Dominguez Wins Pole For Dayton Indy Lights Kansas Debut Second Pole Of The Season Establishes Kansas Speedway Track Record
KANSAS CITY, Kansas (July 7, 2001) - Mario Dominguez (del Valle/Corona/Televisa Lola) established the Dayton Indy Lights Championship track record at Kansas Speedway Saturday to win the pole in qualifying for Sunday's Kansas 100 on the new 1.520 mile superspeedway.
Dominguez, one of six drivers to improve his qualifying speed on the second of two attempts, lapped at an average speed of 180.881 mph (30.252 seconds) to win his second pole of the season and the third of his career. He was the top qualifier for Round 2 of the Dayton Indy Lights Championship in Long Beach, Calif., last April and won his first pole at Homestead-Miami Speedway in 1999 where he went on to win the race.
"What a great feeling this is," Dominguez said. "We've been fast all weekend, and with the times so close, I didn't really expect to see some of the big laps that were put up. That really pushed me, but my car is so good right now, I just knew we could do it. I took a bit of a different line on my last lap, which gave me another couple of tenths. The track was obviously faster than this morning, and everything was perfect."
Dominguez will share the front row with Dayton Indy Lights Championship points leader Townsend Bell (DirecPC Lola) who qualified second at an average speed of 180.755 mph (30.273 seconds). It is the fourth consecutive front row start for Bell who gridded second at Texas Motor Speedway in April and won the pole in the last two series races at Milwaukee and Portland.
"I hate that we missed the pole by two-hundredths of a second." Bell said. "Maybe I got caught out by a breeze. That's all it would take and you'd never feel it. Even so, Mario had a tremendous lap and it's not as if he is a stranger to running up or near the front. The good news for me is we made up time when we needed it and starting from the front row is always better than starting near the back. I think the race start will be important and then how much patience everyone has when the cars start to even out but everybody sees that nobody is actually moving through the field."
Rookie Matt Halliday (Conquest Racing Lola), making just his third Dayton Indy Lights start and his first on a superspeedway, was the first driver to qualify and ripped off a strong lap of 180.493 mph (30.317 seconds). The lap was good enough to hold the pole until Dominguez, the fourth driver from the end to qualify, went faster. Bell, the final driver to make an attempt, also beat Halliday's speed, but the young New Zealander's third-place starting position is still his career best showing after just three races.
"The car was good running all through practice and we knew we were in the top three or four all weekend," Halliday said. "Going out first to qualify was a little bit of a disadvantage because the track was so fast and my car was a little too tight. I enjoy working with my engineers to get the car to its maximum, I'm happy that I'm in the front two rows to start, it's a good place to start the race. I am not sure what to expect (for tomorrow's race) since this is my first superspeedway and only my third Indy Lights race."
Dominguez's teammate Dan Wheldon (Gemstar Communications/PacWest Lights Lola) had been the fastest driver all weekend but could do no better than the fourth quickest time in the single-car qualifying session. Wheldon lapped at an average speed of 180.213 mph (30.364 seconds).
"I don't know what happened," Wheldon said. "I'm kind of at a loss for words right now. We had been fastest all weekend, but that doesn't matter now because we're starting fourth. The times are so close it should make for a very competitive race. I lost some time on my qualifying run when I got too much scrub with my tires through turns 3 and 4, and it cost me. On the brighter side of things, I can still win this race from the second row, I just need to make it happen."
Rolando Quintanilla (Telmex Lola) posted a career-best qualifying effort of fifth place on the grid at an average speed of 180.077 mph (30.387 seconds). The second-generation driver has been strong all weekend and posted the third quickest lap of the day in Friday practice.
"The car feels great," Quintanilla said. "Early on in the weekend, we worked on a qualifying set-up and we didn't feel 100 percent confident, so we made a few changes. I feel that we are in an excellent position for the race and I am looking forward to tomorrow."
Kristian Kolby (Conquest Racing Lola), Texas and Portland race winner Damien Faulkner (Dorricott Racing Lola), Rudy Junco (Mexpro/StarlightDiamonds.com/PrecioBase.com Lola), his teammate Derek Higgins (Mexpro/StarlightDiamonds.com/PrecioBase.com Lola) and Cory Witherill (WSA Healthcare/Motor Lola). Luis Diaz (Telmex Lola) did not post a qualifying time after an engine compartment fire in Saturday afternoon's final practice left his Telmex Lola beyond repair for qualifying. He is expected to start in the rebuilt race car at the back of the field tomorrow.
Sunday's Dayton Indy Lights Championship race from Kansas will be shown in same day coverage on ESPN2 in a one-hour show airing at 10:00 p.m. PT Sunday night. East of the Mississippi, the ESPN2 air times are early Monday morning (late Sunday night) at 1 a.m. ET and 12 Midnight CT.