SUNNYVALE, Calif. (Sept. 6, 2000) - - It may be too soon to suggest that a season's worth of effort is riding on one race, but this weekend's Yahoo! Sports Monterey Challenge for the Dayton Indy Lights Championship is certainly pivotal for...
SUNNYVALE, Calif. (Sept. 6, 2000) - - It may be too soon to suggest that a season's worth of effort is riding on one race, but this weekend's Yahoo! Sports Monterey Challenge for the Dayton Indy Lights Championship is certainly pivotal for many especially Dorricott Racing's Townsend Bell, Casey Mears, and Jason Bright. This year's annual return to the picturesque central California coastline will celebrate the 15th overall and consecutive visit of the Dayton Indy Lights Championship to Monterey. An anticipated field of 18 cars will take the green flag Sunday, Sept. 10, at 3:00 p.m. (PT) for the 34-lap, 76.092-mile sprint around Laguna Seca's picturesque 11-turn, 2.238-mile road course. This will be the ninth round of the 12-race Indy Lights season, and will immediately follow the CART FedEx Championship Series Honda Grand Prix.
Championship survival for Townsend Bell, of Costa Mesa, Calif., will likely depend on him returning another front-of-the-pack result for a sixth consecutive top-four finish. Bell has been the most consistent Indy Lights front-running performer in each of the last five races beginning at Portland where he won the pole and finished second place. Portland was followed with a fourth place showing at Michigan, second place at Chicago, and a memorable career-first Indy Lights victory at Mid-Ohio. Bell didn't show any signs of slowing last weekend at Vancouver when he finished fourth place after starting fifth. Bell comes to Laguna Seca in command of second place with 92 points.
Mears' championship hopes will heighten if he finishes significantly higher at Laguna Seca than series leader Scott Dixon, who has 113 points, and Bell. Mears is a proven product in finishing strong. Besides scoring second place at Michigan in round five, Mears has five top-five finishes including third place at Detroit in round three, and a triplet of fifth place finishes at Long Beach, Milwaukee, and Mid-Ohio.
Mears, who makes his home in Bakersfield, Calif., has also been a key figure in qualifying all season. He has qualified his Dorricott Racing/Sooner Trailer Lola on the outside pole twice this season at Detroit and Chicago. He also qualified third at Milwaukee and fourth at Michigan. Furthermore, he is one of only three Indy Lights drivers who has scored championship points in every race this year. Mears consistency includes finishing races where he has completed 427 of 431 possible laps to date. Mears returns to Laguna Seca in fourth place with 74 points.
The task for Australian Jason Bright is a touch more daunting but far from impossible. Bright is in fifth place with 72 points but his numbers are deceiving. Bright suffered a major set-back at Chicago when a practice-session crash prevented him from competing in the race. He was back in the proverbial "saddle" one race later at Mid-Ohio where he set a track record in winning the pole and finished third place.
Aggravation revisited Bright at Vancouver, B.C., when he was literally "punted" out of contention at the start of the race in the first corner by Chris Menninga. Menninga, who started 13th in the 17-car field, made a race opening mad dash along the inside of the front straight-away but lost control while braking into turn one. Bright, who started ninth, made every effort to avoid contact but was tagged when Menninga slid past. Menninga ended up against the tire barriers alongside another innocent victim, Andy Boss. Bright returned to pit lane but extensive repairs to the steering elements and front suspension cost him 14 laps and a 14th place finish.
Bright has a victory this season at Portland on the heels of consecutive second-place finishes in the season opening events at Long Beach and Milwaukee. He has also qualified generally well. Besides starting fifth at Michigan in his first career superspeedway race, he opened his Indy Lights campaign by starting third at Long Beach, second at Milwaukee and Portland, and fifth at Detroit.
LIVE television coverage of Dayton Indy Lights Championship race from Laguna Seca, Sunday, Sept. 10, on ESPN2 will begin at 3:00 p.m. (PT) ... 6:00 p.m. (ET). This will be the first time in the 15 year history of Indy Lights that a race has been televised live.
Dorricott Racing is a year-round professional motorsports organization with its race shop located in Bakersfield, Calif., and its corporate office based in Sunnyvale, Calif. Race results, team, and sponsor information are available on Dorricott Racing's official web site, http://www.dorricottracing.com.