FONTANA, Calif. (Oct. 28, 2000) - - Casey Mears was grateful and invigorated when his best track session of the weekend came during single car qualifying for the Dayton Indy Lights Championship finale set for Sunday, Oct. 29, at 9:30 a.m.
FONTANA, Calif. (Oct. 28, 2000) - - Casey Mears was grateful and invigorated when his best track session of the weekend came during single car qualifying for the Dayton Indy Lights Championship finale set for Sunday, Oct. 29, at 9:30 a.m. (PT). The 22-year old Indy Lights ace from Bakersfield, Calif., careened around California Speedway's 2.029-mile oval with a third best qualifying time of 0:39.612 = 184.399 mph. Brazilian Felipe Giaffone earned his third Indy Lights pole of the season behind a time of 0:39.478 = 185.025 mph. "It goes without saying I wanted to win the pole, but it wasn't in the cards today," said Mears. "Regardless, we qualified well and basically had our best track session of the weekend. Now I have to carry it over to the race." Of key significance to Dorricott Racing and Mears was series leader Scott Dixon, of New Zealand, failing to win the pole. Dixon was fast enough to secure the outside pole at 0:39.577 = 184.562 mph but lost a valuable championship bonus point by not scoring the fastest time. Mears trails Dixon by five points, 134-129. Qualifying played cruel tricks on most of the field but Bright and Bell were particularly stung. The culprit was fickle weather. Low temperatures and shifting winds made each lap a new exercise. Trackside wind gusts created a completely new speed inhibitor since wind was not a factor in either of the previous two practices. Gusting westerly breezes exceeded 15 mph when blowing down the front straight-away. Dayton Tire engineers reported a track temperature of 74 degrees at the start of qualifying with an ambient temperature of 65 degrees. Bell, who was third out in single-car qualifying, found track conditions hostile to his car's set-up. His best lap could only place the DirecPC Lola 16th on tomorrow's 18-car starting grid at 0:40.156 = 181.901 mph. "This was obviously a very disappointing qualification for me," said Bell. "The race looks even more like a 'foot to the peddle and hope you don't have to slow for a moment' type of affair. The other factor is the unknown of the race. Superspeedway races can frequently hold surprises that are completely unforeseen." Bright meanwhile faced an even worse problem. Qualifying began under partly cloudy skies, light winds, and a faint ray of sunshine. Bright was last to qualify but the weather had drastically changed during his 40-minute wait. Bright took the track under dark, ominous skies with strong winds and quickly falling track and ambient air temperatures. The result was an admirable 10th fastest at 0:39.890 = 183.114 mph, but this was much slower than his practice times.