MONTEREY, Calif. (Sept. 8, 2000) - Casey Mears (Dorricott Racing/Sooner Trailer Lola) improved on his Friday provisional pole lap to win his first career Dayton Indy Lights Championship pole Saturday in final qualifying at Laguna Seca Raceway.
MONTEREY, Calif. (Sept. 8, 2000) - Casey Mears (Dorricott Racing/Sooner Trailer Lola) improved on his Friday provisional pole lap to win his first career Dayton Indy Lights Championship pole Saturday in final qualifying at Laguna Seca Raceway. Mears swapped the top spot with points leader Scott Dixon (Invensys/Powerware/PacWest Lights Lola) twice in the session and ended up fastest with a lap at an average speed of 106.163 mph (75.891 seconds) around the 2.238-mile road course.
The pole was the first for Mears in 45 career Indy Lights starts and gives each of the three drivers at Dorricott Racing - Mears, Jason Bright (Dorricott Racing Lola) and Townsend Bell (DirecPC Lola) - a pole this season. The pole three-pack marks the first time since the 1994 season, when Tasman Motorsports Group won poles with drivers Steve Robertson, Andre Ribeiro and Eddie Lawson, that a three-car team has won poles with each of its drivers.
"I was loose coming out of turn 11 on my fastest lap so I didn't think it would be as fast as it was," Mears said. "I ran through turns two, three, four, and five really fast so that's where I made my time. We had a great test here earlier this year and much of the weekend has been like the test. It's always good coming back to Laguna Seca. Much of my early career was spent in the Russell School. I have a lot of track time here so it's basically my home track. It's been nice to have an engineer as good as Burke Harrison. He's given me a good car. I've always believed I could do well at Laguna Seca if I had a good car. This year I finally have one. It's been way too long since I've won a pole. I think my last was in 1996 in the Russell Pro Championship.
Mears is also the seventh different driver in nine race this season to win a Dayton Indy Lights pole. Only Felipe Giaffone (Hollywood Lola) and Jonny Kane (KOOL Lola) have won more than one pole. Giaffone won the pole at Michigan and Vancouver and Kane had the top spot at Long Beach and Detroit.
Dixon, who won the pole at Milwaukee earlier this year, lost 2/10ths of a second on his quick lap in Turn 4 and ultimately ended his qualifying bid a couple of minutes from the end of the session when he ran out of fuel.
"Although we're sitting in P2 on the front row, we still feel that we have more left in the car for tomorrow," Dixon said. "We need to settle the car down in the highspeed corners because we lost some time in Turn 2 and Turn 4. Casey got by me on the grid with about three minutes remaining, and unfortunately I didn't have enough fuel in the car to go on another flyer. I'm looking forward to a great race tomorrow and hopefully I'll be able to set the pace from the start."
Rookie Jeff Simmons (KOOL Lola) qualified third for the second-consecutive week after first posting his career-best qualifying effort last week at Vancouver.
"We really made a big improvement from yesterday. This morning, we had a brake problem and it kind of ruined our whole session. We had to scramble in the pits and the guys did a great job. They changed the brakes on pit lane this morning while we were under a red flag. So I got one flying lap this morning and really did not get a good read on my car going into this afternoon. We are still not quite there. On longer runs, the car would get nervous but we are happy to be starting up front in third place. That is important because this track is tough to pass on."
Dixon's teammate Tony Renna (Motorola/PacWest Lights Lola) qualified fourth.
"My car was much better this afternoon," said Renna who was 11th fastest in yesterday's first round qualifying. "We didn't change anything on the car really, except for the tire pressures, so I'm definitely happy with my run. This is the best we've been all weekend and this gives us a lot of confidence heading into the race on Sunday."
Giaffone qualified fifth while Luis Diaz (Quaker State Mexico Lola) posted a career-best qualifying effort for the second straight week. He was sixth Saturday at Laguna Seca and seventh last week at Vancouver.
Jonny Kane (KOOL Lola), who finished third at Laguna Seca last year, qualified seventh.
"We've had big understeer everywhere since we got here," Kane said. "We actually changed the car quite a bit overnight and now I've got oversteer as well. The car is still not doing anything that I want it to do. We've got big understeer and the rear is real nervous on entry as well. My teammates (Jeff Simmons) car is obviously working a lot better than ours. We came with the same setup, but we've changed it quite a bit. I didn't think small things were going to help, so the changes we've made are quite drastic."
The Laguna Seca Dayton Indy Lights race will be telecast live on ESPN2 on Sunday at 3 p.m. PT (6 p.m. ET).