Dayton Indy Lights Champion Bell Fined $35,000, Placed On 1-Year CART Probation For Post-Race Incidents at Laguna Seca DETROIT (Oct. 16, 2001) - Dayton Indy Lights Championship Chief Steward Terry Dale announced today that recently crowned ...
Dayton Indy Lights Champion Bell Fined $35,000, Placed On 1-Year CART Probation For Post-Race Incidents at Laguna Seca
DETROIT (Oct. 16, 2001) - Dayton Indy Lights Championship Chief Steward Terry Dale announced today that recently crowned series champion Townsend Bell (DIRECWAY Lola) has been fined $35,000 -- $25,000 of which will be suspended -- and placed on a one-year probation period for all CART sanctioned competition following his post-race on-track actions in Sunday's race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
Dale, who reviewed both the incidents and the disciplinary rulings with CART Chief Steward Chris Kneifel, cited Bell for "unjustifiable risk" (CART Rule 8.13) and "failure to follow the instructions of an official" (CART Rule 1.7.5) for a pair of incidents after the checkered flag on the Laguna Seca circuit.
Under the terms of the fine, Bell will not have to pay the suspended $25,000 portion if he performs within the boundaries of his probation in all CART-sanctioned racing events within the one-year period. Bell, who made his CART Champ Car debut with Visteon/Patrick Racing in last month's pair of oval track races in Europe, is expected to be a fulltime FedEx Championship Series driver next season. Should that occur, he will continue to serve his one-year probation under CART sanctions.
Bell's mandatory $10,000 fine, however, is the largest levied against a Dayton Indy Lights driver since Sergio Paese was penalized the identical amount for an on-track infraction and post-race violations at California Speedway in 1998.
Bell, who clinched the 2001 Dayton Indy Lights Championship title in Sunday's race, was placed on probation for the third time this season. He was assessed a one-race probation following an on-track racing contact incident at Portland International Raceway in June that later was extended for two more events after additional on-track violations in the following race at Kansas Speedway. He has also previously been fined a total of $2,000 this season, $1,000 for the Kansas incidents and another $1,000 earlier in the year for excessive speed through an accident site during a caution period in April's race at Texas Motor Speedway.
"After careful review with CART Chief Steward Chris Kneifel regarding the Laguna Seca infractions and the season-long pattern of improper conduct in the Dayton Indy Lights Championship, we were left with little choice but to assess these sanctions against Townsend Bell," Dale said. "As the new Dayton Indy Lights Championship titleist, we believe Townsend has a incredibly bright future, but we need to continue to stress the need for him to conform to the basic rules of on-track conduct in all CART sanctioned competitions."
After taking the checkered flag for his title-clinching fifth win of the year Sunday, Bell stopped his car in Turn 2 of the Laguna Seca track and did a series of "doughnuts" directly in the path of on-coming competitors that were just beginning to slow down from racing speeds. At least one driver was forced to come to a complete stop while several others slowly threaded through the excessive tire smoke generated from Bell's race car.
Later in the same cool down lap, Bell ignored the directions of CART Pit Steward Chuck Greer and drove past the entrance into victory lane. He drove several hundred yards past the designated turn off where he began another series of spins and doughnuts both on an off the race track and in front of oncoming race cars. Bell then drove his race car counter-course back to the victory lane turn off directly in the path of on coming race cars that were heading toward pit lane.
"We encourage celebration and showmanship in our racing events," Dale added, "but such activity must be done without endangering other competitors or race officials. This was clearly not the case for Townsend at Laguna Seca."
Bell's probation begins with next month's season-ending Dayton Indy Lights race at California Speedway.
Terms of the probation are at the discretion of Dale for the California race and the presiding Chief Stewards of any CART-sanctioned competitions in which Bell will compete next season.