PORTLAND, Ore. (June 26, 2000) - Jason Bright, of Gold Coast, Australia, took the honors and Dorricott Racing claimed the credit as the Dayton Indy Lights Championship's premier team ran away with first and second place in round four of...
PORTLAND, Ore. (June 26, 2000) - Jason Bright, of Gold Coast, Australia, took the honors and Dorricott Racing claimed the credit as the Dayton Indy Lights Championship's premier team ran away with first and second place in round four of the 12-race series at Portland International Raceway, Sunday, June 25.
Bright's victory was enhanced by the respective second and seventh place finishes of Californian teammates, Townsend Bell and Casey Mears. Bright, who started from the outside pole, led 37 of 38 laps to cross the finish line 0.354-seconds ahead of Bell in an essentially caution free race.
The 27 year-old Australian also set an Indy Lights race record speed of 102.226 mph around Portland's 12-turn, 1.967-mile permanent road circuit. It was Bright's first career Indy Lights victory in only his fourth Indy Lights start. It was a likewise career best Indy Lights finish for Bell.
Bright has placed himself squarely in position assume the Indy Lights series lead in round five at Michigan International Speedway in July. The Portland win was worth 21 championship points including 20 for the victory and one bonus point for leading the most laps. Bright has closed to within three points of series leader Scott Dixon, of New Zealand, 56-53.
Mears, who started and finished seventh place, earned six championship points and is also clearly in the championship hunt with 40 points and third place.
Bell's runner-up showing combined with his record-shattering qualifying lap of 1:05.275 (108.593 mph) to win the pole propelled him into a tie with Felipe Giaffone, of Brazil, for eighth place in the Indy Lights championship. Bell scored 16 championship points for being runner-up and one bonus point for winning the pole to improve his season total to 31 points. Bell is the first American-born Indy Lights driver to win a pole since Geoff Boss won it in Toronto in 1999.
The race's only caution was on the initial green flag when the start was "waved off" for an improper start after Bright fell out of line and behind Bell.
The proverbial "game winner" for Bright occurred on the Lap Two race start while approaching the first three turns in the "Festival Curves." Bright slipped inside and past Bell to scurry a car length ahead of Bell's DirecPC Lola. He then opted for an inside line of drive and accelerated through the apex of corner one to take the lead.
"Townsend (Bell) had the jump on me when the green flag waved but I think my gear ratio worked better coming into the Festival Corners," said Bright. "I was able to get level with him when we hit the braking zone and beat him on the turning angle."
Mears, meanwhile, had to avoid a four-car squeeze through the Festival Curves and fell from seventh to 10th place. Mears made up two positions during the next four laps, and then passed Giaffone to regain seventh place on lap 17. The field was fairly spread by this time which left Mears with little opportunity to move any higher.
"Overall, the race worked out well for me considering I had a terrible start and a broken front wing because of it," said Mears. "I ran without much front downforce. It helped that a couple of the key players in the point's battle didn't score and I was able to move back up through the field to earn more points. I really think I would have been moving to the front and passing a lot of cars if I would have had a front wing. The car's balance turned out perfect for the track conditions and the way I wanted to race."
Bell made a run on Bright on lap 29 when he went outside and pulled beside him on the front straight-away. Bright maintain his position and angle into the corner such that Bell had to drop back. After 36 laps, Bell was within 0.476-seconds of Bright but it wasn't enough to encourage a "teammate v. teammate" fading laps effort.
"It started getting really slick near the middle of the race," said Bell. "The tires started heating up and it was easy to slip and slide through the sharper corners. I was able to sneak behind Jason and pull alongside a few times but I never had a sure-shot angle to pass. When you're running first and second with a teammate, you don't want to take chances that could jeopardize either car. I'd rather be conservative and score points than lose out with a stupid move.
"I also developed a gearbox problem late in the race. My fourth gear wasn't working kicking in which really hurt me the couple of times I tried to make a run on Jason."
Bright continues to lead all newcomers for Rookie-of-the-Year honors including a 17 point margin over his closest challenger Jeff Simmons, of East Granby, Conn., 53-36. Bell is next with 31 points.
Besides taking home a $25,000 race purse, Bright was also awarded two Dayton Daytona racing tires for being the highest finishing Indy Lights rookie driver. Bell received two Dayton Daytona racing tires as a bonus for being the top qualifier.
ESPN2 will provide a delayed telecast of the Portland Indy Lights race, Saturday, July 1, from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. ET (2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. PT).
Race results, team, and sponsor information are available on Dorricott Racing's official web site, http://www.dorricottracing.com. Round five of the Dayton Indy Lights Championship will be at the Detroit News 100 from Michigan Speedway in Brooklyn, Mich., on Saturday, July 22.