PHILIPP PETER BEATS CASEY MEARS AT MICHIGAN SPEEDWAY IN CLOSEST RACE FINISH IN INDY LIGHTS AND CART HISTORY; DORRICOTT DRIVERS TAKE COMMANDING SERIES LEAD BROOKLYN, Mich. (July 24, 1999) - In one of the most exciting and historic races...
PHILIPP PETER BEATS CASEY MEARS AT MICHIGAN SPEEDWAY IN CLOSEST RACE FINISH IN INDY LIGHTS AND CART HISTORY; DORRICOTT DRIVERS TAKE COMMANDING SERIES LEAD
BROOKLYN, Mich. (July 24, 1999) - In one of the most exciting and historic races in PPG-Dayton Indy Lights Championship history, Dorricott Racing teammates Philipp Peter and Bakersfield, Calif.-native Casey Mears literally battled nose-to-tail for more than 96 miles before Peter prevailed over Mears by a scant 0.002-seconds - the closest race finish in the history of Indy Lights and CART-sanctioned events - at Michigan Speedway in the Detroit News 100, Saturday, July 24.
The previous closest victory in Indy Lights history was when Calvin Fish defeated Mike Groff by 0.028-seconds at Nazareth Speedway in 1988. The former record for the closest victory in CART-sanctioned history was Mark Blundell's 0.027-second victory over Gil DeFerran at Portland in 1997.
Fellow Dorricott driver Oriol Servia, of Pals, Catalonia, Spain, was running third place for much of the race before falling victim to a broken outside pivot on his right, front secondary wing on the final lap. Absent the advantage of downforce and battling a vicious push, Servia was still able to maneuver his Catalonia/RACC/Elf Lola across the finish line in fifth place to retain his series lead with 95 points.
The 50-lap race around Michigan Speedway's 2.0-mile oval ran under sunny skies, high heat, and humidity. Servia, who started third, aggressively burst past polesitter Jonny Kane on the inside and took the lead on the opening lap. Peter, meanwhile, used his outside pole position to run around Kane giving Dorricott Racing first and second place before either car had exited turn one.
Mears, who started ninth, shocked the entire field when he quietly passed Guy Smith for eighth place after taking the green flag, then soared to the high side of the track to pass six more cars including Servia. Before the second lap was complete, Mears had calmly tucked under Peter's tail and the two pulled ahead on their draft.
Servia surrendered third place to Giaffone on lap 15, but regained his lost position 18 laps later on lap 33. Peter, Mears, and Servia created a three-car draft between them and essentially ruled the track for the next 16 laps before Servia uncontrollably faded on the final lap against Giaffone and Mario Dominguez.
"I developed a big push late in the race," said Servia. "It became ridiculously hard to stay up with Philipp and Casey. I was looking to make an inside dive on the last lap but the car wouldn't respond. We didn't know until after the race that I had broken a pivot on my front wing. I lost any of the downforce I needed to make a last lap move. Otherwise, I believe I would have been able to sling shot past Casey and Philipp. It was still a great day for Dorricott Racing, and I am very happy for Philipp in winning his first superspeedway race."
With four races remaining in the 12-race Indy Lights season, Mears and Peter are engaged in a rousing title chase of Servia. Mears is only seven points short of Servia with 88 points. Peter's 21-point weekend, including 20 points for the win and one bonus point for leading the most laps (49), has him in third place and within eight points of Servia with 87 points.
"Since lap 25, I thought Casey would pass me for the win," said Peter. "He is my teammate and we had used the morning warm-up to practice race strategy. We discovered that when I was in front and Casey was behind, we ran our fastest laps. He could run close behind me without the front of his car washing out. However, I couldn't do the same with him. We knew what order we had to run as a team if we were going to make it work, but Casey knew exactly how my car handled. I just didn't see myself beating him to the checkered flag."
Peter, of Monte Carlo, Monaco, holds the distinction of being the only three-time, multi-faceted winner in 1999. His first win came on the seaside street circuit of Long Beach in round two. He followed it up with a win on Portland's permanent road course in round five. Airton Dare is Peter's closest challenger with 63 points. Giaffone rounds out the top-five with 61 points.
"Coming down to the checkered flag, Casey and I were talking back and forth on the radio but we didn't know who crossed the finish line first. It was too close to tell. I asked my crew five times but I never heard, 'You won! You did it!' until I was exiting turn two after the checker."
"I wanted to set Philipp up on the last lap," Mears cited. "When I eased out of it a little to make my move, I suddenly had two other cars all over me. I had to close back on his rear wing. When we crossed the finish line, I didn't even ask (on the radio) who won. I wasn't sure I wanted to know."
Dorricott Racing set another Indy Lights record by being the only team in series history to have three drivers first, second, and third place in the championship for more than one week. This eclipses the previous record held by the Tasman Motorsports Group after round eight (Mid-Ohio) of the 1994 Indy Lights Championship. 1994 Lights champion Steve Robertson, Eddie Lawson, and Andre Ribeiro were first, second, and third place, respectively.
In addition to a winner's purse, Peter was the Racing For Kids Driver Performance Award winner. The award provided $500 to Peter, and a $1,500 donation will be made in his name to a Children's Hospital of his choice.
After four of six rounds of the Bosch Platinum+4 Speedway Challenge, Mears leads Servia by 11 points, 56-45, in the $10,000 winner-take-all competition. Dare is third with 43 points.
ESPN2 will telecast the Detroit News 100 on Sunday, July 25, from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. ET (2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. PT). An encore telecast will be Wednesday, July 28, from 4:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. ET (1:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m. PT).
Dorricott Racing's next stop is round nine - the Detroit News 75 - at the Raceway on Belle Isle, in Detroit, Mich., Sunday, Aug. 8.
Race results, team and sponsor information may be viewed on Dorricott Racing's web site, http://www.dorricottracing.com.