SUNNYVALE, Calif. (Sept. 27, 2000) - - Five drivers remain in contention for the 2000 Dayton Indy Lights Championship including Dorricott Racing's Townsend Bell, Casey Mears, and Jason Bright, but this weekend penultimate round at the...
SUNNYVALE, Calif. (Sept. 27, 2000) - - Five drivers remain in contention for the 2000 Dayton Indy Lights Championship including Dorricott Racing's Townsend Bell, Casey Mears, and Jason Bright, but this weekend penultimate round at the Grand Prix of Houston is a "time to get serious" event for Indy Lights' premier team. The 50 lap/76.35 mile Indy Lights race around Houston's 1.527-mile downtown street circuit is scheduled to begin at 12:30 p.m. (CT), Sunday, Oct. 1. This will be the first time Indy Lights has raced in Houston, and it is the featured support event for the CART FedEx Championship Series Texaco/Havoline Grand Prix of Houston later that day.
The clutches of despair were retracted one race ago at St. Louis when Dorricott Racing's Townsend Bell, of Costa Mesa, Calif., flew from title oblivion to leading title contender with a stunning flag-to-flag victory. Bell's solid field trouncing combined with series leader Scott Dixon falling out of the race after striking a wall propelled Bell to within 20 points of Dixon with two races remaining, 134-114.
Bell's season is distinguished from Dixon's in one word - consistency. Bell has only failed to finish in the points twice this season. Each instance was due to another driver's negligence that took Bell victim.
Bell was hurled into a wall after seven laps in the season opener at Long Beach because of an errant miscalculation by another driver. Bell then suffered a similar disappointment in round nine at Laguna Seca. After starting 11th, Bell maneuvered into the top 10 by lap 10. Disaster struck early when Derek Higgins, of Ireland, and Bell collided. Higgins attempted an inside pass of Bell while entering the 180 degree second corner at Laguna Seca and drove his right front tire into Bell's left side tub and rear tire. The impact jettisoned Bell off course and into the turn two wall. Bell was uninjured but also out of the points.
Before Laguna Seca, the 25-year-old southern Californian had a string of five consecutive top-four finishes dating back to round four at Portland where he won the pole and finished second place. Portland was followed by fourth place at Michigan, second place at Chicago, and a memorable career-first Indy Lights victory at Mid-Ohio. Bell didn't slow down at Vancouver either where he finished fourth place after starting fifth in the DirecPC Lola
Another recipient of Dixon's misfortune is Casey Mears, of Bakersfield, Calif. Mears scored a season saving second place finish at Gateway International Raceway to re-establish his bid for an Indy Lights championship. Mears is only 27 points off the pace in third place with 107 points.
Mears is a proven product and looking to parlay the experience of back-to-back runner-up finishes to an all-podium honor at Houston. Mears also finished second place at Laguna Seca to match his previous season best of second place at Michigan.
The nephew of four-time Indianapolis 500 champion Rick Mears, Mears has seven top-five finishes this year including third place at Detroit in round three, and a triplet of fifth place finishes at Long Beach, Milwaukee, and Mid-Ohio. Furthermore, Mears consistently finishes races as evidenced by 540 completed laps out of a possible 544 to date.
Another reason Mears can't be counted out is his solid record in qualifying. He guided his Dorricott Racing/Sooner Trailer Lola to the pole at Laguna Seca, and started on the outside pole at Detroit and Chicago. He also qualified third at Milwaukee and fourth at Michigan.
Australian Jason Bright has the greatest obstacles to overcome and needs an intervention of fate to deposit an Indy Lights championship in his name. Bright finished third place at Gateway to mathematically remain in contention in fifth place with 91 points but 43 points back. Dixon only needs to score one championship point to eliminate Bright. This means that Dixon must go "pointless" in the final two events while Bright wins both races, both remaining pole positions, and leads the most laps for each race - a total of 44 championship points. Stranger things have happened.
Bright won at Portland in June following consecutive second-place finishes in the season opening events at Long Beach and Milwaukee. He has also been a consistently high qualifier. 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, fifth at Detroit, and eighth place at Laguna Seca. He set a track record in winning the pole in round seven at Mid-Ohio before finishing third place.
A telecast date and time for the Dayton Indy Lights Championship race from the Grand Prix of Houston has not yet been announced.
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.