LEXINGTON, Ohio (Aug. 11, 2001) - Series points leader Townsend Bell (DirecWay Lola) earned his fourth pole in the last five races and his second in a row in final qualifying Saturday for Sunday's Dayton Indy Lights Championship race at Mid-Ohio. Bell has now built a full-race 20-point lead in the championship heading into tomorrow's race that runs at 2:45 p.m. ET.
Although neither Bell nor any other driver in the top four managed to improve on Friday's provisional lap times, the championship leader still posted his second-straight series pole and track record based on Friday's lap of 110.133 mph (73.809 seconds). Bell broke the 2000 track record of 109.092 mph (74.513 seconds) set by his former Dorricott Racing teammate Jason Bright. Bell was also on the pole with a new track record one race ago in Toronto, and the second-year Californian also earned the top qualifying spot in June's races at Milwaukee and Portland. The pole run has only been interrupted by last month's race at Kansas Speedway where he still managed to grid in the second starting position.
"The car was perfect from the get-go," Bell said. "We only had to make a few adjustments all weekend so it made my job easier. We were about three-tenths of a second quicker than yesterday on our first set of tires. We ran a 74.2 on the first set, which is pretty good. It all went away when we went to stickers because a red flag was thrown just as we were ready to hit the track on fresh tires. We were set up to run perhaps three or four-tenths faster but we didn't get the chance. As a team, we're all sharper this season. The crew knows each other and our relationships are such that we know how to work well together. Dorricott Racing has really figured this thing out so we have our cars 'spot-on' nearly every time for a race. I can't go wrong with Gerald Tyler as my engineer. I like all the variety that Mid-Ohio has for drivers. Turn one and the carousel at the end are particularly challenging. You end up taking a deep breath before you enter them because it's all or nothing if you want to maximize your car through those turns. If you don't get it right, you're likely to get passed."
Dan Wheldon (Gemstar Communications/PacWest Lights Lola) will start second after lapping at an average speed of 109.607 mph (74.163 seconds).
"The balance of my car is pretty good, but I've been battling a little understeer coming out of turn one all day," Wheldon said. "We're still very close to Townsend but he seems to be better on fresh tires than I am right now. I really need to work on extracting the most out of my car on new tires because we're hurting ourselves more than we're helping ourselves in that respect. Overall I'm happy with starting second. I won from the outside of the front row in 1999 while racing here in Formula's Ford's, so I think we're in a good position for tomorrow."
Bell's Dorricott Racing teammate Damien Faulkner (Dorricott Racing Lola) will start third with an average speed of 108.771 mph (74.773 seconds). He was actually off course for the middle of the session but made it back to the pits when a non-injury contact incident involving Rolando Quintanilla (Telmex/Roquin Motorsports, LLC Lola) brought out a red flag.
"I had trouble with my left rear wheel," Faulkner said. "We'll have to sort that out. There was something obviously wrong to me so I had to pull off course to avoid getting tagged with a red flag. There wasn't any drive in the car. Someone else (Quintanilla) caused a red flag so that gave my crew the opportunity to help me get the car back to pit lane. All in all, we have had good sessions throughout the weekend. At least we're in a good position to challenge for the win tomorrow but Townsend has to have the advantage based on his experience and times. I'm getting more used to the bumps but it's still new enough for me that I probably am not getting the best performance out of the car that I could if I new the track better."
Rookie Kristian Kolby (Hype Energy/Conquest Racing Lola) will start fourth based on his Friday lap of 108.722 mph (74.767 seconds). His teammate Matt Halliday (Mi-Jack/Conquest Racing Lola) was the first driver in the starting field to improve his Friday speed and will start fifth on the grid on the strength of his Saturday lap of 108.539 mph (74.893 seconds).
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.