Bright fastest in Fontana Friday practice

FONTANA, Calif. (Oct. 27, 2000) - - Jason Bright, of Gold Coast, Australia, showed his time away from North America to make his CART FedEx Championship Series debut in the Honda 300 at Surfers Paradise, Australia, only sharpened his...

FONTANA, Calif. (Oct. 27, 2000) - - Jason Bright, of Gold Coast, Australia, showed his time away from North America to make his CART FedEx Championship Series debut in the Honda 300 at Surfers Paradise, Australia, only sharpened his driving skills. His return to the United States in preparation for the season finale of the 12-race Dayton Indy Lights Championship at California Speedway on Sunday, Oct. 29, quickly became the Indy Lights highlight package for the weekend's first day of action. After a rain-soaked morning delay, Bright ran the fastest lap of Friday's 45-minute afternoon practice session at 0:38.215 = 191.140 mph around the 2.029-mile oval. His closest challenger in the 18-car field was Tony Renna who was 0.02-seconds off Bright's pace at 0:38.235 = 191.040 mph. Ironically, Renna and Bright are tied for fifth place in the Indy Lights championship with 91 points each. Teammates Casey Mears, of Bakersfield, Calif., and Townsend Bell, of Costa Mesa, Calif., had disappointing sessions with Mears 11th at 0:38.974 = 187.418 mph. Bell dealt with a variety of mechanical challengers that left him 16th at 0:39.221 = 186.237 mph. The start of a 30-minute opening practice Friday morning washed out due to overnight and early morning rain showers that struck southern California. Temperature highs hovered in the low 70s. It was the second time in the history of the CART Dayton Indy Lights Championship that the series lost track time due to inclimate weather at California Speedway. The entire day's schedule adjusted to accommodate a single, 45-minute practice beginning at 12:30 p.m. (PT). Dayton Tire engineers reported a track temperature of 68 degree at the start of the session with an ambient temperature of 74 degrees. Comfortable temperatures played well for Bright who was consistently fast throughout the session but didn't sit on top of the leader board until he completed his 45th practice lap. It fittingly was his final lap of practice. "I was running most of the session by myself," said Bright. "We shook the car down and checked our set-up. Just as practice was about to checker, we decided to see what kind of time I could run so I held back for a clear track and gave it a go. I had a clean sling shot coming out of the last corner even though I was running at my rev limiter most of the back straight. Once I grabbed fifth gear, I stayed on it. We ran the fastest lap of practice but I think the car has much more. On big ovals, it comes down to how well the car performs in traffic because that's what it will come down to in the race" Mears worked through a variety of obstacles including running out of gas with 15 minutes remaining in the session. More of his time was spent in pit row than on the track but he was optimistic nonetheless. "I ran out of fuel with 15 minutes to go in practice but that only cost me time," said Mears. "I'm fairly pleased with what we learned. We'll study the data, compare notes, and likely make a few changes. I figure we'll be competitive for qualifying." Bell also suffered through a hodge podge of difficulties ranging from his set-up to a punctured tire. "We did the ring and pinion at the start of the session and then ran a few laps to gauge the changes we needed," said Bell. "I had to come in to change my left rear tire soon after that. It somehow punctured. We collected enough good data to make the adjustments I'll need for qualifying on Saturday." Saturday has a 30-minute practice set to begin at 9:15 a.m. (PT). Single car qualifying will commence at 4:00 p.m. (PT). Sunday's 50-lap race will drop the green flag at 9:30 a.m. (PT).

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Series Indy Lights
Drivers Casey Mears , Townsend Bell , Tony Renna , Jason Bright