LONG BEACH, Calif. (April 15, 2000) - - It's anybody's guess how Sunday's first round of the 2000 Dayton Indy Lights Championship will end, but veteran observers are all noticing that Dorricott Racing's Jason Bright and Casey Mears are in good ...
LONG BEACH, Calif. (April 15, 2000) - - It's anybody's guess how Sunday's first round of the 2000 Dayton Indy Lights Championship will end, but veteran observers are all noticing that Dorricott Racing's Jason Bright and Casey Mears are in good positions to challenge for the checkered flag.
Bright, a first-year Indy Lights driver from Gold Coast, Australia, will start third on the grid Sunday with a qualifying time of 1:15.831 = 93.429 mph. Mears, who suffered through more engine misfire problems, nonetheless put together his fastest lap as the session concluded and posted the sixth fastest time at 1:16.243 = 92.924 mph. Dorricott Racing teammate, Townsend Bell, of Costa Mesa, Calif., will start 10th in the DirecPC Lola.
The scheduled 30-minute final qualifying session was shortened to 24 minutes due to scheduling snafus during the CART FedEx Championship morning practice that were unrelated to the Indy Lights series.
Bright was fastest after 10 minutes at 1:16.178 = 89.821 mph while Mears sneaked into third place at 1:16.797 = 91.549 mph. Jonny Kane, of Ireland, slipped past Bright at the 20 minute mark with a fast lap of 1:15.155 = 94.269 mph. Bright maintained second place at 1:15.921 = 93.318 mph.
Qualifying tactics were forced to shift with seven minutes remaining when Rolando Quintanilla, of Mexico, struck a tire barrier in Turn 5. This brought out a red flag period that lasted over four minutes. It was that lost time that arguably cost Mears and Bright a chance to run a clear lap and challenge for the pole.
"We went through the first part of the session seeing how we ran on older tires," said Mears. "We knew within a lap or two that I was going to have to pit for new tires. Then we ended up with another motor problem and misfire. We discovered that our plug wires were backwards. It was minor and the crew did a good job finding the problem and getting it repaired. However, we missed about three laps. I was able to find one clean lap at the end and it brought us up quite a bit on the starting grid. I think we could have been faster but the car should be ready for the race." The session resumed with three minutes remaining but not enough time for Dorricott Racing's three-driver contingent to regain momentum and speed.
"I'm very happy to be among the top-three qualifiers," said Bright. "Considering this is my first race in Indy Lights, making it to the top three in qualifying is an accomplishment. We knew coming to Long Beach that running a street circuit for my first Lights race was going to be more difficult than a permanent course. I think there is more speed in the car but it is certainly working well right now."