HOUSTON, Texas (Oct. 1, 2000) - Casey Mears (Dorricott Racing/Sooner Trailer Lola) won his first race and joined teammate Townsend Bell (DirecPC Lola) in blowing the Dayton Indy Lights Championship points battle wide open Sunday with a 1-2 finish...
HOUSTON, Texas (Oct. 1, 2000) - Casey Mears (Dorricott Racing/Sooner Trailer Lola) won his first race and joined teammate Townsend Bell (DirecPC Lola) in blowing the Dayton Indy Lights Championship points battle wide open Sunday with a 1-2 finish at the Texaco/Havoline Grand Prix of Houston. Felipe Giaffone (Hollywood Lola) finished third to post his fifth podium showing of the year.
Mears, who won his second-straight road course pole position in Saturday's final qualifying session with a record 84.936 mph (64.722 seconds) lap around the 1.527-mile circuit, led all 45 race laps and crossed the finish line 1.241 seconds ahead of Bell. The win for Mears was his first in 47 career starts although he is competing just his third full season in five years of Indy Lights competition.
Mears finished second in the championship in 1999 and will head to the season-ending race at California Speedway, Oct. 29, contending for the title for the second-straight year. He will battle with Bell and championship leader Scott Dixon (Invensys/Powerware Lola) who failed to score points for the second consecutive race Sunday. Dixon was one of four drivers who crashed when Jonny Kane (KOOL Lola) blew a gearbox while running third. Kane, Dixon, Derek Higgins (Mexpro/PrecioBase.com Lola) and Jason Bright (Dorricott Racing Lola) were uninjured but eliminated in the incident which was the first of three cautions on Sunday. Giaffone was the first driver to make it though the accident scene and moved to third.
Dixon is still on top in the championship with 134 points but Bell and Mears have closed to within five points. Bell is second in the championship with 130 points and Mears is third with 129. The three-way championship battle is the closest in the 15-year history of the Dayton Indy Lights Championship.
American drivers filled four of the top-five finishing positions in Houston with Geoff Boss (Cross Pens/Lacoste/ITIS Lola) earning a season's best fourth place finish. Chris Menninga (Mi-Jack Lola) finished fifth.
The day's final caution periods were shown for separate contact incidents involving Mario Dominguez (Herdez "Viva Mexico" Lola) and Jeff Simmons (KOOL Lola). Both drivers were uninjured. Bell's second-place finish clinched the Dayton Indy Lights Rookie of the Year award while the United States locked up its second straight Nation's Cup title on the strength of Mears' victory.
Light Look - Top Five Light Look - Top Five Points 1. Casey Mears 1. Scott Dixon 134 2. Townsend Bell (R) 2. Townsend Bell (R) 130 3. Felipe Giaffone 3. Casey Mears 129 4. Geoff Boss 4. Felipe Giaffone 111 5. Chris Menninga 5. Jason Bright (R) 91
Casey Mears (Sooner Trailer Lola) - "I don't have the words to describe how this feels. It's been a while since I've won a race. My first couple of years in Lights were tough. Things started to come together last year when I joined Dorricott Racing. We did well last year in finishing second place in the championship but we went into this season looking to win a race and the championship."
Townsend Bell (DirecPC Lola) - "I was very lucky to cross the finish line in second place. We had problems most of the weekend. It was one of those races where you're happy to score points and leave knowing you're still in the championship hunt. Maybe we can go to Fontana and win this thing. Once again, Bob Dorricott has been so supportive. I really wanted a good result for Bob but also for my chief mechanic, Kerry Dunn, who had a very tough weekend and problems in the family that required him to leave before the race today."
Felipe Giaffone (Hollywood Lola) - "Looking at it from far away, it looked kind of stupid with everybody in the oil at the same time. It was like something was wrong there. I got slowed down and it was still really slippery. I almost hit Scott (Dixon). I was really lucky there. My car was pushing more than it has been because we made a change before the race. I could of tried to drive the car harder but did not want to put it in the wall."
Scott Dixon (Invensys/Powerware/PacWest Lights Lola) - "There was oil all over the track from Kane's car and no caution flags were flying in that corner at all so we didn't know there was a problem. We just skidded right through and into the tires and each other. Basically my car wasn't very good to begin with. We were loose all day. It's too bad that we have to go to Fontana to decide the championship, but we're up for the challenge."
Dayton Tire Awards: Luis Diaz receives four Dayton Daytona racing tires as the Move to the Front award recipient. Diaz improved nine positions to finish in seventh place. Townsend Bell receives two Dayton Daytona racing tires as the Dayton Rookie Award recipient as the highest finishing first-year driver. Casey Mears receives a pair of Dayton Daytona racing tires as the fast qualifier.
MCI Worldcom Fast Pace Award: Casey Mears receives the $1,000 MCI WorldCom Fast Pace Award for his fast lap of 1:05.525 seconds (83.895 mph) on lap 11.
Nation's Cup: Casey Mears' win helps the United States clinch The Nation's Cup for the second straight year. The United States now has 184 points with New Zealand holding at 134 points. Brazil sits in third with 111 points.
Racing for Kids Award: Casey Mears wins the Racing for Kids Award of $500. An additional $1,500 will be presented to a local children's hospital in Casey's name. Heading into the final race, Scott Dixon leads the season standings with 134 points, followed by Bell with 130 points and Mears with 129 points.
Television - Next Sunday!
The Houston Dayton Indy Lights Championship race will be telecast on ESPN2 on Sunday, October 8, at 6 p.m. ET (3 p.m. PT)