Damien Faulkner Looks To Fontana To Win Indy Lights Rookie Of The Year
Honors And Series Runner-Up!
Jon Fogarty is headed for a strong finish!
FONTANA, Calif. (Nov. 1, 2001) - - The championship has been decided and Townsend Bell is the 2001 Dayton Indy Lights champion. However, the overall final results for the season are yet to be determined and much still remains on the proverbial line for Dorricott Racing and drivers Damien Faulkner and Jon Fogarty. This year's Indy Lights season closer marks the fifth and final appearance of the Dayton Indy Lights Championship on the 2.029-mile oval in Fontana, Calif. The green flag is scheduled to drop Sunday, Nov. 4, at 10:15 a.m. (PT) for the final 50 laps (101.45 miles) in Indy Lights history. The series will end its 16-year reign as CART's primary support series at the California Speedway. Faulkner, of Moville, Ireland, has been a frequent visitor to the podium throughout 2001 and that has included two victories. The preface for his success surfaced in his Indy Lights debut at Monterrey, Mexico, where he finished a deceivingly impressive seventh place. Faulkner excelled at Toronto and Mid-Ohio where he started fourth and third, respectively, and finished third place in each race. He also started third and finished third in round 10 at Road Atlanta. His six podium finishes include wins at Texas and Portland. His latest result from Laguna Seca was fourth place after starting sixth. Faulkner's first career oval track win in April at Texas Motor Speedway was eye opening because he had never raced on an oval let alone a superspeedway. His Portland triumph started from third on the grid. After leading 22 of 38 laps, Faulkner crossed the finish line an unchallenged 16.134-seconds ahead of runner-up Rudy Junco, of Mexico. Faulkner's situation is simple. He is in second place for the championship with a two-point advantage over Englishman Dan Wheldon, 135-133. Wheldon is also a rookie so a finish ahead of Wheldon would virtually insure second place and Rookie of the Year for Faulkner absent Wheldon earning bonus points for winning the pole and/or leading the most laps of the race. With reported interest from a couple of Formula One teams for Faulkner's services as a possible test driver, and preliminary queries surfacing from a couple of CART FedEx Champ Car teams, a series runner-up position would be invaluable for Faulkner. Bell, of San Luis Obispo, Calif., secured the series crown following his flag-to-flag victory at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in round 11 on Oct. 14. Bell became the 16th different Dayton Indy Lights Championship titleist since the series inception in 1986 and the first American to win the championship since Bryan Herta in 1993. Bell has been the dominant Indy Lights driver this year. He has been the benchmark of excellence in four races by winning the pole, leading the most laps, and winning the race among his series leading five victories. Besides flag-to-flag triumphs at Milwaukee, Toronto, Mid-Ohio, and Laguna Seca, Bell also won at Long Beach in April. Bell has posted "fastest race lap" on five occasions this season. He finished second place at Road Atlanta. Aside from his Indy Lights duties, Bell has competed in two FedEx Champ car events for Patrick Racing in Germany and England. Driving the Visteon Toyota Reynard, Bell finished both races and scored his first CART championship point with a 12th place finish in his second start at England. The return of Portola Valley, Calif.'s, Jon Fogarty at Road Atlanta raised the unanswerable question of, "What if Jon had raced the entire season?" The 26-year-old driver of the No. 32 Thomas Fogarty Winery & Vineyards Lola announced at Mid-Ohio during round eight that he did not foresee completing the 2001 race season due to a herniated disk in his cervical vertebrae. In fact, he had missed the three preceding consecutive races at Portland, Kansas, and Toronto, and subsequently did not race at Mid-Ohio and St. Louis. Fogarty quickly showed he was "back" at Road Atlanta where he qualified on the outside pole and finished in fifth place. He then proceeded to win a second consecutive outside pole at Laguna Seca and finish that race in second place. Fogarty is currently 11th in the season standings with 48 points. His best case scenario at California Speedway would include a win that could propel him to ninth place in the final driver standings Fogarty was impressive in his Indy Lights debut at Monterrey, Mexico, when he finished in third place finish. However, his next three races were frustrating. Fogarty suffered a race-ending accident on the opening lap at Long Beach when Faulkner was rear ended by Kristian Kolby, of Denmark, and pushed into Fogarty. Fogarty's disappointment continued at Texas Motor Speedway when he was pushed against the outside wall late in the race by Wheldon while running in second place. Milwaukee's race started optimistically. Fogarty started on the outside pole and was completing the third pace lap when Derek Higgins, of Ireland, inadvertently accelerated into the rear of Fogarty's Lola. Both cars were seeking to warm their tires with Fogarty swerving left and right. Fogarty was able to continue to pit lane for repairs but he missed the first 20 laps of the race. ESPN2 will provide a delayed telecast of the California Speedway Indy Lights race Sunday, Nov. 5, from 1:30 a.m. to 2:30 a.m. ET (Sunday, Nov. 4, from 10:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. PT). All times are subject to change.