Dayton Indy Lights Championship News 2000-07-24

DETROIT (July 13, 2000) - Indy Regency Racing, a three-time Dayton Indy Lights Championship race winning team, will return to the series for the first time since 1998 next week in The Detroit News 100 at Michigan Speedway. Team owner Sal...

DETROIT (July 13, 2000) - Indy Regency Racing, a three-time Dayton Indy Lights Championship race winning team, will return to the series for the first time since 1998 next week in The Detroit News 100 at Michigan Speedway. Team owner Sal Incandela has signed driver Cory Witherill for the year's remaining oval track races after the third-year veteran and Genoa Racing amicably parted ways earlier this month.

A veteran team in both Indy Lights and Champ Car competition, Indy Regency scored its three CART wins with Japanese drivers Hideki Noda (Portland 1997) and Shigeaki Hattori (Homestead and Gateway 1998). Noda's win was the first for a Japanese driver in CART history and he joins Hattori as the only drivers from the Land of the Rising Sun to win in CART, giving Indy Regency a unique place in motorsports history.

After sitting out the 1999 Indy Lights season, Indy Regency's most recent race was this past May's Indianapolis 500 where Johnny Unser finished after an early race battery problem. Next Saturday's race at Michigan will be the first Indy Lights run for Indy Regency since the Fontana finale in 1998 where Hattori finished ninth after improving 10 positions.

"We are looking forward to running Cory in the Dayton Indy Lights Championship," Incandela said. "I truly believe Cory is a very competitive oval track racer and we know we will give him a good race car. It is a matter of changing his habits and introducing some good, solid driver coaching. We are out to win races and believe Cory can do that with us."

In 20 career starts with Genoa, Witherill's best results have come on oval tracks. He finished fourth at California Speedway the last two years and was the talk of the race there in 1998 when he charged from 14th on the grid to lead in his oval debut. His best career qualifying effort was fifth at Milwaukee last year.

Steve Lathrop, who has worked with PacWest Lights for the first four races of the year and in 1999, will return to Indy Regency for the Witherill effort. Scott Fehr, who has previous experience with Forsythe Racing, serves as the team's chief mechanic. The team tests for the first time Monday in Memphis, Tenn.

Indy Regency first entered Indy Lights competition in 1991 with American David Kudrave who stayed with the team for two seasons, earning a best finish of fifth at New Hampshire in 1992. The team made a surprise jump to CART Champ Car competition the following year and ran its first season with Frenchman Olivier Grouillard. Arie Luyendyk joined Indy Regency for the 1994 season and gave the team what was then its best result when he finished second in the Marlboro 500 at Michigan Speedway.

Indy Regency returned to Indy Lights with Noda in 1996 and they scored their historic victory at Portland the next season after out dueling current Champ Car star Helio Castroneves in the rain. Hattori replaced Noda on the team the following year and won his very first race from the outside pole at Homestead. He became the first Japanese driver to lead a CART championship and found victory lane again four races later with another strong circle-track performance at Gateway.

GENOA'S NEXT MOVE

With the two-year relationship with Witherill now over, Genoa Racing is looking at the immediate future.

"We will not be at Michigan and it is likely we will skip Chicago too but we remain committed to the Dayton Indy Lights Championship," said Team Manager Ed Nelson. "We have already had several encouraging conversations with a few drivers and expect to be back in action this year very soon."

Genoa has participated off and on in Indy Lights for more than 10 years and has won races with Tommy Byrne (Detroit 1990), Vinicio Salmi (Vancouver 1990) David DeSilva (Nazareth 1996) and Mark Hotchkis (Milwaukee 1996). Hotchkis was also a contender in the inaugural Indy Lights race at Michigan Speedway in 1996 - a race many consider the best Indy Lights race ever run - and finished second to winner David Empringham.

ROOKIES ROLL

The 2000 rookie class in the Dayton Indy Lights Championship is the deepest talent pool the series has seen since 1996's bumper crop of first-year drivers that included Castroneves, Tony Kanaan, Gualter Salles and that year's champion Empringham. The podium at Portland one race ago - with rookies Jason Bright (Dorricott Racing Lola), Townsend Bell (DirecPC Lola) and Jeff Simmons (KOOL Lola) - marked the first times since Long Beach in 1996 that three first-year pilots swept the podium. In that race, Empringham led Kanaan and Salles across the finish line, and the trio went on to finish in the same order in the 1996 championship.

Portland qualifying was further evidence that this year's rookies are performing like veterans. Bell won his first Dayton Indy Lights pole in just his fourth career start and was joined on the front row by his teammate and fellow rookie Bright. The all-rookie front row was the first in Indy Lights since Jorge Goeters and Philipp Peter led the field to the green flag at Gateway in 1998.

SUPERSPEEDWAY MARIO

Mario Dominguez (Herdez/Pegaso/Quaker State Lola) has moved off to a consistent and competitive start in the 2000 Dayton Indy Lights Championship season and don't look for the trend to stop at The Detroit News 100. The 25-year-old Mexican talent was the only driver to finish in the top five in both superspeedway races last season, finishing fourth at Michigan and fifth at Fontana. Dominguez also won the 1999 season-opening Daytona Tire Challenge from the pole.

This season Dominguez joins championship points leader Scott Dixon (Invensys/Powerware/PacWest Lights Lola) as the only drivers in the series to complete each of the 208 race laps (285.830 miles) run in the year's first four races. His lowest finish was 10th in the season-opening race at Long Beach, and he has since finished third (Milwaukee), fifth (Detroit) and sixth (Portland). Dominguez heads to Michigan fifth in the championship with 35 points, 21 points behind Dixon.

-CART-

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About this article
Series Indy Lights
Drivers Gualter Salles , Shigeaki Hattori , Arie Luyendyk , Cory Witherill , Helio Castroneves , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Townsend Bell , Mario Dominguez , David Empringham , Hideki Noda , Jason Bright , Jeff Simmons , Johnny Unser , Olivier Grouillard , Jorge Goeters , Philipp Peter , Tommy Byrne , Mark Hotchkis