Damien Faulkner "Rain Dances" To Victory At Portland PORTLAND, Ore. (June 25, 2001) - Indy Lights rookie Damien Faulkner, of Dublin, Ireland, won the race and Dorricott Racing continued its domination of Portland International Raceway as the ...
Damien Faulkner "Rain Dances" To Victory At Portland
PORTLAND, Ore. (June 25, 2001) - Indy Lights rookie Damien Faulkner, of Dublin, Ireland, won the race and Dorricott Racing continued its domination of Portland International Raceway as the Dayton Indy Lights Championship's premier team collected its fourth consecutive victory in round five of the 12-race series, Sunday, June 24.
Faulkner, who started third on the grid, led 22 of 38 laps to cross the finish line an astounding 16.134-seconds ahead of Rudy Junco, of Mexico. The 25 year-old Irishman toured the 1.969-mile, 12-turn road course at an average race speed of 76.116 mph. It was Faulkner's second career Indy Lights victory in only his fifth Indy Lights start. Faulkner also won in round three at Texas Motor Speedway.
Faulkner has placed himself squarely in position assume the Indy Lights series lead in round six at Kansas Speedway on July 8. The Portland win was worth 21 championship points including 20 for the victory and one bonus point for leading the most laps. Faulkner has closed to within 16 points of series leader and teammate Townsend Bell, of San Luis Obispo, Calif., 71-55. Derek Higgins, of Ireland, is in second place with 66 points.
The biggest factor affecting the race was weather. It was horrible. The race started in a steady rain with temperatures in the low 60s. Qualifying and practice sessions had all been run under sunny or partly cloudy conditions so the overall strategies planned for a dry track were useless. All competitors elected to use rain tires for the first full Indy Lights race in the rain at Portland since 1997.
After having a nearly perfect pre-race weekend including winning the pole with a track record time of 1:04.991 = 109.067 mph, Bell was first to experience the wrath of Portland rain. The race began at 10:47 a.m. (PT) with Bell leading the field into Portland's infamous "Festival Curves." Faulkner, who started third, passed outside polesitter Dan Wheldon for second place late on the front straight-away. As Bell was entering turn one, his DirecPC Lola began a slow rain-slick track induced slide toward the inside of the turn. As Bell slid into a gravel pit, PacWest Lights drivers Wheldon and Mario Dominguez struck each other nose-to-tail entering the corner and, in turn, struck Faulkner from behind. Faulkner was pushed through the corner and into the run-off where he maintained control his Lola Indy Lights car and rejoined the race in third place. Bell, meanwhile, became stuck in the gravel and needed an "up and out" lift before continuing.
It wasn't as easy as it looked," said Faulkner. "The track was very slippery. The first corner was a mess. Townsend and I braked late and certainly later than Dan (Wheldon). I think somebody hit me from behind and spun me around. Townsend, I believe, spun by himself. I don't know what happened to him. I managed to stay out of the gravel trap but I was turning backwards so I selected first gear and before the car stopped I had spun it around."
Faulkner moved into second place on lap five when he passed Luis Diaz, of Mexico. Bell suffered another set-back on lap six when he made contact with Higgins in turn two and was forced to return to pit lane with a damaged front wing. The race resumed one lap later with Faulkner still in second place but closing on Danish driver Kristian Kolby.
As if things weren't sour enough for Bell, Bell was also assessed two penalties on laps five and seven.
"I went into the first corner too hot as did everybody," said Bell. "Four of us ended up in the gravel trap. It took quite awhile for the safety guys to get me out of there. I went a lap down over that one. Soon after I got going again I had contact with Derek Higgins in turn two. Then we were hit with two penalties. One was for too many people over the wall and another for shortcutting the chicane under a caution. Despite our misfortunes, we managed to get our laps back and finish on the lead lap."
Ten laps later on lap 17, Kolby succumbed to the precarious nature of Portland's rain-soaked circuit and spun off course in turn eight. Kolby became stuck on the slick grass infield while Faulkner passed him for the lead. Kolby, who started sixth, was forced to wait for CART Safety workers to arrive and help re-position Kolby's car so he could continue the race.
The race effectively belonged to Faulkner after lap 18 although Bell made a valiant comeback in the later stages of the race to catch the field. His pit lane detours had cost him a lap but he was able to make it up near the end of the race by passing the field "ala Milwaukee" and catching Faulkner. Faulkner moved aside with a couple of laps remaining to permit Bell to regain his lost lap and finish sixth place. By that time, Faulkner had the race completely under his control.
"I was surprised at being able to pull away from the field," said Faulkner. "All credit goes to Dorricott Racing and my crew for giving me a very good car."
Dorricott Racing's third driver, Jon Fogarty, of Portola Valley, Calif., was forced to withdraw from the race due to a herniated disk located between his C-3 and C-4 vertebrae. Fogarty is in 10th place with 22 points.
Bell's "fastest lap" of the race at 1:22.689 = 85.724 mph on lap nine earned him a $1,000 bonus as recipient of the WorldCom Fast Pace Award. He also received two Dayton Daytona racing tires as a bonus for being the top qualifier.
Besides taking home a $25,000 race purse, Faulkner was presented the Racing For Kids Award and a bonus of $500. An additional $1,500 will be presented to the Doernbecher Children's Hospital of Portland, Oregon, in Faulkner's name and on behalf of Racing For Kids. Bell leads the RFK points championship with a total of 71 points. Faulkner's winner's purse also included two Dayton Daytona racing tires for being the highest finishing Indy Lights rookie driver.
Faulkner continues to lead all newcomers for Rookie-of-the-Year honors by virtue of a nine-point margin over his closest challenger Wheldon, 55-47. Fogarty is fourth with 22 points.
Faulkner's win also improved Ireland's lead in the Nation's Cup to 15 points over the United States, 85-70.
Race results, team, and sponsor information are available on Dorricott Racing's official web site, http://www.dorricottracing.com. Round Six of the Dayton Indy Lights Championship will be at the Kansas Speedway near Kansas City on Sunday, July 8.