LIGHT ROUNDUP - CART Dayton Indy Lights Championship Race Report: Round 4 - Portland International Raceway PORTLAND, Ore. (June 25) - History repeated itself with a twist Sunday at Portland International Raceway where rookie Jason Bright ...
LIGHT ROUNDUP - CART Dayton Indy Lights Championship
Race Report: Round 4 - Portland International Raceway
PORTLAND, Ore. (June 25) - History repeated itself with a twist Sunday at Portland International Raceway where rookie Jason Bright (Dorricott Racing Lola) won his first Dayton Indy Lights Championship race in his fourth career start. Bright, 27, led Dorricott teammate and pole-sitter Townsend Bell (DirecPC Lola) across the finish line by .354 of a second while Jeff Simmons (KOOL Lola) finished third.
After a waved off start, the green flag flew on lap two and Bright passed Bell going into Turn 1. The move was a near mirror image of the Dorricott team's performance at Portland last year when outside pole starter Philipp Peter passed teammate and top qualifier Oriol Servia at the start for the lead and eventual win. This year, Bell hounded Bright to the finish and nearly passed him on the front straight 12 laps from the finish. Bell, who set a new track record of 108.593 mph (65.275 seconds) in Saturday's final qualifying, pulled alongside Bright on lap 30 but gave the corner to his teammate heading into Turn 1.
Tony Renna (Motorola/PacWest Lights Lola) broke an early season bad-luck streak to record a season's best fourth-place finish. Second-year driver Chris Menninga (Mi-Jack Lola) finished fifth, his career-best road course finish.
Portland's tricky Festival Curves took its usual toll in the race. Championship leader Scott Dixon (Invensys/Powerware/PacWest Lights Lola), Casey Mears (Dorricott Racing/Sooner Trailer Lola), Andy Boss (Cross Pens/Lacoste/ITIS Lola) and Jonny Kane (KOOL Lola) were all involved in contact incidents in the Festival at the race start. All continued but Kane retired on lap six with a broken spark plug lead. Dixon lost time in the pits getting repairs but managed to stay on the lead lap and charged from 17th when he returned to the track to finish 11th. Mears recovered to finish seventh and Boss finished 13th.
Dixon's problems and Bright's win have tightened the championship. Dixon came into the race with a 20 point lead but is now just three points clear of Bright, 56 - 53. Mears is third with 40 points, Simmons is in fourth with 36 points and Mario Dominguez (Herdez "Viva Mexico" Lola) rounds out the top five with 35 points. Dominguez finished sixth at Portland.
The lap one wave off was the only yellow flag of the race that helped Bright establish a record winning average speed of 102.226 mph.
Jason Bright (Dorricott Racing Lola) - "Townsend (Bell) actually had the jump on me when the green flag waved but I think my gear ratio worked better coming to the Festival Corners. I was able to get level with him when we hit the braking zone and beat him on the turning angle."
Townsend Bell (Dorricott Racing/DirecPC Lola) - "It started getting really slick near the middle of the race. The tires stared heating up and it was easy to slip and slide through the sharper corners. I was able to sneak behind Jason and pull alongside a few times but I never had a sure-shot angle to pass. When you're running first and second with a teammate, you don't want to take chances that could jeopardize either car. I'd rather be conservative and score points than lose out with a stupid move."
Jeff Simmons (Team KOOL Green Lola) - "I was chasing those guys the whole time. I was right on them, but it's really tough to pass because when you got into the fast corners you would lose the downforce. You just couldn't get a good run on them. I started to make a couple of mistakes in the middle of the race on a couple of shifts. I'm not sure if we had a problem with the gearbox or not. It didn't want to come out of gear, to go into the next gear. That's why I dropped back from the leaders. They started to fight with each other and I was able to climb back into the fight myself. "
Scott Dixon (Powerware/PacWest Lights Lola) - "On the first lap of the race, I was between both the KOOL cars. Jonny Kane jumped out to the left and I got on the brakes for the turn. When I did, someone hit me from behind and pushed me into Simmons. I broke my front wing and had to come in on lap one for a new one. My crew did a great job of getting me back out before the field came around so I didn't go a lap down. My car was excellent all day and I actually had the fastest car in the field. I needed a yellow to help me out, but that didn't happen. I am happy that I still managed a few passes to finish with a couple of points."
* Special Awards
Dayton Tire Awards: Rudy Junco receives four Dayton Daytona racing tires as the Move to the Front award recipient. Junco improved six positions to tenth place. Jason Bright receives two Dayton Daytona racing tires as the Dayton Rookie Award recipient. Townsend Bell receives two Dayton Daytona racing tires as the top qualifier.
MCI Worldcom Fast Pace Award: Scott Dixon receives the $1,000 MCI WorldCom Fast Pace Award for his fast lap of 107.397 seconds (105.174 mph) on lap 9.
Nation's Cup: United States and Australia closed the gap on New Zealand after Scott Dixon finished in 11th place to bring New Zealand's total to 56. Jason Bright scored 21 points for Australia and Townsend Bell scored 17 points for the United States. United States and Australia have 55 and 53 points, respectively.
Racing for Kids Award: Jason Bright wins the Racing for Kids Award of $500. An additional $1,500 will be presented to a local children's hospital in the Jason's name.
The Portland Dayton Indy Lights Championship race will be shown on ESPN2 next Saturday, July 1st at 5:30 p.m. ET.