LEXINGTON, Ohio (Aug. 10, 2001) - Dayton Indy Lights Championship points leader Townsend Bell (DirecWay Lola) got off to a fast defense of his 2000 victory at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course Friday with a new track record in first round qualifying for Sunday's race on the famous Buckeye road course.
Bell, who has a 19-point lead in the championship over teammate Damien Faulkner (Dorricott Racing Lola), drove one-lap around the 2.258-mile Mid-Ohio layout at an average speed of 110.113 mph (73.809 seconds). He broke the 2000 track record of 109.092 mph (74.513 seconds) set by his former Dorricott Racing teammate Jason Bright. Bell, who passed Bright for his first Indy Lights win at Mid-Ohio last year, is in his second season with the Dorricott team.
"The DirecWay car was totally hooked up", Bell said. "It was perfect from the get-go. We made an adjustment on the pit stop and then changed tires. The car was rock solid from that point. We started running track or near track record laps so I couldn't be happier."
Dan Wheldon (Gemstar Communications/PacWest Lights Lola) was also under Bright's former record, lapping at an average speed of 109.607 mph (74.163 seconds). The British rookie, who won a 1999 U.S Formula Ford 2000 race at Mid-Ohio in 1999, also paced this morning's practice session.
"The times are so close," Wheldon said. "My car was very good, but because the times are so close we'll have to make improvements on the car to pick up a few tenths for tomorrow. I'm sure we'll do a few things, but we don't really need a lot to be able to improve on today. The car did really well on a new set of tires and I am confident my Gemstar crew will make the right changes to put us on the front row for Sunday's race."
Faulkner was third quick Friday at an average speed of 108.771 mph (74.773 seconds).
"I felt much more comfortable with the circuit", Faulkner said. "It was something I couldn't seem to get my hands on in practice. Townsend had some good ideas from practice. We tried them and they worked well. We weren't able to mimic them until qualifying because we didn't have the parts earlier. You can swap set-ups with anyone but you'll still have to fine tune to meet the driver's style. It took us through qualifying to get the car where I wanted. I didn't get the best out of the tires, but it's a relief to get up to third. It was just a matter of hooking a lap together. The potential to run in the low 14's was there but I didn't hit the marks. This car should have been four to five-tenths quicker but I messed up a bit on the tires. The crew did an outstanding job preparing the car and my engineer, Alec Purdy, had the car engineered well. We should be able to run quicker in final qualifying."
Rookie Kristian Kolby (Hype Energy/Conquest Racing Lola) and Luis Diaz (Telmex/Roquin Motorsport, LLC Lola) rounded out the top five.
Derek Higgins (Mexpro/StarlightDiamonds.com/PrecioBase.com Lola) continued to be plagued by his recent run of bad luck on Friday when fuel pump failure at the beginning of the session left him on the sidelines. The Mexico race winner failed to post a competitive lap.