Houston GP Saturday track notes

Good morning from beautiful downtown Houston, Texas for Round 11 of the CART Dayton Indy Lights Championship. Today's track activities include a 40-minute practice session starting at 9:00 a.m. followed by the second qualifying session of the ...

Good morning from beautiful downtown Houston, Texas for Round 11 of the CART Dayton Indy Lights Championship. Today's track activities include a 40-minute practice session starting at 9:00 a.m. followed by the second qualifying session of the weekend starting at 1:00 p.m. The weather this morning is once again perfect with a light breeze blowing from the north up the front straight. The temperatures are forecasted to climb back up into the high 80's as it was yesterday. There is no threat of rain. Dayton Tire engineers report a track temperature of 77 degrees at the start of the session with an ambient temperature of 70 degrees.

The track in downtown Houston is a 1.527-mile temporary street course. The CART Dayton Indy Lights Championship race will consist of 50 laps (76.35 miles).

GREEN FLAG waves at 9:00 a.m. to start the 40-minute practice session.

RED FLAG waves at 9:01 a.m. when #1 BELL and #18 RENNA make contact and then both cars go into the Turn 6 tire wall. Both drivers exit their cars under their own power and are uninjured in the incident.

GREEN FLAG waves at 9:09 a.m. to resume the practice session. Total Red Flag time is 7:44 minutes.

BLACK FLAG waves at 9:11 a.m. to #2 MEARS for a pit exit violation. #2 MEARS pits the car the following lap to answer the Black Flag with a drive through penalty.

BLACK FLAG waves at 9:12 a.m. to #21 GIAFFONE for a pit exit violation. #21 GIAFFONE pits the car the following lap to answer the Black Flag with a drive through penalty.

At 9:13 a.m. #3 BRIGHT runs into the runoff area in Turn 1 and continues on under power.

At 9:15 a.m., 15 minutes into the session the fastest driver so far is #17 DIXON with a time of 1:06.573 seconds (82.574 mph), followed by #7 DOMINGUEZ at 1:07.752 seconds (81.137 mph), and #15 JUNCO at 1:08.083 seconds (80.743 mph). 30 minutes remain in the session.

At 9:19 a.m. #7 DOMINGUEZ runs into the runoff area in Turn 1 and continues on under power.

At 9:19 a.m. #4 A.BOSS runs into the runoff area in Turn 1 and continues on under power.

At 9:20 a.m., 20 minutes into the session the fastest driver so far is now #7 DOMINGUEZ with a time of 1:05.924 seconds (83.387 mph), followed by #17 DIXON at 1:06.032 seconds (83.251 mph), and #26 SIMMONS at 1:06.216 seconds (83.019 mph). 20 minutes remain in the session.

At 9:22 a.m. #15 JUNCO brushes the wall in Turn 1 with the right rear wheel and continues on under power.

At 9:23 a.m. #3 BRIGHT runs into the runoff area in Turn 1 and continues on under power.

At 9:26 a.m. #3 BRIGHT runs into the runoff area in Turn 5 and continues on under power.

At 9:30 a.m., 30 minutes into the session the fastest driver so far is now #17 DIXON with a time of 1:05.432 seconds (84.014 mph), followed by #3 BRIGHT at 1:05.584 seconds (83.819 mph), and #27 KANE at 1:05.692 seconds (83.681 mph). 10 minutes remain in the session.

At 9:31 a.m. #3 BRIGHT runs into the runoff area in Turn 1 and continues on under power.

At 9:31 a.m. #4 A.BOSS runs into the runoff area in Turn 5 and continues on under power.

At 9:33 a.m. #15 JUNCO brushes the wall in Turn 2 the left side of the car and continues on under power.

At 9:33 a.m. #3 BRIGHT runs into the runoff area in Turn 1 and continues on under power.

At 9:33 a.m. #27 KANE logs the fastest lap of the session with a time of 1:05.057 seconds (84.498 mph) on his 16th lap.

At 9:37 a.m. #3 BRIGHT runs into the runoff area in Turn 1 and continues on under.

CHECKERED FLAG waves at 9:40 a.m. bringing an end the 40-minute practice session. There was one Red Flag period lasting 7:44 minutes due to the contact incident involving #18 RENNA and #1 BELL.

At 9:40 a.m. #3 BRIGHT runs into the runoff area in Turn 1 and continues on under power.

At 9:40 a.m. #15 JUNCO brushes the wall in Turn 2 and comes to a stop at Turn 3. CART safety workers come to assist #15 JUNCO. #15 JUNCO exits the car under his own power and is uninjured in the incident.

The top five drivers of the session are:

#27 Jonny Kane 1:05.057 seconds (84.498 mph) Lap 16 of 20

#5 Geoff Boss 1:05.098 seconds (84.445 mph) Lap 22 of 22

#16 Derek Higgins 1:05.182 seconds (84.336 mph) Lap 19 of 20

#2 Casey Mears 1:05.223 seconds (84.283 mph) Lap 19 of 22

#26 Jeff Simmons 1:05.393 seconds (84.064 mph) Lap 19 of 22

Rodolfo Lavin (#10 Brian Stewart Racing/Corona/Modelo) - "We had some brake problems yesterday so we decided to bleed the brakes and change fluid hoping this would cure it but they're still a little soft this morning. Many guys are experiencing the same difficulty it seems. The track is not too challenging with most turns being ninety degrees. However, there are many man hole covers that which makes it very bumpy and that upsets the car. The track should be even faster this afternoon, with even more rubber having been laid on it. If all goes well, we should be able to move the car up a few positions."

