LEXINGTON, Ohio (Aug. 12, 2000) - Jason Bright (Dorricott Racing Lola), still recovering from a severe back muscle injury sustained in a practice accident at Chicago Motor Speedway two weeks ago, rebounded to win his first Dayton Indy Lights ...
LEXINGTON, Ohio (Aug. 12, 2000) - Jason Bright (Dorricott Racing Lola), still recovering from a severe back muscle injury sustained in a practice accident at Chicago Motor Speedway two weeks ago, rebounded to win his first Dayton Indy Lights Championship pole Saturday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
Bright, who had fluid drained from his back a few hours after qualifying, shook off lingering soreness to win his first Indy Lights pole with a new track record average speed of 109.092 mph (74.513 seconds). Bright broke the 1993 track record of 108.033 mph (75.244 seconds) set here by Bryan Herta as the Indy Lights series returns to Mid-Ohio for the first time since 1994.
"My back hasn't posed too much of a problem on the track," said Bright who missed the Chicago race and needs a strong Mid-Ohio result to get back in the championship hunt. "It's a little uncomfortable at times but nothing unmanageable. I'm more focused on driving the car. The only way my Chicago crash has affected this weekend is I missed two days of testing before coming to Mid-Ohio. I've had to adjust to a new seat and different gearbox. We lost quite a bit of time Friday while trying to get things back in order."
Bright will share the front row for the second time this year with Dorricott Racing teammate Townsend Bell (DirecPC Lola) who qualified second fastest at an average speed of 109.010 mph (74.569 seconds). In Round Four at Portland in June, Bell won his first pole and Bright joined him on the front row. Bright took the lead going into the first turn and led every lap for his first Indy Lights win.
Bright's pole was aided by a session-ending caution that was shown for Jeff Simmons (KOOL Lola) who was uninjured when he made contact with the tire wall in Turn One with just under five minutes remaining. Although Bright and Bell had turned their fastest laps of the session just prior to yellow flag, overnight pole winner Jonny Kane (KOOL Lola) was among the drivers unable to mount a final flying lap. Kane ended up third on the grid with a lap at an average speed of 108.939 mph (74.618 seconds).
"I'd just put on my new tires and was on my first flying lap and just caught the edge of the curb in Turn 1," Simmons said. "That threw me sideways and I ended up going into the tire wall. Hopefully, we can get the car fixed for the race. I think we have a good set up for the race. Very disappointing because I basically cost Jonny a shot at the pole because the session ended early and he might have had a shot at the pole. It was just a real bad time to have an off."
Kane, who joined Bright on the sidelines at Chicago when his race car was damaged in a qualifying accident, believed he could have won the pole.
"Very disappointed, really," Kane said. "I thought we had a great chance to be on the pole. I did a (one-minute) 14.6 (seconds) on the first set of tires. Then I caught a little bit of traffic so I came in. Otherwise, I would have kept running. I think I could have done a better time on that first set, but we were running out of time in the session. I came in and went to the second set of tires, then equaled my best time on my second lap when I was not really trying for it. I was just building up for the real lap the lap after. Then Jeff (Simmons) spun in front of me, hit the wall and caused the red flag. I think we got done out of pole, we were certainly capable of it."
Bell, who recorded his top time on his eighth of eight laps, also thought he had a potential pole-winning lap going when the Simmons caution flew.
I'm pretty sure I was on a 'flyer' when the final caution was issued," Bell said. "My initial on-board numbers through turn one suggested I was going for my best lap of qualifying. It was definitely better than the previous lap. I came up on Tony Renna but it didn't appear I would catch him by the end of that lap. We probably could have picked up five-hundredths of a second on a clear lap but Jason likely could have bettered what he already ran. I'm really happy for Jason. It's a testament to his ability and desire to come back so strong from the type of injury he suffered at Chicago and stick it on the pole. I can't complain about being on the front row. My thanks to Dorricott Racing and DirecPC because they are giving me the car to run in the front."
Felipe Giaffone (Hollywood Lola) qualified fourth fastest while Casey Mears (Dorricott Racing/Sooner Trailer Lola) completed a strong day for Dorricott to round out the top five. Simmons will start sixth.
The Mid-Ohio Dayton Indy Lights Championship race will air in a one-hour show on ESPN2 in same-day coverage, Sunday, Aug. 13 at 11:30 p.m. ET. (8:30 p.m. PT). An encore telecast will be shown early Tuesday, Aug. 15 at 4:00 a.m. ET.