LEXINGTON, Ohio (Aug. 11, 2000) - Eighty degrees and partly cloudy skies greeted provisional qualifying but the results for Dorricott Racing were from gloomy. Rather, Casey Mears, of Bakersfield, Calif., was a mere 0.004-seconds off the...
LEXINGTON, Ohio (Aug. 11, 2000) - Eighty degrees and partly cloudy skies greeted provisional qualifying but the results for Dorricott Racing were from gloomy. Rather, Casey Mears, of Bakersfield, Calif., was a mere 0.004-seconds off the pole pace to earn a provisional outside pole at 1:15.583 = 107.548 mph. Ireland's Jonny Kane captured provisional pole honors at 1:15.579 = 107.554 mph.
Meanwhile, Townsend Bell, of Costa Mesa, Calif., created his own commotion with the fourth fastest qualifying time of 1:15.627 = 107.485 mph - only 0.015-seconds short of Brazilian Felipe Giaffone.
Australian Jason Bright showed that his painful injuries from Chicago Motor Speedway two weeks ago healed sufficiently for him to be a true threat for Sunday's seventh round of the 12-race Dayton Indy Lights Championship as he posted the ninth fastest qualifying time at 1:16.237 = 106.625 mph.
"I was having some gear selection problems early," said Bright. "I couldn't get a clean lap without something going wrong with a gear. We pitted, made a few adjustments, and then I found I got used to the way it was. I had to work my way back into the set-up before I started running competitive times again. It was frustrating because I was so close to running in the top quarter of the field."
Early afternoon clouds drifted in during the 30-minute qualifying but didn't greatly affect the track surface, which reached 109 degrees when qualifying began. However, action heated up when Mears moved to fifth fastest after 10 minutes at 1:16.165 = 106.726 mph. Bell close behind in sixth place at 1:16.417 = 106.374 mph. Bright was up to 11th at 1:17.694 = 104.761 mph.
Bell best lap came at the 13 minute mark but off-track excursions hampered what may had been record setting laps.
"I made a mistake in turn 13 to start the session," said Bell. "I sheared off the front wing so I had to pit. We found a cut in the left front tire during the pit stop so we couldn't just replace the front wing and then wait for the end of the session to use 'stickers.' We decided to go with fresh tires right away and I set a pole time on my warm-up. We planned to make a pole run on the next lap."
Inter-driver dynamics stepped into play with Bell when another car blocked Bell's DirecPC Lola on his "flyer."
"I had a great turn one and my exit speed was perfect when I caught Rodolfo Lavin coming out of the pits and heading to the keyhole," said Bell. "He didn't do us any favors like getting out of the way."
Bell continued around and past Lavin before losing control in turn 12 and crashing into the safety wall. Bell was uninjured but his car was retired for the session.
"I lost time in the keyhole and was trying to make it up when I became too anxious in turn 12. The back end swapped around and I ended up in the tire wall. The car wasn't badly damaged so we can come back tomorrow healed and ready to win the pole."
Mears was a heart beat away from the pole when Kane sneaked a clear lap on his 10th of the session. Qualifying ended under caution when Mario Dominguez stalled high-center in turn 12 and required assistance from the CART Safety workers.
"It's awesome to have Indy Lights back at Mid-Ohio," said Mears. "The entire time I've race Indy Lights, it's been a big gripe with many drivers that Mid-Ohio wasn't on the schedule. Mid-Ohio is one of the best road circuits in the United States. Regarding my comfort level on road courses, it has to be remembered that my background is in road racing. It's been my good fortune to have had good set-ups and some success on the ovals. Perhaps my oval success is more obvious but my heritage and foundations come from road racing. Mid-Ohio is a little rougher as tracks go and more physically demanding but that's part of the fun of racing here."