!Townsend Bell (#1 Dorricott Racing/DirecPC) - "I was entering turn six. Tony (Renna) tried to stuff his nose on the out lap. I didn't know he was so close. His right front hit my left rear tire. He wasn't even alongside me as far as I can tell. He launched my car into the air and I spilled backwards into the tire wall. Then he ran over the front of my car. He broke his suspension on me then crashed into the wall. It was a really poor move on his part especially on the out lap."

Jason Bright (#3 Dorricott Racing) - "We have a problem with our brakes. The car is handling much better than yesterday. It's fast on the straight-away and enters the corners quickly. The brakes aren't up to the car right now. It's no good to run fast into corners but not be able to slow down enough to make sharp turns with the right kind of momentum. We'll be busy between practice and final qualifying trying to find what's wrong with the brakes."

Jason Bright (#3 Dorricott Racing) holds the provisional pole heading into today's qualifying session with a time of 1:05.964 seconds (83.336 mph).

As expected, the weather has warmed considerably for this afternoons qualifying session. The winds have picked up and are now blowing steady from the north up the front straight. Dayton Tire engineers report a track temperature of 101 degrees at the start of the session with an ambient temperature of 84 degrees.

GREEN FLAG waves at 1:00 p.m. to start the 30-minute qualifying session.

At 1:07 p.m. #3 BRIGHT spins in Turn 9 and continues on under power.

RED FLAG waves at 1:07 p.m. when #27 KANE makes contact in Turn 9 and loses his rear wing. #27 KANE continues on under power and pits the car. #11 MENNINGA runs over part of the wing but has no noticeable damage. #27 KANE receives an 8-minute penalty for causing a stoppage of a qualifying session to be served as soon as the session goes back under green flag conditions.

At 1:10 p.m., 10 minutes into the session the fastest driver so far is #27 KANE with a time of 1:05.403 seconds (84.051 mph), followed by #3 BRIGHT at 1:05.685 seconds (83.690 mph), and #16 HIGGINS at 1:05.726 seconds (83.638 mph). 20 minutes remain in the session. #27 KANE now holds the provisional pole.

GREEN FLAG waves at 1:10 p.m. to resume the qualifying session. Total Red Flag time is 2:26 minutes.

At 1:13 p.m. #17 DIXON ties the time turned in by #27 KANE with a time of 1:05.403 seconds (84.051 mph).

At 1:15 p.m. #21 GIAFFONE logs the fastest lap of the session and takes over the provisional pole with a time of 1:05.242 seconds (84.259 mph) on his 8th lap.

At 1:17 p.m. #18 RENNA spins in Turn 9 and continues on under power.

At 1:17 p.m. #3 BRIGHT runs into the runoff area in Turn 5 and continues on under power.

At 1:20 p.m. #2 MEARS takes over the provisional pole with a time of 1:04.934 seconds (84.647 mph) on his 13th lap.

At 1:20 p.m. #4 A.BOSS runs into the runoff area in Turn 5 and continues on under power.

RED FLAG waves at 1:20 p.m. when #78 DIAZ spins and stalls in Turn 2. CART safety workers arrive on the scene to help #78 DIAZ gets the car restarted. #78 DIAZ continues on under his own power and pits the car. #78 DIAZ receives an 8-minute penalty for causing a stoppage of a qualifying session to be served in this session.

At 1:20 p.m. 20 minutes into the session the fastest driver so far is now #2 MEARS with a time of 1:04.943 seconds (84.647 mph), followed by #21 GIAFFONE at 1:05.108 seconds (84.432 mph), and #3 BRIGHT at 1:05.306 seconds (84.1756 mph). 10 minutes remain in the session.

GREEN FLAG waves at 1:24 p.m. to resume the qualifying session.

At 1:26 p.m. #15 JUNCO brushes the wall in Turn 6 and continues on under power.

At 1:27 p.m. #1 BELL logs the fastest lap of the session with a time of 1:04.905 seconds (84.696 mph) on his 15th lap.

At 1:28 p.m. #27 KANE brushes the wall in Turn 1 and continues on under power.

At 1:28 p.m. #2 MEARS regains the provisional pole with a time of 1:04.722 seconds (84.936 mph) on his 17th lap.

RED FLAG waves at 1:29 p.m. when #16 HIGGINS spins in Turn 6 and makes contact to the tire wall with the rear wing of the car. The rear wing comes off and #16 HIGGINS continues on under power to pit the car.

CHECKERED FLAG waves at 1:29 p.m. bringing an end to the 30-minute qualifying session one minute early. There were three Red Flag periods due to the contact incident involving #27 KANE, the spin of #78 DIAZ, and the contact incident involving #16 HIGGINS.

