Townsend Bell Finishes Indy Lights Career In Style By Winning The Final Round In Series History At Fontana
Damien Faulkner Finishes Third Place in the Indy Lights Championship
FONTANA, Calif. (Nov. 5, 2001) - - A more noble champion may be hard to define when drawing comparisons between Townsend Bell and the previous 15 champions of the Dayton Indy Lights Championship.
Bell won the final race in 16-year history of the Indy Lights Championship, Sunday, Nov. 4, at California Speedway. He closed an era of one of motorsports greatest major-league support series in a style and dignity befitting a worthy champion itself - the Dayton Indy Lights Championship.
Bell, of San Luis Obispo, Calif., made it look literally easy in cruising to his sixth victory of 2001 simply because it was for him. He started from the pole led every lap, and again was unchallenged. He completed the rain-delayed 44-lap (89.276 miles) race in 29:22.667 minutes at an average speed of 182.334 mph around the 2.029-mile oval. The only driver to nearly compete with Bell was race runner-up Dan Wheldon, of England. Despite Wheldon's efforts on the final lap, he never really had a chance albeit he finished 0.051-seconds behind Bell at the checkered flag.
"I figured we had a good shot at winning again," said a jubilant Bell. "We had an excellent car. My engineer, Gerald Tyler, again created a perfect set-up. He had it fast and dialed in from the get-go as evidenced in qualifying. We were the last to qualify and the track was warming but the car ran well anyway. This was a great way to finish my Indy Lights career. We won poles and races, led a lot of laps, and had fun doing so."
Bell had wrapped up the Dayton Indy Lights Championship one race ago at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. He started from the pole (186.823 mph) for his eighth time in the last nine Indy Lights races and controlled the entire race pace. Only Wheldon was capable of sneaking behind Bell's gearbox on the race start and stay the duration.
"I took Dan (Wheldon) for a guided tour of the high-line with a few laps to go," teased Bell. "It kept it interesting. Seriously, we both had great cars. When you're running first and second and nobody else is in sight behind Dan, it became a bit testy when he popped out and hit the air without any help from behind. It was tough to get a run around the outside. That would have required longer driving radius more distance to cover on an already speedy track."
It was his sixth victory in 2001 and eighth career Indy Lights race win over his 24-race Indy Lights career. Bell's other wins came at Mid-Ohio and St. Louis in 2000; and Long Beach, Milwaukee, Toronto, Mid-Ohio, and Laguna Seca this year. California Speedway also marked the fifth time in 2001 that he scored a 22-point race win sweep.
The race's only yellow flag was on its start when CART officials waved it off for an uneven alignment exiting turn four. The majority of the "racing" was in the remaining "pack" of cars behind Bell and Wheldon. The top-two eventually built more than a 17-second lead over all others.
"It's likely I'll end up in CART next year but we're still working on some things," Bell shared in a post race interview. "I sure hope I'm racing in that series. That has been my goal from the start dating back to when I began racing in the Barber Dodge Pro Series five years ago. It's neat to be knocking on the door of realizing that dream. I hope to have things finalized soon and begin the business of preparing for next year."
It was a disappointing race for Dorricott Racing's rookie Damien Faulkner, of Moville, Ireland. Faulkner started sixth and needed to finish ahead of Wheldon to secure Rookie of the Year honors. Faulkner, however, became entangled by the "pack" at the race start. He was forced to run a high line to avoid contact with slower cars, but in doing so was forced away from reasonable "drafting" partners. His seventh place race finish handed him a Championship Third Place with 141 points. His season included two victories at Portland and Texas Motor Speedway.
The race was originally scheduled for 50-laps, but was shortened six laps due to an early morning rain delay. There was an "upside" to the delay. It set the race schedules back such that "live" telecast time on ESPN became available for the Indy Lights race. It was a measure of respect that CART officials decided to provide a live telecast of the series final race on ESPN2.
Bonus awards to Dorricott Racing include a pair of Dayton Daytona racing tires for Bell being the top qualifier. Bell also claimed the Racing For Kids Driver Performance Award of $500. An additional $1,500 will be presented to the Loma Linda Children's Hospital, in Loma Linda, Calif., on behalf of Bell and Racing For Kids.
Jon Fogarty, of Portola Valley, Calif., finished the Indy Lights season in 11th place overall with 48 points. Substitute driver Geoff Boss, of Narragansett, R.I., finished 13th with 11 points and two races completed at Toronto and Mid-Ohio.
Bell led the most Indy Lights laps in 2001 with 385, and completed the most laps of the season with 597 out of a possible race 609. Bell completed every lap run on road courses with 251 as well as leading 144 road course laps. He also logged a total of 1,003.814 miles out a possible 1,019.478 race miles. Faulkner completed the third most laps of the season with 565 laps.
The United States captured the prestigious Nations Cup with 193 points behind the results of Bell and fellow U.S. Indy Lights drivers Jon Fogarty (Dorricott Racing), Cory Witherill, Geoff Boss (Dorricott Racing), and Larry Mason. The Nation's Cup recognizes the country whose drivers earn the most combined points in the Dayton Indy Lights Championship.
Bell is the 16th different Dayton Indy Lights champion since the series inception in 1986 and the first American to win the championship since current CART FedEx star Bryan Herta in 1993. Bell's victory at California Speedway moved him into a fourth-place tie with Herta in overall wins for the Dayton Indy Lights Championship with eight.
2001 was the 10th year of competition in the Dayton Indy Lights Championship for team-owner Bob Dorricott. California Speedway was his 16th victory 230 Indy Lights starts. It propelled Dorricott Racing into the registry of Indy Lights' most elite teams alongside legendary performers Tasman Motorsports and Player's/Forsythe Racing.
Detailed race results, team, and sponsor information are available on Dorricott Racing's official web site, www.dorricottracing.com.
An encore telecast of the final race in Dayton Indy Lights Championship history is scheduled on ESPN2 for Thursday, Nov. 8, at 4:30 a.m. ET (3:30 a.m. CT; 1:30 a.m. PT). All times are subject to change.