FONTANA, Calif. (Oct. 29, 2000) - Scott Dixon (Invensys/Powerware/PacWest Lights Lola) won the Dayton Indy Lights Championship and the season-ending race at California Speedway Sunday where he edged title rival Townsend Bell (DirecPC Lola) by .016 of a second. Dixon's teammate Tony Renna (Motorola/PacWest Lights Lola) finished third.
Felipe Giaffone (Hollywood Lola) won the pole in Saturdays' single-car qualifying session with a lap at an average speed of 185.025 mph (39.478 seconds), but Dixon got the jump for the lead from the outside front-row starting position when the race went green on lap two after one waved off start. Renna, from fourth on the grid, quickly tucked in behind Dixon and the PacWest teammates ran nose-to-tail up front for the next 36 laps.
Giaffone and Dixon's championship challengers Bell and Casey Mears (Dorricott Racing/Sooner Trailer Lola) all mounted challenges on Dixon and Renna, and Giaffone briefly moved up front on lap 38. Dixon quickly retook the top spot, however, with Bell now firmly in second and locked on the leader's gearbox. Bell made a move down low in Turns 3 and 4 on the final lap, but Dixon managed to stay in front for his sixth win of the year.
Dixon averaged 183.672 mph and completed the 50-lap race in 33:08.441 seconds, the second fastest race in history behind Michigan in May of 1996. Although the race ran caution free, Luis Diaz (Herdez/Quaker State Mexico Lola) was uninjured in a spectacular accident as the field crossed the finish line. Diaz made light contact with Giaffone and his Lola went airborne and flipped over backwards before landing upside down on the race track and sliding across the finish line. His HHHHteammate Mario Dominguez (Herdez/Pegaso/Quaker State Lola) also ran into Diaz's totaled race car as it slid across the finish line but also escaped without injury.
Mears finished fourth while Rodolfo Lavin (Corona/Modelo/SportsYA.com Lola) matched his career-best finish of fifth. Lavin first finished fifth earlier this year at Chicago.
Dixon won the championship, the first open-wheel CART title for PacWest Racing Group, with 155 points. Bell finished second with 146 points while Mears placed third in the championship with 141 points.
Although Bell came up short in the overall championship, he did win the $10,000 Bosch Platinum+4 Speedway Challenge award for scoring the most points (74) in the year's five oval track races. Dixon won the season-long Racing For Kids Driver Performance Award program.
Light Look - Top Five Light Look - Top Five Points 1. Scott Dixon 1. Scott Dixon 155 2. Townsend Bell (R) 2. Townsend Bell (R) 146 3. Tony Renna 3. Casey Mears 141 4. Casey Mears 4. Felipe Giaffone 118 5. Rodolfo Lavin 5. Tony Renna 105
Scott Dixon (Invensys/Powerware/PacWest Lights Lola) - "What a great feeling. This is definitely the biggest championship I've won in my career. This really was not the finish we wanted based on having to fight it out in the final event, but I finally had some luck after two bad races. I'm happy for myself, my sponsor Invensys Powerware and for PacWest. My team was incredible all year and it finally paid off in spades. I owe Tony (Renna) a lot for staying up behind me almost the whole race, and I just wish he could have finished second."
Townsend Bell (DirecPC Lola) - "It was a little dicey among the top four or five drivers on the back straight-away. Everybody was fighting for Scott's draft. You're not going to make any friends doing that and everybody realizes that going in. It's not fun for anybody because it's a game of chicken in fighting for that draft bubble. I was able to sneak in and lock behind Scott for the last 10 laps or so. I knew I had to hold tight because if I broke rank, I probably wouldn't get a lot of help from Renna and Giaffone. The best I could hope was to look to sling shot out of the last corner on the last lap."
Tony Renna (Motorola/PacWest Lights Lola) - "I knew what I needed to do to help Scott (Dixon) and really I was just a buffer in third place. We got a great start and held on to first and second for most of the race, then when Townsend (Bell) got ahead of me, I knew that I just needed to make sure Scott finished second in order to help PacWest win their first championship. I'm happy for my teammate and I'm happy that I was able to finish fifth in the championship."
Casey Mears (Sooner Trailer Lola) - "We had a good race. Congratulations are in order for Townsend in running a great race, and Scott for winning the championship. He did a helluva job all year. I'm warmed up and ready for the next one. I haven't had any time to reflect on my Indy Lights performance since the Champ car race is coming up and I have to literally shift gears and seats."
* Special Awards
Dayton Tire Awards: Townsend Bell receives four Dayton Daytona racing tires as the Move to the Front award recipient. Bell improved 14 positions to finish in second place. Chris Simmons receives two Dayton Daytona racing tires as the Dayton Rookie Award recipient as the second highest finishing first-year driver. Felipe Giaffone receives a pair of Dayton Daytona racing tires as the fast qualifier.
MCI Worldcom Fast Pace Award: Cory Witherill receives the $1,000 MCI WorldCom Fast Pace Award for his fast lap of 193.617 mph (37.726 seconds) on lap 41.
Nation's Cup: The United States clinched the Nation's Cup in Round 11 at Houston. The final standings: USA 200, New Zealand 155, Brazil 118, Mexico 98, Australia 91, and Ireland 61.
Racing for Kids Award: Scott Dixon wins the Racing for Kids Award of $500. An additional $1,500 will be presented to a local children's hospital in Scott's name. Dixon also wins the RFK points championship with a total of 155 points and earns $1,000. An additional $5,000 will be presented to a children's hospital in Scott's honor.
Bosch Platinum+4 Speedway Challenge: Townsend Bell holds onto the lead in the Bosch Platinum+4 Speedway Challenge with 74 points, 10 points ahead of Scott Dixon. The winner-take-all $10,000 Bosch award is paid to the driver that earns the most points in the year's five oval track races.
* Television - Tonight!
The California Dayton Indy Lights Championship race will be telecast on ESPN2 today, Sunday, October 29, at 6 p.m. ET (3 p.m. PT). An encore telecast will air on ESPN2 early on Tuesday, Oct. 31 at 4 a.m. ET (1 a.m. PT).