LIGHT ROUNDUP - CART Dayton Indy Lights Championship Race Report: Round 12 - California Speedway FONTANA, Calif. (November 4, 2001) - Ending a championship-winning season on a high note, 2001 Dayton Indy Lights Championship titleist Townsend ...
LIGHT ROUNDUP - CART Dayton Indy Lights Championship
Race Report: Round 12 - California Speedway
FONTANA, Calif. (November 4, 2001) - Ending a championship-winning season on a high note, 2001 Dayton Indy Lights Championship titleist Townsend Bell (DIRECWAY Lola) led every lap from the pole Sunday to win the final race in the 16-year history of the Indy Lights series at California Speedway.
Bell, who wrapped up the Dayton Indy Lights Championship one race ago at Laguna Seca Raceway, won his sixth race of the season - half of this year's races - and scored his fifth consecutive 22-point race win sweep. His record-winning purse of $37,501 included a $10,000 Simple Green Clean-Up Award bonus, and Bell pocketed all $30,000 in available Simple Green bonus money this season.
Bell is the 16th different and final champion in Dayton Indy Lights Championship history. Series sanctioning body CART announced earlier this season that the Indy Lights series would be disbanded at the end of this season. Bell's career win total of eight victories ties 1993 Indy Lights champion for fourth on the all-time list, behind only all-time victory leader Greg Moore (13 wins) and Paul Tracy and Tommy Byrne (10 wins apiece).
After winning his eighth pole in Saturday's qualifying at an average speed of 186.823 mph (39.098 seconds), Bell took the lead at the start with only rookie Dan Wheldon (Gemstar Communications/PacWest Lights Lola) tucking in behind him at the start. Running in tight formation, Bell and Wheldon moved away from the rest of the field and were never challenged. Wheldon made a few late attempts to pass Bell in the closing laps, but the series champ held the point and won by .051 of a second. The winner averaged 182.334 in the 44 lap race that was shortened six laps due to an early morning rain delay.
Matt Halliday (Mi-Jack Lola) emerged from a tight pack of cars that ran nearly a half lap behind the leaders to take third place. Derek Higgins (Mexpro/ StarlightDiamonds.com/PrecioBase.com Lola) and Mario Dominguez (del Valle/Corona/Televisa/PacWest Lights Lola) finished fourth and fifth, respectively, but a photo-finish review was needed to confirm the placings.
Wheldon's second-place finish locked up Rookie of the Year honors and he placed second in the championship. He also won the $10,000 Bosch Platinum+4 Speedway Challenge for earning the most points in the year's oval races.
Damien Faulkner (Dorricott Racing Lola) finished seventh and placed third in the season championship. <pre> Light Look - Top Five Light Look - Top Five Points 1. Townsend Bell 1. Townsend Bell 193 2. Dan Wheldon 2. Dan Wheldon 149 3. Matt Halliday 3. Damien Faulkner 141 4. Derek Higgins 4. Mario Dominguez 120 5. Mario Dominguez 5. Derek Higgins 113 </pre> Driver Quotes
#30 Townsend Bell "I figured we had a good shot (winning the race). 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. This is a great way to finish a season. We won poles and races, and led a lot of laps."
#1 Dan Wheldon (Gemstar/PacWest Lights Lola) "The important thing for this race was for us to win Rookie of the Year. I want to thank my team and crew for all of their hard work this season. After the start, my plan was to get under the gearbox of Bell and stick with him to the end. I did make a move on the last lap, but I just didn't have enough."
#21 Matt Halliday (Mi-Jack/Conquest Racing Lola) "At the beginning, I was really frustrated watching Townsend (Bell) and Dan (Wheldon) drive away. A few drivers were working together (drafting) but I was hoping have some one behind me so that we could catch up to the lead."
Dayton Tire Awards: Matt Halliday receives four Dayton Daytona racing tires as the Move to the Front award recipient. Halliday improved four positions to finish in third place from starting in the seventh position. Dan Wheldon receives two Dayton Daytona racing tires as the Dayton Rookie Award recipient as the highest finishing first-year driver. Townsend Bell receives a pair of Dayton Daytona racing tires as the fast qualifier.
Rookie of the Year Award: Dan Wheldon wins the Rookie of the Year Award as the highest finishing first-year driver with 149 championship points. Wheldon won at Gateway and Atlanta this year.
Worldcom Fast Pace Award: Mario Dominguez receives the $1,000 Worldcom Fast Pace Award for setting the fastest race lap at 190.095 mph (38.425 seconds).
Bosch Platinum +4 Speedway Challenge: Dan Wheldon wins the Bosch Platinum+4 Speedway Challenge. Wheldon takes home the $10,000 year-end prize for the driver accumulating the most points in the year's five oval track events. This season's oval races included Texas, Milwaukee, Kansas City, Gateway and California Speedway.
Simple Green Clean-Up Award: Townsend Bell picked up the Simple Green Clean-Up Award for winning the last race. The $10,000 bonus is paid for the Dayton Indy Lights driver who wins from the pole position, leads the most laps and sets the fastest race lap.
Nation's Cup: The United States earns the honor to keep the Nation's Cup. The Nation's Cup recognizes the country whose drivers earn the most points in the Dayton Indy Lights Championship. This season's sole points-earning driver was Townsend Bell.
Racing for Kids Award: Townsend Bell wins the Racing for Kids Award (RFK) for $500. An additional $1,500 will be presented to Loma Linda Children's Hospital in Loma Linda, California. Townsend Bell accumulated the most RFK award points this season and earns $1,000 with $5,000 presented to a children's hospital in his honor.
Television - Tonight!
The season-ending race of the Dayton Indy Lights Championship can be seen on ESPN2 in a one-hour show late this evening at 1:00 a.m. ET (early Monday morning). Viewers on the West Coast can see the race at 10:00 p.m. PT Sunday night. An encore telecast of the race will be shown on ESPN2 on Thursday, November 8th at 4:30 a.m. ET (3:30a.m. CT/1:30 a.m. PT).