DETROIT (May 31, 2000) - An emerging rivalry between Long Beach winner Scott Dixon (Powerware/PacWest Lights Lola) and 1999 Rookie of The Year Jonny Kane (KOOL Lola) could be among the featured on-track battles when the Dayton Indy Lights ...
DETROIT (May 31, 2000) - An emerging rivalry between Long Beach winner Scott Dixon (Powerware/PacWest Lights Lola) and 1999 Rookie of The Year Jonny Kane (KOOL Lola) could be among the featured on-track battles when the Dayton Indy Lights Championship returns to action at The Milwaukee Mile this weekend.
After a six-week layoff, the Dayton Indy Lights Championship's second race of the season will be a 100-lap (103.200-mile) sprint around the historic 1.032-mile oval track at Wisconsin State Fair Park on Sunday. The Dayton Indy Lights race, which is scheduled to start at 12:30 p.m. local time (same day coverage on ESPN2 from 7-8 p.m. ET), is the primary support race for the Miller Lite 225 FedEx Championship Series race that runs later that afternoon.
The Milwaukee event also marks the first round of the Bosch Platinum +4 Speedway Challenge, a winner-take-all award of $10,000 which will be paid to the driver earning the most points in this year's five Dayton Indy Lights Championship oval track races. In addition to Milwaukee, other circle track races on the schedule include The Detroit News 100 at Michigan Speedway (July 22), as well as events at Chicago Motor Speedway (July 30), Gateway International Raceway (Sept. 17) and the season-ending Indy Lights 100 Presented by The Los Angeles Times at California Speedway (Oct. 29).
Both Dixon, 19, and Kane, 27, are in their second seasons of Dayton Indy Lights Championship competition, but their rivalry began in the closing races of their rookie year in 1999. One race after scoring his first victory at Chicago Motor Speedway last August, Dixon edged Kane for a second place finish at Laguna Seca and headed into the season finale at Fontana with a seemingly insurmountable 21-point lead in the rookie standings. Kane's only chance to win the first-year honor required a victory and one of the race's two bonus points (awarded to the pole and race lap leader), in addition to a finish out of the points by Dixon. Incredibly, the KOOL driver won the pole and then scored his first race win while Dixon retired with gearbox failure while running up front. Kane won the rookie award and finished fourth overall in the championship, just one point ahead of Dixon.
Fast forward to 2000, and the close competition between Dixon and Kane has continued. Kane won his second consecutive Indy Lights pole at Long Beach, but Dixon - in his first season with PacWest Lights after running his opening year with Johansson Motorsports - was right there on the outside of the front row. Kane led from the start and appeared to be headed for a sure victory, but Dixon never let up while running second. On a restart under four laps from the finish, the young New Zealander pressured Kane into over-shooting the first turn and slipped by for the win. Kane recovered to finish sixth, but the Long Beach error allowed Dixon to build an early-season points advantage that could prove to be key if the championship plays out as closely as expected. Dixon leads the championship with 20 points while Kane is 10 points and five drivers behind in sixth place.
Dixon paced the field during a two-day group test session at the Milwaukee Mile last week where he recorded an unofficial lap in the 25-second flat range. Less than two-tenths of a second behind, however, were Kane and several other drivers that could enter the early-season championship battle with some success at Milwaukee.
Other drivers to watch include defending Milwaukee pole winner Felipe Giaffone (Hollywood Lola), his Conquest Racing teammate Chris Menninga (Mi-Jack Lola), Milwaukee standout Tony Renna (Motorola/PacWest Lights Lola) and two members of Dorricott Racing, the team that won the 1999 Dayton Indy Lights title with CART Champ Car graduate Oriol Servia.
Jason Bright (Dorricott Racing Lola), one of two rookies on the Dorricott squad this season, finished second in his debut race at Long Beach after qualifying third. The 27-year-old Australian is second in the championship with 16 points while Dorricott's senior driver Casey Mears (Sooner Trailer/Dorricott Racing Lola) finished fifth in the Long Beach opener and is tied with Kane for fifth place in the championship with 10 points. Mears, 22, finished second at Milwaukee last year and went on to become the first American driver to win the Bosch Platinum +4 Speedway Challenge.
Giaffone, 25, led his first Indy Lights race laps at Milwaukee in 1998 and finished fourth after winning the pole last season. Both he and 25-year-old Menninga, who earned one his two career-best sixth-place finishes at Nazareth last year in his rookie season, had a productive test at Milwaukee last week with Conquest.
Renna, 23, debuted with PacWest at Milwaukee last season where he qualified on the outside front row for the second straight year, led the first 38 race laps and finished third. He finished fifth in his Milwaukee debut in 1998 after Geoff Boss (Cross Pens/Lacoste/ITIS Lola) passed him at the finish for fourth place.
Boss, 30, is in his fourth season of competition and teams for the second year with his younger brother Andy Boss (Cross Pens/Lacoste/ITIS Lola) at Lucas Motorsports Ltd. The Rhode Island-based brothers are part of a record group of nine Americans in the Dayton Indy Lights Championship that also includes Mears, Renna, Menninga, Cory Witherill (WSA Healthcare Lola) and rookies Townsend Bell (DirecPC/Dorricott Racing Lola), Todd Snyder (Outpost.com Lola) and Jeff Simmons (KOOL Lola).
Witherill, Bell and Simmons were among five drivers who were uninjured in accidents during last week's test. Others who found the wall were Conquest's third driver Rolando Quintanilla (Telmex/Prodigy Internet) and fellow rookie Luis Diaz (Quaker State Mexico Lola) who has taken over for two-time Milwaukee Indy Lights winner Derek Higgins. Higgins now serves as the driving coach for the series' third Mexican rookie, Rudy Junco (Mexpro Lola) who makes his Indy Lights oval debut this weekend.
In total, five drivers from Mexico complete the 2000 Dayton Indy Lights Championship lineup. In addition to rookies Quintanilla, Diaz and Junco, the group is led by Mario Dominguez (Herdez "Viva Mexico" Lola) who won last year's season-opening race in Homestead, Fla. Dominguez, 25, runs his second full-time season with Team Mexico Quaker Herdez. Rodolfo Lavin (Corona/Modelo Lola) also returns for a second year with Brian Stewart Racing. The 22-year-old has more career starts (47) than any driver in the series and earned a career- best finish of seventh at the Long Beach opener.
In addition to Sunday's original ESPN2 telecast from 7-8 p.m. ET, the Milwaukee race will be re-aired on ESPN2 on June 5 (late Sunday night) from 12:30-1:30 a.m.