Sept. 3.

Dixon's rookie evaluation, a requirement of all newcomers for participation in any CART-sanctioned activity, was conducted by Memo Gidley at Putnam Park near Indianapolis two weeks ago.

THREE AND COUNTING

Paul Tracy, the 1990 Indy Lights champion, confirmed his status as the leading series graduate in CART Champ Car competition last Sunday with a hang-tough victory in the Motorola 220 at Road America.

Tracy's win was the third straight in the FedEx Championship Series for alumni of CART's top-level development series and places series grads in a position to make a run at the record five straight victories Tracy and the late Greg Moore racked up in 1997. Cristiano da Matta, the 1998 Indy Lights champ, and Helio Castroneves started the current streak with their respective victories at Chicago and Mid-Ohio.

Tracy's 17th career wins leads all alumni in Champ Car competition and his Road America win was the 37th for an Indy Lights grad in CART's big show. Indy Lights grads have now won six of the year's first 14 FedEx Championship Series races run to date. Tracy also scored earlier this year at Long Beach, Adrian Fernandez, who finished second to Tracy on Sunday, won in Rio while Castroneves picked up the first of his two victories at Detroit in June.

Tracy started the record 1997 streak with consecutive wins at Nazareth, Rio and Gateway while Moore, the 1995 Indy Lights champ, completed the record with his first Champ Car wins at Milwaukee and Detroit.

The complete list of Indy Lights grads who have won in CART includes Tracy (17 wins), Fernandez (six wins), Moore (five wins) Andre Ribeiro (three wins), Bryan Herta (two wins), Castroneves (two wins) and da Matta and Tony Kanaan (one win apiece).

In other graduate news from Road America, reigning Dayton Indy Lights champ Oriol Servia finished 10th and scored championship points for the sixth time in seven road/street course starts this season. No other FedEx Championship Series driver has scored in as many road or street course events this season.

PACWEST PROMO

Prior to taking to the track for Round Eight of the Dayton Indy Lights Championship in Vancouver, Dixon's teammate Tony Renna (Motorola/PacWest Lights Lola) and the PacWest Lights team will head to nearby Burnaby, B.C. next Wednesday, Aug. 30, for a promotional visit at Telus Cellular.

Renna, team manager Paul "Ziggy" Harcus and other members of the PacWest Lights team will answer questions and visit with a group of about 500 Telus employees and dealers. Both of the team's Indy Lights Lola T97/20s will be on display and Renna will sign autographs during the session. The event, which is open to the media, will be held from 11:30 a.m. until 2 p.m. at Telus headquarters located at 4519 Canada Way in Burnaby.

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About this article
Series Indy Lights
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Memo Gidley , Adrian Fernandez , Paul Tracy , Scott Dixon , Mauricio Gugelmin , Oriol Servia , Bryan Herta , Mark Blundell , Townsend Bell , Tony Renna , Andre Ribeiro , Greg Moore , Cristiano da Matta