Bright returns, wins Mid-Ohio pole

LEXINGTON, Ohio (Aug. 12, 2000) - Jason Bright has literally gone from a hospital bed to the winning his first career Indy Lights pole in a matter of two weeks. Bright, who is still recovering from painful lower back injuries suffered in a...

LEXINGTON, Ohio (Aug. 12, 2000) - Jason Bright has literally gone from a hospital bed to the winning his first career Indy Lights pole in a matter of two weeks. Bright, who is still recovering from painful lower back injuries suffered in a crash at Chicago Motor Speedway on July 28, captured the pole position for Sunday's seventh round of the 12-race Dayton Indy Lights Championship at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

Bright earned his pole with at a record shattering time of 1:14.513 = 109.092 mph around Mid-Ohio's 2.258-mile, 13-turn road course. The previous record of 1:15.244 = 108.033 mph was set in 1993 by CART FedEx regular and former Indy Lights champion Bryan Herta.

Bright narrowly edged teammate Townsend Bell by 0.056-seconds for the pole. Bell's fast lap in the DirecPC Indy Lights Lola was also under the previous existing track record at 1:14. 569 = 109.010 mph. Bright and Bell both started on the front row earlier this year at Portland with Bell on the pole. Bright, however, went on to win that race.

"I'm pretty sure I was on a 'flyer' when the final caution was issued," said Bell. "My initial on-board numbers through turn one suggested I was running my best lap of qualifying. It was definitely better than the previous lap. I came up on Tony Renna but it didn't appear I would catch him by the end of that lap. We probably could have picked up five-hundredths of a second on a clear lap but Jason likely could have bettered what he already ran."

"I was playing with different shifting at the start of qualifying," continued Bell. "Perhaps I was being a little conservative. To win a pole in this series, you can't leave much on the table. I was running hard toward the end of the session. We'll have to see how the race starts before I'll have an idea of what to expect in terms of passing. There are corners where you can go two cars wide but you have to be strategic in your thinking and execution."

Meanwhile, Casey Mears positioned himself for quick advancement off the starting grid with the fifth fastest time of 1:14.866 = 108.578 mph. Mears was an infinitesimal one-thousandth of a second short of fourth place qualifier Felipe Giaffone.

"I felt good about the car but I'm disappointed I didn't get a late shot for a clean lap," said Mears. "I know without a doubt I could have won the pole. We put on fresh tires a little late. I entered turn one on my 'flyer' but the tires weren't warm enough. I got a little sideways and lost a bunch of time. I couldn't believe I ran a 14.8 on that lap. Without the bobble in turn one, I could have run a 14.5 and maybe have the pole. The car has great potential and it's fast. It will come down to what kind of conditions exist during the race and if the passing areas are clear."

Weather was excellent for final qualifying. The skies turned partly cloudy with a northerly breeze. Dayton Tire engineers reported a track temperature of 105 degrees with an ambient air temperature of 74 degrees.

There were two red flags during the 30-minute session lasting 10 minutes due to a stalled car with Andy Boss, and a contact incident with Jeff Simmons. Simmons accident, however, affected the qualifying outcomes because it occurred with a little under five minutes remaining in qualifying. Simmons spun and made hard contact into the tire wall in turn two. He was uninjured but his car was severely damaged. The checkered flag was issued two minutes later so CART's Safety Crew could clear the crash site.

Bright's previous best Indy Light's starts were twice from the outside pole at Milwaukee and Portland. The 26 year old Aussie driver earned a championship bonus point for winning the pole to bring his season total to 58 points. Bright only trails series leader Scott Dixon, of New Zealand, by 19 points entering Sunday's race.

"My back didn't pose too much of a problem on the track," said Bright. "It was a little uncomfortable at times but nothing unmanageable. I focused more on driving the car. The only way my Chicago crash affected this weekend was I missed two days of testing before coming to Mid-Ohio. I had to adjust to a new seat and different gearbox. We lost quite a bit of time Friday while trying to get things back in order. "I knew the car was capable of winning the pole even though it didn't run as well as it could for most of the weekend," continued Bright. "Because we lost the early part of the session, I had to spend a greater amount of time on the track without a fresh set of tires. We waited until late in qualifying to pit for a fresh tire set. My quickest lap was my second lap on the new tires. The red flag at the end prevented me from running a third or fourth lap. Those were the laps the best times were coming. I felt there was still more speed if we had another clean lap or two."

The 34 lap/76.772 mile Indy Lights race is scheduled to begin at 11:30 a.m. ET, Sunday, August 13. This will be the 10th overall Dayton Indy Lights appearance at Mid-Ohio and it is the featured support event for the CART FedEx Championship Series Miller Lite 200 later that day.

ESPN2 will provide a same day telecast of the Mid-Ohio Indy Lights race Sunday, August 13, from 11:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. ET (8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. PT). A re-airing of the original telecast is scheduled on ESPN2 early Tuesday, Aug. 15, at 4:00 a.m. ET (1:00 a.m. PT).

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About this article
Series Indy Lights
Drivers Felipe Giaffone , Casey Mears , Scott Dixon , Bryan Herta , Townsend Bell , Tony Renna , Jason Bright , Jeff Simmons