Mechanical Gremlins Steal Sure Victory From Townsend Bell At Gateway Damien Faulkner Finishes Fifth MADISON, Ill. (August 26, 2001) - - Townsend Bell was cruising - literally and figuratively - at Gateway International Raceway on his way...
Mechanical Gremlins Steal Sure Victory From Townsend Bell At Gateway
Damien Faulkner Finishes Fifth
MADISON, Ill. (August 26, 2001) - - Townsend Bell was cruising - literally and figuratively - at Gateway International Raceway on his way to another uncontested victory in the Dayton Indy Lights Championship when the unforeseen struck with a vengeance. Bell's DIRECWAY Lola began "burping" with 10 laps remaining in the 80-lap race to force Bell into pit lane and end his two-race winning streak.
Bell, of San Luis Obispo, Calif., who started from the pole, was practically untouchable under green flags but he had to give way to Dan Wheldon, of England, when Bell's car suffered an electrical malfunction with its connector to the fuel pump. Wheldon took the checkered flag after being nothing more than an observer the first 69 laps.
"It's a shame," said Bell. "The car suffered some kind of an electrical failure with the fuel pump. Otherwise, this was a stone-cold solid performance. The car set-up was perfect and I have a handle on this track. It was one of those types of mechanical failures you can't foresee but that doesn't make it any less heart breaking."
The only caution of the race occurred on lap 16 when Cory Witherill, of Santa Monica, Calif., stopped near pit out with a smoking motor. The race resumed on lap 21, and Bell was leading Wheldon by 2.07-seconds within five laps of the re-start. Weather was perfect with sunny skies and an ambient temperature of 87 degrees F. - a welcome respite from two days of thunderstorms that limited track time.
Teammate Damien Faulkner, of Moville, Ireland, had a better result but not as good as he had hoped. Regardless, his fifth place finish kept him the closest threat to Bell in the Indy Lights Championship.
Faulkner started from the outside pole but was passed on the opening lap by Wheldon and Mario Dominguez, of Mexico. He dropped a position to New Zealand's Matt Halliday on lap nine but regained fifth place on lap 70 for his sixth top-five finish in 2001. Faulkner's highlights this season include wins at Texas Motor Speedway and Portland. The portion of the race he felt contributed the most to fifth place was the race start.
"I should be used to rolling starts by now but I'm not," said Faulkner. "I'm not a big fan of them because they leave so much to question. I'm also not sure how to know when the rules apply by the book and what leeway you have on a rolling start. It seemed that we dropped to as low as 40 miles per hour and then it was a 'blast off' from there. There wasn't any gradual pick-up of power within the field so I got caught out on the green flag. We didn't realistically have a good weekend relative to our time on the track. I tested better. Wheldon found the inside line quicker than I did on the start and that was the difference."
Bell's championship lead shrank to 22 points over second place Faulkner, 131-109. Bell scored five points for ninth place including one bonus point for leading the most laps. Wheldon recovered the most in the driver standings by scoring 20 points for the victory and closing to within 28 points of Bell with 103 championship points.
Faulkner's 10 championship points for fifth place kept Ireland in the lead for the Nation's Cup with 141 points. The United States is close behind in second place with 130 points followed by Mexico with 116 points. Faulkner also leads Wheldon for Rookie-of-the-Year by six points.
Bell was awarded two Dayton Daytona racing tires as a bonus for being the top qualifier.
ESPN2 will provide a same day telecast of the Gateway International Raceway Indy Lights race Sunday, August 26, from 11:00 p.m. to midnight PT (Monday, Aug. 27, from 2:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m. ET). An encore telecast is tentatively scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 30 at 8:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. PT ( 11:00 - 12:00 p.m. ET). All times are subject to change.
Round 10 of the 12-race Dayton Indy Lights Championship is yet to be announced. Indy Lights officials expect to soon announce a substitute race to replace Chicagoland Speedway, of Joliet, Ill., following its cancellation as the 10th event on the 2001 Indy Lights schedule.
Detailed race results, team, and sponsor information are available on Dorricott Racing's official web site, http://www.dorricottracing.com.