(Indianapolis, IN) -- PacWest Racing Group's Indy Lights team prepares to defend their 2000 Dayton Indy Lights Championship by conducting a drive-off for their 2nd seat on December 13-15, at Firebird Raceway in Phoenix, Arizona.
With Toyota Atlantic Rookie of the Year Dan Wheldon signed, sealed and delivered to contend the 2001 season in the #1 Invensys Power Systems PacWest Lights entry, a search for his running mate is next on the priority list for PacWest Lights team manager Paul "Ziggy" Harcus.
"The biggest thing we really have to do as far as off-season preparation is concerned for the 2001 season, is to find a driver for our 2nd Indy Lights seat," said Harcus. "We're conducting a 3-day 'drive off' at Firebird Raceway in Phoenix this week for the seat, and the drivers will be Jeff Simmons, Marc Hynes and Ralph Firman. Obviously coming off a championship last season, we have very high expectations for our team this year, and PacWest is once again committed to a two-car program. We're excited about the abilities of all of these drivers, and hopefully one of them will step up and answer the challenge. I have no doubt that with the terrific staff we have on hand, we're capable of putting together two of the most competitive cars on the track."
Simmons was a rookie in 2000 Indy Lights competition and was impressive in his inaugural season. He finished every race, scoring points in all but one, and had a career best finish of third place in Portland. Coming off back-to-back championships in the Barber Dodge Pro Series in 1998 and 1999, the 24 year-old American hopes to earn another season of Lights competition before graduating to Champ Cars.
Firman won the 1996 F3 Championship and has been a consistent winner in recent years competing in the European and Japanese F3000 series.
Hynes is the 1999 British F3 champion. He is highly rated by the Europeans and should put on a good show in Arizona.
"PacWest is very committed to our Lights program as we believe it is an integral part of the CHAMP Car series and the overall development of young talent," said PacWest Team Owner Bruce R. McCaw. "Dan Wheldon, and the other contenders for the second ride have all proven to be strong driver's and competitors and we believe PacWest can once again contend for the title in 2001."
Harcus, who won the Dayton Indy Lights Top Team Player Award in 2000, hopes to have the second seat filled by the first of the year so they can concentrate their efforts on testing for 2001.