Casey Mears in the #2 Dorricott Racing/Sooner Trailer Lola wins the pole for Round 11 of the CART Dayton Indy Lights Championship. Mears earned the pole on his final lap of the session turning in a time of 1:04.722 seconds (84.936 mph). This is Mears second pole of the season after taking the pole earlier this season at Laguna Seca. Mears earns the bonus championship point bringing his total to 108 points, 26 points behind Scott Dixon. Mears time sets a new track record.

Townsend Bell in the #1 Dorricott Racing/DirecPC Lola will start beside his teammate after turning in the second fastest time at 1:04.905 seconds (84.696 mph). This is the third time this season that Dorricott racing has taken the front row in qualifying. Jason Bright (#3 Dorricott Racing) and Bell started from the front row at Portland and Mid Ohio.

Scott Dixon in the #17 PacWest Lights/Invensys/Powerware will start sixth on Sunday. Dixon has 134 points and holds a 20-point lead on Townsend Bell.

The top five drivers of the session are:

#2 Casey Mears 1:04.722 seconds (84.936 mph) Lap 17 of 17 *

#1 Townsend Bell 1:04.905 seconds (84.696 mph) Lap 15 of 16

#16 Derek Higgins 1:04.979 seconds (84.600 mph) Lap 12 of 12

#27 Jonny Kane 1:04.985 seconds (84.592 mph) Lap 8 of 8

#3 Jason Bright 1:05.066 seconds (84.487 mph) Lap 15 of 16

* New Track Record

Post Qualifying Quotes:

Pole Postion - Townsend Bell

Townsend Bell (#1 Dorricott Racing/DirecPC) - "I knew I'd have to run a faster lap than what I did to keep the pole. My throttle started to stick a bit. I don't remember what rev's we were stuck but it gave me understeer in turning. It makes street courses racing more difficult if you have a little push because you can never quite get enough angle to get out of the corner properly."

"Getting taken out on the practice warm-up lap certainly didn't help the cause. The best thing with a three-car team is we have three great engineers and two fine teammates that are willing to share information. If we run into problems early in the weekend, we can track what the other two cars are doing and mimic. This weekend was another example where Jason and Gerald Tyler came up with something that worked well. We went with their set-up so all I have to do is go out on the track and step on it. It makes my job much easier."

"Whoever is saying that American drivers aren't getting it done had better sit up and start taking notice. Buddy Rice won the Atlantic championship with one race to go. Casey Mears has done an awesome job of getting Dorricott Racing into the elite status of teams. Casey's had successful CHAMP car tests. He's won Indy Lights poles. It's my rookie season and I've started from the pole, started on the outside pole, and won races. I get tired of hearing that talk and I wouldn't be surprised if drivers like Memo Gidley and Michael Andretti don't think it's an overused criticism. I find it a little more inspiration to go out and kick some ass and that's what we're doing."

Casey Mears (#2 Dorricott Racing/Sooner Trailer) - "The difference between last year and this season is last year I was looking to score points for a solid season finish and qualify consistently well. This year is more knowing that each qualifying session is a good chance to win a pole and a better chance at winning races. I think the experience I gained last year is showing."

"I have to thank Jason (Bright) and Gerald (Tyler), his engineer for my pole today. They did some pre-race testing about a week ago and we all gained from it. Townsend and I changed to their set-up and we ran faster. I come from road course racing and did a lot of miles at Laguna Seca. I was fortunate for my early years with Team Mears but I became a bit stereotyped because we did really well on ovals versus road courses. We didn't have the engineers to help me on the road courses. It's funny how things turn because we've been more successful on road courses than ovals this year."

3rd Place - Derek Higgins

Derek Higgins (#16 Mexpro/PrecioBase.com) - "This is the first time all of have been here so it is a level playing field on the setups. What we are working on now is being very competitive in the last few races and be ready for 2001. I did a 4.9 (1:04.9 seconds) on the first lap after leaving the pits and on the next lap on all of the splits coming to the end of the long back straight, I was 2/10 of a second up on that. I just basically screwed up. I went into the very bumpy section before Turn 6 and tried to turned it slightly too early and the bumps upset the rear of the car. When I hit the bump, instead of it jumping straight, it jumped all loose and from there, I was just a passenger until I hit the wall. I know I probably screwed up everybody else's lap but I have been on the other end of that as well. It happens. I was just trying to get a good lap."

6th Place - Scott Dixon

Scott Dixon (#17 PacWest Lights/Invensys/Powerware) - "The red flags absolutely killed us today. After all of the problems we've had this weekend, and working late into the night last night, we thought we would be OK for qualifying. I got a good run early on to move to the top of the list, then went to new tires. I was planning on having flying laps to end the session and improve my starting position, but red flag didn't permit that. We'll just have to stay focused tomorrow and work our way up."

-Indy Lights -

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About this article
Series Indy Lights
Drivers Casey Mears , Michael Andretti , Memo Gidley , Scott Dixon , Townsend Bell , Derek Higgins , Jonny Kane , Buddy Rice , Rodolfo Lavin , Jason Bright , Jeff Simmons , Geoff Boss