MONTEREY, Calif. (Sept. 8, 2000) - Casey Mears (Dorricott Racing/Sooner Trailer Lola) continued to prove his road racing skills Friday by winning the provisional pole in first round qualifying at Laguna Seca Raceway for Round Nine of the Dayton...
MONTEREY, Calif. (Sept. 8, 2000) - Casey Mears (Dorricott Racing/Sooner Trailer Lola) continued to prove his road racing skills Friday by winning the provisional pole in first round qualifying at Laguna Seca Raceway for Round Nine of the Dayton Indy Lights Championship.
Mears, 22, lapped the 2.238-mile road course at an average speed of 105.820 mph (76.137 seconds) to earn the first overnight pole in his four years in Indy Lights. Mears has never started from the pole for an Indy Lights race but he has the opportunity to win his first top starting spot in Saturday's final qualifying session.
"We had one of the best clean laps we've ever had," Mears said. "We were concerned about running on old tires as long as we did but we ran good times nonetheless. I made a couple of early mistakes so it was hard to know what composed a representative fast lap. Once we changed to new tires the difference in the grip was clear. The car felt just right and that credit really goes to my engineer, Burke Harrison. We made several minor changes right before qualifying that made major differences. The front end was definitely better. The push nearly disappeared. The changes were good enough to win the provisional pole. It's my first time on the provisional pole so trust me when I say it feels so great."
Mears earned a career-best starting position of second (later matched at Chicago) on the Detroit road course in June and recently set the fastest race lap in the Mid-Ohio race. He was also the fastest driver in a group Indy Lights test held at Laguna Seca last April.
Championship points leader Scott Dixon (Invensys/Powerware/PacWest Lights Lola) was second fastest while two-time 2000 pole-winner Felipe Giaffone (Hollywood Lola) was third quick. Dixon recorded a lap at an average speed of 105.442 mph (76.410 seconds) while Giaffone clocked in the 105.073 mph (76.678 seconds) range.
"The track this afternoon seemed totally different from this morning," said Dixon. "I'm dealing with a lot of understeer this session, which we must address. I know our times can improve, we just have to be patient and work things out in the morning. For a Friday, I think we're doing OK."
Mears' teammate Townsend Bell (DirecPC Lola) qualified fourth at 104.813 mph (76.868 seconds) and rookie Jeff Simmons (KOOL Lola) rounded out the top five at 104.696 mph (76.954 seconds). Bell overcame a variety of problems Friday including running out of fuel in qualifying.
"The brake bias cable was accidentally disconnected this morning so it was incredibly hard to slow the car in practice," Bell said. "The front brakes were locking badly. We knew we'd gain a lot of time when we corrected this morning's error. We made some changes on the general balance of the car and they turned out to be the right changes. We have room for improvement. I'm not really thrilled with the present handling although it's good. We didn't find a clean lap. Just when I didn't have a car in front of me, and the tires were perfect for a pole run, I ran out of gas. We're so lucky to be fourth."
The Laguna Seca Dayton Indy Lights race will be telecast live on ESPN2 on Sunday at 3 p.m. PT (6 p.m. ET).