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Californians Top Long Beach Dayton Indy Lights Entry Five Golden State Drivers Competing In CART's "Official Development Series" DETROIT (April 3, 2001) - Five Californians - including a 2000 CART All-Star, a rookie from the Barber Dodge Pro ...

Californians Top Long Beach Dayton Indy Lights Entry Five Golden State Drivers Competing In CART's "Official Development Series"

DETROIT (April 3, 2001) - Five Californians - including a 2000 CART All-Star, a rookie from the Barber Dodge Pro Series ranks, a racing student from Pepperdine University, CART's only Native American competitor, and a driver making his professional debut - highlight the entry list Sunday's Dayton Indy Lights Championship race at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Round 2 of 12-races on the 2001 Dayton Indy Lights Championship tour, Sunday's race marks the 13th-consecutive appearance of CART's "Official Development Series" at North America's premier street race. A Dayton Indy Lights sprint (38 laps/74.784 miles) at 10:15 a.m. sets the stage for the featured FedEx Championship Series Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach that runs that afternoon. The Dayton Indy Lights race will be telecast in a one-hour show on ESPN2 in same day coverage at 6 p.m. ET (3 p.m. PT).

Townsend Bell (DirecPC Lola), Jon Fogarty (Thomas Fogarty Winery & Vineyards Lola), Rolando Quintanilla (Telmex Lola), Cory Witherill (WSA Healthcare/Motors Lola), and Larry Mason (King Taco/Trench Shoring Lola) all call the Golden State home.

Bell and Fogarty, teammates on the Bakersfield, California-based Dorricott Racing, will be among the drivers to watch in Long Beach after each grabbed a podium finish in the year's opening race in Monterrey, Mexico, March 11. Bell chased pole and race winner Derek Higgins (StarlightDiamonds.com/PrecioBase.com Lola) to the finish line in second place while Fogarty, a rookie, nailed down third in his debut.

Bell, who turns 26 on April 19, is a favorite to win the championship this season after nearly taking the title as a rookie last year. He is also the only returning Indy Lights CART All-Star. Bell won two races and two poles and rode a wave of yearlong consistency to the season-ending race at California Speedway in October just four points behind eventual champion Scott Dixon. Bell finished second to Dixon in that race and the championship, but has already moved his sophomore bid at the championship off to a better start than 2000 when he was taken out early at Long Beach. Bell was born in San Francisco and recently relocated to San Luis Obispo after living in Costa Mesa for several years.

Fogarty, 25, finished second in the 2000 Barber Dodge Pro Series and continues a strong run of drivers, including Bell, who have moved to the Dayton Indy Lights Championship from Skip Barber's top-level championship. He is from Portola Valley and first caught the bug to race as a young boy when he would sneak the family car on to the roads in and around his father's ranch and winery in Palo Alto.

Quintanilla, 20, is honing his racing skills in Dayton Indy Lights while also working on a double major at Pepperdine in international business and political science. A native of Mexico who now lives in Calabasas, Quintanilla pulled a double "all-nighter" last week preparing for final exams. His on-track curriculum is undertaken with Roquin Motorsports, a returning team to Indy Lights owned by Quintanilla's father Roberto Quintanilla.

Witherill is a 100% Navajo Native American who is undertaking his first full-season with Sal Incandela and Indy Regency Racing in 2001. The 29-year-old from Santa Monica is a popular celebrity in the Native American community, but he has also worked hard on improving his race craft in the off season. In addition to hiring veteran road racing ace Bob Earl as a driver coach, an aggressive training program undertaken halfway through 2000 has seen Witherill shed 30 lbs.

Mason will make his first Dayton Indy Lights start in Long Beach in what will undoubtedly be the biggest race of his life. A regular competitor in California club racing events in everything from Sports 2000 to Showroom Stock, Mason first tested in Indy Lights with Genoa Racing two years ago and has been working tirelessly ever since to build sponsorship for his professional racing debut. He has joined Brian Stewart and Brian Stewart Racing (BSR) for a one-off run at Long Beach that could develop into a broader 2001 program if all goes well. The BSR team returns to the series after missing the Monterrey opener which brought to an end an impressive streak that had seen the team field at least one car at every Indy Lights races dating back to 1989.

Another debuting driver is New Zealander Andy Booth, a top Formula Holden (a series based around Formula 3000 race cars) driver who will run his first race in North America. Booth, 27, raced in all the Australian rounds of the Formula Holden championship in addition to winning the Tasman Cup in New Zealand. Booth's winning Tasman season included wins in the New Zealand Grand Prix at Pukekohe and the Denny Hulme Memorial race at Manfield. He first tested with the Stewart team at Pahrump last December.

Beyond the California contingent, Higgins comes to Long Beach for his first race here since 1999 leading the point standings after his fifth-career victory in Mexico. The veteran Irishman gave team owner Rodolfo Junco and Mexpro Racing their first victory while in addition to capturing the pole, a first for both team and driver. The group also leads the Dayton Indy Lights Championship standings for the first time with Higgins holding the points lead heading to Long Beach with 22 points. Bell is second with 16 and Fogarty is third with 14 points.

While Higgins was the dominant driver all weekend in Mexico, fastest race lap honors went to his former teammate Mario Dominguez (Del Valle/Corona/Televisa Lola) who signed on with PacWest Lights just one day before the start of the season. Dominguez, a former Dayton Indy Lights race winner, finished fourth at Monterrey and will run the full season with PacWest. He partners Toyota Atlantic Championship standout Dan Wheldon (Gemstar Lola) who carries the champion's No. 1 that PacWest Lights earned last year with Dixon. Wheldon improved more positions than any other driver at Mexico to finish fifth and earn the Dayton Move to the Front Award. Wheldon, 22, also has ties to California and lived in Orange County last year while driving in Atlantics for PPI Motorsports. He has since relocated to Indianapolis.

Conquest Racing, pole and near-race winners at Long Beach in 1999 with Felipe Giaffone, runs a pair of competitive rookies this season. Reigning Barber Dodge champion Nilton Rossoni (Conquest Racing Lola) and Denmark native Kristian Kolby (Conquest Racing Lola) both made strong debuts in Mexico. Rossoni, a Brazilian who is the youngest driver in the series at 19, qualified on the outside front row to Higgins while Kolby finished sixth in his North American racing debut. Rossoni didn't show as well in the race, however, and was uninjured after crashing out on lap four after his race car may have sustained wing damage when he came up on the short end of an opening lap contact incident.

Quintanilla and Dominguez are part of a four-driver entry from Mexico. Their countrymen include second-year drivers Rudy Junco (StarlightDiamonds.com/PrecioBase.com Lola) and Luis Diaz (Telmex Lola). Junco, 22, backed up teammate Higgins' win in Mexico by matching his career-best finish of eighth-place in his hometown of Monterrey. Diaz, 22, partners Quintanilla at Roquin after running as a teammate to Dominguez last year at Team Go/Mexico Quaker Herdez. Both drivers joined Quintanilla in debuting at Long Beach last year.

-Indy Lights-

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Series Indy Lights
Drivers Felipe Giaffone , Cory Witherill , Scott Dixon , Jon Fogarty , Townsend Bell , Luis Diaz , Dan Wheldon , Derek Higgins , Mario Dominguez , Rolando Quintanilla , Denny Hulme , Nilton Rossoni , Skip Barber , Bob Earl , Kristian Kolby , Andy Booth , Rudy Junco
Teams Conquest Racing