Bell Brings Big Dayton Indy Lights Lead Back To Mid-Ohio Points Leader Returns To Site Of First Dayton Indy Lights Win 19 Points On Top LEXINGTON, Ohio (Aug. 9, 2001) - Championship leader Townsend Bell (DirecPC Lola) will return to the site of...
Bell Brings Big Dayton Indy Lights Lead Back To Mid-Ohio Points Leader Returns To Site Of First Dayton Indy Lights Win 19 Points On Top
LEXINGTON, Ohio (Aug. 9, 2001) - Championship leader Townsend Bell (DirecPC Lola) will return to the site of his first series win with his biggest points lead of the season when Round 8 of the Dayton Indy Lights Championship takes place at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course this Sunday.
The 34-lap (75.805 miles) Dayton Indy Lights sprint at 2:45 p.m. is one of three CART open-wheel races that will be run on the Mid-Ohio circuit on Sunday. The Dayton Indy Lights race follows the featured Miller Lite 200 FedEx Championship series race that starts at Noon while a Barber Dodge Pro Series event closes the weekend at 4:15 p.m. The Dayton Indy Lights race can be seen late Sunday night in a one-hour show on ESPN2 at 1:30 a.m. (early Monday morning). Viewers on the West Coast can see the race at 10:30 p.m. PT Sunday night.
Bell earned his first Dayton Indy Lights Championship win at Mid-Ohio last year during his rookie season of competition in the "Official Development Series" of CART. The Californian went on to score a second victory at Gateway International Raceway and seal Rookie of the Year honors while finishing a close second to Scott Dixon in the overall championship. With Dixon successfully stepping up the ladder to the FedEx Championship Series this year, Bell entered the 2001 season a championship favorite. He has lived up the expectations.
Heading into Sunday's race at Mid-Ohio, Bell has a 19-point lead in the Dayton Indy Lights Championship and leads the series in race wins (three), poles (three) and fastest race laps (four). His most recent victory came one race ago on the streets of Toronto where he scored his second clean-sweep of the season, leading every lap from the pole and setting the fastest race lap. The pair of dominating performances saw Bell capture the new Simple Green Clean-Up Award at each race and his total earnings for the season in the new bonus program totals $17,500. Bell earned his first victory of the year in Round 2 at Long Beach where he started sixth. He left that race co-leading the points race and took sole possession of the top spot in the championship after Round 4 at Milwaukee. He has 104 championship points heading into Mid-Ohio.
Bell's strongest challenger in the Dayton Indy Lights title race has come from his rookie Dorricott Racing teammate Damien Faulkner (Dorricott Racing Lola). The Irishman won races at Texas Motor Speedway and Portland International Raceway and is riding a streak of three top-three podium finishes that includes third at Toronto, second at Kansas Speedway and the Portland win. He is second in the championship with 85 points.
Derek Higgins (Mexpro/StarlightDiamonds.com/PrecioBase.com Lola), another Irishman, is third in the championship and won the season-opening race in Monterrey, Mexico. Including Mexico, Higgins has earned four podium finishes but distant showings in the last two races - he spun at Toronto and retired early at Kansas with mechanical problems - have seen him fall 32 points behind Bell in the championship with 72 points. Higgins and Bell co-led the championship after Long Beach.
The year's only other race winner is Danish rookie Kristian Kolby (Hype Energy/Conquest Racing Lola) who set a world record by winning the Kansas race by just .001 of a second over Faulkner. The margin of victory, estimated to be little more than 3 inches, is the closest circuit race finish in modern motorsports history. Other highlights in Kolby's first season of racing in North America included third at Texas and a strong drive at Portland where he led his first race laps before spinning in wet conditions. He is fifth in the championship with 68 points.
PacWest Lights driver Mario Dominguez (del Valle/Corona/Televisa/PacWest Lights Lola) is fourth in the championship with 71 points while his rookie teammate Dan Wheldon (Gemstar Communications/PacWest Lights Lola) is sixth in the standings with 67 points. The duo has done everything but win a race so far this season, including second-place finishes for Dominguez at Toronto and Milwaukee and poles at Kansas and Long Beach. Dominguez led at Kansas before falling back with mechanical problems, and he set the fastest race lap in Mexico. Wheldon's top showings are second at Long Beach where he led the most race laps before Bell passed for the win and thirds at Milwaukee and Kansas.
Dominguez is one of four drivers from Mexico in the Dayton Indy Lights Championship. He is joined by his countrymen Rudy Junco (Mexpro/StarlightDiamonds.com/PrecioBase.com Lola) and Roquin Motorsports teammates Luis Diaz (Telmex /Roquin Motorsports, LLC Lola) and Rolando Quintanilla (Telmex/Roquin Motorsports, LLC Lola). Diaz is seventh in the championship with 50 points and placed a career-high fourth at Texas and Milwaukee in addition to fifth at Toronto. Quintanilla, 10th in the points race with 40, posted personal-best fifth place finishes at Texas and Portland.
Junco, a teammate of Higgins who earned a career-best finish of second at Portland, sustained ligament injuries to his left foot and ankle in a late race accident at Kansas after contact with Cory Witherill (WSA Healthcare/Motors Lola) at Kansas. He missed the Toronto race and is questionable for this weekend at Mid-Ohio.
Another driver struggling with injuries this season is American rookie Jon Fogarty (Thomas Fogarty Winery & Vineyards Lola) who has been burdened with a herniated cervical disk since Portland. He has missed the last three races and Geoff Boss drove the Fogarty's Dorricott Racing entry to a sixth place finish at Toronto one race ago. Fogarty had another MRI earlier this week in Indianapolis and it will be determined if he is fit to drive at Mid-Ohio.
Another rookie could be a factor at Mid-Ohio. New Zealander Matt Halliday (Conquest Racing Lola) joined the series at Milwaukee and has finished fourth in each of his last three races. The streak included Kansas where in just his third race start and first on a superspeedway he qualified third and led three different times for three laps.
Witherill is completing the Dayton Indy Lights Championship season after finishing 19th with Indy Regency Racing in May's Indianapolis 500, a race that was won by former Indy Lights star and Helio Castroneves. Witherill, the only Native American driver currently competing in major league auto racing, earned a road-course career-best finish of seventh at Portland two races ago.