LEXINGTON, Ohio (Aug. 13, 2000) - Rookie Townsend Bell (DirecPC Lola) became the first American driver in more than a year to win a Dayton Indy Lights Championship race Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course where he led every lap for his first...
LEXINGTON, Ohio (Aug. 13, 2000) - Rookie Townsend Bell (DirecPC Lola) became the first American driver in more than a year to win a Dayton Indy Lights Championship race Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course where he led every lap for his first series victory in just his seventh race start. Bell is the first driver from the United States to win in Dayton Indy Lights competition since Geoff Boss at Toronto in July of 1999. Bell passed teammate and pole-sitter Jason Bright (Dorricott Racing Lola) at the race start and held off points leader Scott Dixon (Invensys/Powerware/PacWest Lights Lola) by .381 of a second for the victory. Bright, still recovering from a back muscle injury sustained in a practice accident at Chicago Motor Speedway two weeks ago, finished third. Bright overcame the injury to win the pole in Saturday's final qualifying session with a new track record of 109.092 mph (74.513 seconds) around the 2.258-mile road course, but Bell got the jump at the start from the outside front row grid position as his teammate slowly brought the field to the green flag. The move was a reversal of Round Four in Portland this past June where Bright passed pole-sitter Bell from second on the grid at the race start and went on to lead every lap for his first win.
Bell led by as much as 4.8 seconds in the first half of the race but had to deal with four full course caution periods for nine laps that allowed the field to close each time. Dixon, up from eighth on the grid, worked his way up to second and closed on Bell in the race's final laps but was never able to make a move.
While Dixon retains his championship lead with 93 points, Bell has moved to second in the standings with 80 points. Bright, who missed the Chicago race, remains in contention for the title with 72 points in third place.
Tony Renna (Motorola/PacWest Lights Lola) recorded his fourth consecutive top-four finish while Casey Mears (Dorricott Racing Lola) finished fifth. Mears is fourth in the championship with 69 points while Renna is sixth in the standings with 56 points.
Felipe Giaffone (Hollywood Lola) has dropped to fifth in the championship after failing to score points after a contact incident at the end of the back straight with Jonny Kane (KOOL Lola) while battling for second. Both drivers continued to finish with Kane salvaging three points for a 10th place showing and Giaffone placing 13th. Luis Diaz (Quaker State Mexico Lola) and Rodolfo Lavin (Corona/Modelo Lola) were uninjured but eliminated after a similar incident in the same place later in the race. The day's other two cautions were for separate spins by rookie Rudy Junco (Team Mexpro/PrecioBase.com Lola) who continued to finish the race. <pre>
Light Look - Top Five Light Look - Top Five Points 1. Townsend Bell (R) 1. Scott Dixon 93 2. Scott Dixon 2. Townsend Bell (R) 80 3. Jason Bright 3. Jason Bright (R) 72 4. Tony Renna 4. Casey Mears 69 5. Casey Mears 5. Felipe Giaffone 65 </pre> Townsend Bell (Dorricott Racing/DirecPC Lola) - "I'm elated. I knew from testing that we had a good car. I just needed to be in position to prove it in the race. Qualifying on the front row was a big advantage and then I had a good start. I sneaked up on Jason and surprised him.
"I had high hopes coming to Indy Lights but you never really know what to expect until you get on the race track with all the other drivers. It takes a while to get a feel for how everybody else drives. It was after Detroit when I began believing I could consistently run in the top-five."
Scott Dixon (PacWest Lights/Invensys/Powerware Lola) - "We have been struggling a lot with the setups on road courses and we have a lot of work to do in that area. I think we stumbled across something for the race and the car was pretty good today in the race. I think we could of put a big longer top gear because we kept hitting the limiter anytime we pulled out behind Townsend."
Jason Bright (Dorricott Racing Lola) - "We had a quick car. We may have had a bit more wing than the others but we didn't have good straightaway speed. I couldn't get close enough to get right under any other cars. It was a little disappointing because we were so fast around the backside of the track but I couldn't get around anybody when I hit the straight-aways.
"My back is much better. It wasn't a problem during the race. I was strapped so tightly in the car that my back didn't have much room to move. I had a lot of fluid drained last Monday, which really helped ease the pressure and speed the healing. Dr. (Terry) Trammell is confident I won't need more of that."
Dayton Tire Awards: Derek Higgins receives four Dayton Daytona racing tires as the Move to the Front award recipient. Higgins improved seven positions to finish in seventh place. Townsend Bell receives two Dayton Daytona racing tires as the Dayton Rookie Award recipient as the highest finishing first-year driver. Jason Bright receives a pair of Dayton Daytona racing tires as the fast qualifier.
MCI Worldcom Fast Pace Award: Casey Mears receives the $1,000 MCI WorldCom Fast Pace Award for his fast lap of 1:16.242 seconds (106.618 mph) on lap 10.
Nation's Cup: The United States stretches its lead in the Indy Lights Nation's Cup with 109 points. New Zealand is second with 93 points while Australia is in third with 72 points.
Racing for Kids Award: Townsend Bell wins the Racing for Kids Award of $500. An additional $1,500 will be presented to a local children's hospital in Townsend's name.
*Television - Tonight!
The Mid-Ohio Dayton Indy Lights Championship race will be shown on ESPN2 tonight, Sunday, August 13th at 11:30 p.m. ET. (8:30 p.m. ET)