Finishes 051 Second Behind Champion In Last Race Of Season
Bosch Platinum+4 Speedway Challenge Title For 23-Year Old
Dan Wheldon has won the title of 2001 CART Dayton Indy Lights Rookie of the Year after finishing a strong second in the last-ever Indy Lights race which was held yesterday on the California Speedway at Fontana.
The 23-year old Englishman qualified in fifth place, but made a dramatic start to move up three positions by the first turn of the season finale -- tucking the nose of his Gemstar Communications PacWest Racing Lola-Buick under the gearbox of poleman and Championship winner Townsend Bell.
Running in tight formation, Bell and Wheldon moved away from the rest of the field and were never challenged. Dan Wheldon made some attempts to pass Bell in the closing laps, but the series Champion held the place and won by .051 of a second at the chequered flag. Wheldon's impressive second place in the race boosted his points total to 149, moving him up to second place overall in the 2001 CART Dayton Indy Lights Championship results and giving him the title of Rookie of the Year for a third consecutive time.
Wheldon first moved transatlantic from his home in England at the beginning of 1999. That year he won the US F2000 Championship and the Rookie of the Year title. Last year he came second in the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship and won the Rookie title, so yesterday's performance has assured Wheldon of a rare hat-trick of Rookie of the Year awards. Dan Wheldon has also won Bosch Platinum+4 Speedway Challenge for winning the most points in this year's oval races.
After yesterday's thrilling race, a jubilant Dan Wheldon said: "The important thing for this race was for us to win Rookie of the Year. We did have a plan to make a late move on Bell, but it didn't work. I'm personally pleased with the Rookie title, but I'm also pleased for PacWest. It's also good to finish second in the overall Championship and I want to thank my team and crew for all their hard work this season. After the start, my plan was to get under the gearbox of Bell and stick with him to the end. He's a good driver to work with, so I knew we could work together to pull away from the others."