Gateway Dixon leads the way on Friday

MADISON, Ill. (Sept. 15, 2000) - Scott Dixon (Invensys/Powerware/PacWest Lights Lola) displayed the form that has him on the brink of clinching his first North American motorsports championship Friday at Gateway International Raceway Friday where...

MADISON, Ill. (Sept. 15, 2000) - Scott Dixon (Invensys/Powerware/PacWest Lights Lola) displayed the form that has him on the brink of clinching his first North American motorsports championship Friday at Gateway International Raceway Friday where he paced the field in the opening day of practice.

Dixon, 20, was quickest all day at Gateway and turned Friday's fastest time a lap from the end of the session at an average speed of 156.297 mph (29.252 seconds). Earlier in the day, Dixon set the fastest lap in the morning session at an average speed of 155.041 mph (29.489 seconds). The bad news for his competition, however, is that the young New Zealander isn't even happy with his race car.

"I'm battling a lot of understeer today," Dixon said. "We tried a few things setup up wise, that didn't really work. We're pretty much running the same setup as we did in our earlier test session and we're trying to find as much speed as we can. I think we are going to work on my gearing tonight, and that is really the only problem we have."

Dixon, winner of five of the year's first nine Indy Lights races, including the last two, has a huge 42-point lead on the competition heading into Sunday's race. He needs only to gain two points on the field to clinch the Dayton Indy Lights Championship title with two rounds remaining on the 12-race schedule. He can gain one point if he wins the pole in Saturday's single-car qualifying session.

Even if Dixon fails to win the pole, any combination of finishes that sees him leave Gateway 44 points in front will seal the crown.

Only six other drivers remain mathematically alive in the championship, and two of them were second and third fastest Friday. Rookie Jeff Simmons (KOOL Lola) was second fastest overall at an average speed of 154.637 mph (29.566 seconds) while Dixon's teammate Tony Renna (Motorola/PacWest Lights) was third fastest at an average speed of 153.748 mph (29.737 seconds).

"My car has been pretty inconsistent all day," Renna said. "We made a bar change early when we were having trouble in turns one and two. My car is neutral in the high-speed turns three and four. We modified our setup from our previous test session and have been a little loose. We're going to rethink our setup options tonight, and come out ready to go on Saturday."

Cory Witherill (WSA Healthcare/Indy Regency Racing Lola) was a solid fourth fastest Friday in just his third race with Indy Regency. Witherill lapped at an average speed of 153.495 mph (29.786 seconds). Chicago pole winner Chris Menninga (Mi-Jack Lola) rounded out the top five at an average speed of 153.186 mph).

The day's only contact incident involved Casey Mears (Dorricott Racing/Sooner Trailer Lola) who was uninjured when he hit the Turn 4 wall early in morning practice. Mears took the track in the afternoon session in his repaired race car and was sixth fastest overall on the day.

"We returned to the springs we had in testing and the results were obvious," Mears said. "We loosened the car too much in the morning practice. We're we should be after missing a practice. We're behind but not by much. It's more a factor of track time at the moment. We'll have tomorrow morning's practice to catch up to the rest. Now we can begin fine tuning the car for the race."

Current champion runner-up Townsend Bell (DirecPC Lola), Jason Bright (Dorricott Racing Lola), Jonny Kane (KOOL Lola) and Felipe Giaffone (Hollywood Lola) completed the top-10 Friday.

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Series Indy Lights
Drivers Felipe Giaffone , Casey Mears , Cory Witherill , Scott Dixon , Chris Menninga , Townsend Bell , Jonny Kane , Tony Renna , Jason Bright , Jeff Simmons