ST. LOUIS, Mo. (Sept. 16, 2000) - - Townsend Bell, of Costa Mesa, Calif., started fast and didn't look back as he captured the pole position for Sunday's 10th round of the 12-race Dayton Indy Lights Championship at Gateway International ...
ST. LOUIS, Mo. (Sept. 16, 2000) - - Townsend Bell, of Costa Mesa, Calif., started fast and didn't look back as he captured the pole position for Sunday's 10th round of the 12-race Dayton Indy Lights Championship at Gateway International Raceway.
Bell's DirecPC Lola shattered the track record with a fast lap of 0:28.625-seconds = 159.721 mph. Chris Simmons held the previous record from 1997 at 0:29.033-seconds = 157.478 mph. This was Bell's second pole of the season with his other coming at Portland International Raceway in June. Bell is the first American to win a pole on an oval track since Tony Renna at Fontana in 1998.
Dorricott Racing teammates Jason Bright, of Australia, and Casey Mears, of Bakersfield, Calif., likewise turned in solid qualifying results. Bright was fourth fastest while Mears was seventh. Bright's lap of 0:28.950 = 157.927mph also bettered the previous track record.
"My car was a little too loose through turns three and four, but we were quick through one and two," said Bright. "Considering I didn't test here and then I crashed on the previous oval, I'm pleased to be one of the top-four qualifiers. I'm positioned to challenge for a race victory anyway."
Mears was disappointed with his result despite being well positioned for a checkered flag. Mears qualified his Dorricott Racing/Sooner Trailer Lola with a time of 0:29.079 = 157.227 mph.
"I'm disappointed in myself. I could have been and should have been quicker," said Mears. "I underestimated the tires. There was so much more grip in the new tires. We ran a set in practice longer than anybody else. We put a lot of miles on it but I got used to that feel from the tires. The track was pretty slippery. Then we changed to a new set of tires for qualifying. The car's not bad. I think it still has a tenth of a second more speed in it. It's just today was the wrong day to not get the most out of the tires and car. Everything was prepared just the way I wanted it."
Weather was perfect with a comfortable, easterly breezes flowing down the front straight-away. Dayton Tire engineers reported a track temperature of 109 degrees at the start of the session with an ambient temperature of 72 degrees.
A concern arose midway through qualifying when Cory Witherill, of Santa Monica, Calif., when he lost control in turn three and spun into the wall at the entrance of turn four with the left side of the car. The car suffered heavy damage but Witherill was uninjured. CART safety workers assisted in his extrication from the car and subsequent transport to CART's infield medical center. Witherill was examined and released with a clearance to race tomorrow.
Bell earned one championship bonus point to improve his total to 93 points - 41 points behind Dixon. Bell is now two points ahead of Mears and Felipe Giaffone for second place. Bell also stretched his lead for Rookie of the Year over Jeff Simmons to 15 points. "I don't think the delay from the yellow flag was much of a problem," said Bell. "I think the last five guys waiting to qualify were probably a little more confident than they should have been including me. There wasn't any debris on the track. I felt I would run a pole competitive lap I the car was balanced. I remember running my first oval during Barber Dodge at Phoenix in '99 for a test. Jeff Simmons and I swapped fastest times throughout the day. I could tell we both felt right at home and it seems we're both still comfortable on ovals."
A revised telecast schedule was issued today with coverage of the Dayton Indy Lights Championship race from Gateway International Raceway, Madison, Ill, on ESPN2 now airing Monday, Sept.18, from 1:30 a.m. to 2:30 a.m. ET (Sunday, Sept. 17 in the Pacific time zone from 10:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. PT) .