HOUSTON, Texas (Sept. 30 2000) - Casey Mears (Dorricott Racing/Sooner Trailer) Lola won his second straight road course pole and his second in the last three Dayton Indy Lights Championship races Saturday in the Texaco/Havoline Grand Prix of ...
HOUSTON, Texas (Sept. 30 2000) - Casey Mears (Dorricott Racing/Sooner Trailer) Lola won his second straight road course pole and his second in the last three Dayton Indy Lights Championship races Saturday in the Texaco/Havoline Grand Prix of Houston.
Mears, 22, broke the day-old track record teammate Jason Bright (Dorricott Racing Lola) set in Friday's first round qualifying with a lap around the 1.527 mile street circuit at 84.936 mph (64.722 seconds). Mears' other teammate Townsend Bell (DirecPC Lola) will start second on the grid for Dorricott Racing's third front row sweep of the season. Bell qualified at an average speed of 84.696 mph (64.905 seconds).
"I have to thank Jason (Bright) and Gerald (Tyler), his engineer for my pole today," Mears said. "They did some pre-race testing about a week ago and we all gained from it. Townsend and I changed to their set-up and we ran faster. I come from road course racing and did a lot of miles at Laguna Seca. I was fortunate for my early years with Team Mears but I became a bit stereotyped (as an oval driver) because we did really well on ovals versus road courses. We didn't have the engineers to help me on the road courses. It's funny how things turn because we've been more successful on road courses than ovals this year."
Bell slipped by Mears for the pole with just under two minutes remaining in the session, but Mears retook the top spot with little over a minute to go.
"I knew I'd have to run a faster lap than what I did to keep the pole," Bell said. "My throttle started to stick a bit. I don't remember what revs we were stuck but it gave me understeer in turning. It makes street courses racing more difficult if you have a little push because you can never quite get enough angle to get out of the corner properly. The best thing with a three-car team is we have three great engineers and two fine teammates that are willing to share information. If we run into problems early in the weekend, we can track what the other two cars are doing and mimic. This weekend was another example where Jason (Bright) and Gerald Tyler came up with something that worked well. We went with their set-up so all I have to do is go out on the track and step on it. It makes my job much easier."
Derek Higgins (Mexpro/PrecioBase.com Lola) qualified third to match his career-best showing that he set at Vancouver in 1998.
"This is the first time all of us have been here so it is a level playing field on the setups," Higgins said. "What we are working on now is being very competitive in the last few races and be ready for 2001. I did a 4.9 (1:04.9 seconds) on the first lap after leaving the pits and on the next lap on all of the splits coming to the end of the long back straight, I was 2/10 of a second up on that. I just basically screwed up. I went into the very bumpy section before Turn 6 and tried to turned it slightly too early and the bumps upset the rear of the car. When I hit the bump, instead of it jumping straight, it jumped all loose and from there, I was just a passenger until I hit the wall. I know I probably screwed up everybody else's lap but I have been on the other end of that as well. It happens. I was just trying to get a good lap."
Jonny Kane (KOOL Lola), who had been quickest in both Friday and Saturday practice, was in the hunt for the pole only to hit the wall halfway through the session.
"I made it very difficult for myself today as I only got eight laps in and I had two sets of tires," Kane said. "I went a little bit wide at turn nine and I spun the car around. I touched the tire wall with the rear wing and unfortunately I damaged the gearbox casing as well, which took a while to fix. I think if I had been able to get at least one more lap in, we could have had pole. It was unfortunate that the session was cut short. I have been one of the quickest all weekend so hopefully we'll have a good race tomorrow."
After giving his teammates a helping hand all the way to the front row, Bright ended up fifth on the grid to give Dorricott three race cars in the top five. He will share the third row with points leader Scott Dixon (Invensys/Powerware/PacWest Lights Lola).
"The red flags absolutely killed us today," Dixon said. "After all of the problems we've had this weekend, and working late into the night last night, we thought we would be OK for qualifying. I got a good run early on to move to the top of the list, then went to new tires. I was planning on having flying laps to end the session and improve my starting position, but red flag didn't permit that. We'll just have to stay focused tomorrow and work our way up."
Sunday's Dayton Indy Lights race will be telecast on ESPN2 one week from today, Oct. 8, at 6 p.m. ET (3 p.m. PT).