Damien Faulkner In Closest Race In Open-Wheel History; Ireland'S Rising Star Finishes Second At Kansas In Photo Finish KANSAS CITY, Kan. (July 9, 2001) - Indy Lights rookie Damien Faulkner, of Moville, Ireland, didn't win the race but he...
Damien Faulkner In Closest Race In Open-Wheel History; Ireland'S Rising Star Finishes Second At Kansas In Photo Finish
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (July 9, 2001) - Indy Lights rookie Damien Faulkner, of Moville, Ireland, didn't win the race but he did join the winner on the podium in what turned out to be the closest finish in open-wheel racing history at Kansas Speedway, on Sunday, July 8. By virtue of Faulkner's second place finish and teammate Townsend Bell recording fifth place, Dorricott Racing gained exclusive control of driver championship after round six of the 12-race Dayton Indy Lights Championship.
Denmark's Kristian Kolby survived furious charges from Faulkner and Bell, of San Luis Obispo, Calif., with two laps remaining in the 67-lap race to win in a literal photo finish. As Kolby, Faulkner, and Bell exited the final turn of the 1.52-mile oval together, Faulkner split high, Kolby stayed in the middle, and Bell swung low. All three drivers crossed the finish line in virtual dead heat. Moments later, CART timing and scoring announced that Kolby had beaten Faulkner across the finish line by an imperceptible 0.001-seconds.
Dorricott Racing held the previous record margin of victory at Michigan Speedway in 1999 when Philipp Peter beat then teammate Casey Mears by 0.002-seconds. NASCAR officials also recorded a similar margin of victory in 1999 when Terry Labonte beat Joe Nemecheck in a Busch Grand National race at Talladega Speedway.
Four different drivers led the race in an Indy Lights-typical nose-to-tail, three-car wide display of incredible driving skill. Polesitter Mario Dominguez, of Mexico, led the first 18 laps before Bell, who started on the outside pole, took the lead.
Matt Halliday, of New Zealand made a strong bid early and led lap 19 ahead of Bell before Bell recaptured the lead. Bell then led 26 of the next 28 laps with Halliday slipping into the lead on two different occasions. Kolby eventually caught and passed Bell on lap 49 to secure the remaining 19 laps.
The race's only full course caution rose on lap 59 when Rudy Junco, of Mexico, hit the wall after tire-to-tire contact with Cory Witherill, of Santa Monica, Calif. Junco was uninjured, but the six-lap caution set the stage for a two-lap sprint to the finish.
"Getting past Kristian was only going to happen on the last lap if it was going to happen at all," said Faulkner. "I think he hit the rev limiter because I started gaining on him for no apparent reason. I had enough momentum at that point to try the outside. I made my move quite early but it seemed like the best time to move. Townsend was close behind me. He dipped to the inside so Kristian looked a little squashed. I ended up touching Kristian as we were headed to the start-finish. His right rear tire and my left front tire touched. It wasn't a big deal but it may have cost me the two or three-thousandths of a second that mattered most."
Bell was only 0.213-seconds behind Kolby in third place at the checkered flag. However, he was later dropped two positions in the final results for exercising what Indy Lights officials termed an "unjustifiable risk" during the race. Bell, who was serving a one-race probation following Portland, also had his probation period extended for two more races and was fined $1,000. Dan Wheldon, of England, was moved to third place in the final standings and Halliday jumped to fourth.
Despite the penalty, Bell increased his series lead to 11 points over Faulkner, 82-71 points. Derek Higgins, who retired with a minor electrical fire early in the race, is in third place with 68 points. Kolby moved to fourth place with 65 points.
Dorricott Racing's third driver, Jon Fogarty, of Portola Valley, Calif., was forced to miss his second Indy Lights race of the year due to a herniated disk located between his C-3 and C-4 vertebrae. Fogarty is in 12th place with 22 points.
Faulkner claimed "fastest lap" honors of the race at 0:29.669 = 184.435 mph and earned a $1,000 bonus as recipient of the WorldCom Fast Pace Award. He also received two Dayton Daytona racing tires as the Dayton Rookie Award recipient for being the highest finishing first-year driver.
Faulkner continues to lead all newcomers for Rookie-of-the-Year honors by virtue of a six-point margin over his closest challenger Kolby, 71-65.
Faulkner's 16 points for finishing second place extended his lead in the Bosch Platinum +4 Speedway Challenge Award. The Award pays $10,000 to the driver accumulating the most points in 2001's six oval track events.
Ireland continues to lead in the Nations Cup with 101 points due greatly in part to Faulkner. The United States is in second place with 81 points. Mexico is third with 76 points.
An encore ESPN telecast of the Kansas Indy Lights race will be shown on Thursday, July 12, at 5:00 a.m. ET (2:00 a.m. PT).
Race results, team, and sponsor information are available on Dorricott Racing's official web site, http://www.dorricottracing.com. Round Seven of the Dayton Indy Lights Championship will be at the Molson Indy Toronto (Ontario, Canada) on Sunday, July 15.