PORTLAND, Ore. (June 24, 2001) - Damien Faulkner (Dorricott Racing Lola) survived an opening lap spin and another off-course excursion to win the rain-soaked Spirit Mountain Casino Challenge Dayton Indy Lights Championship race Sunday at Portland...
PORTLAND, Ore. (June 24, 2001) - Damien Faulkner (Dorricott Racing Lola) survived an opening lap spin and another off-course excursion to win the rain-soaked Spirit Mountain Casino Challenge Dayton Indy Lights Championship race Sunday at Portland International Raceway. Faulkner, a rookie who won earlier this season in his oval debut at Texas Motor Speedway, gave Dorricott Racing its fourth consecutive series win and third straight victory at Portland following Jason Bright (2000) and Philipp Peter (1999). Faulkner averaged 76.116 mph for the 38-lap race, a winning speed that was slowed by three full course caution periods.
Faulkner led runner-up Rudy Junco (Mexpro/StarlightDiamonds.com/PrecioBase.com Lola) across the finish line by 16.134 seconds while Derek Higgins (Mexpro/StarlightDiamonds.com/PrecioBase.com Lola) recovered from two spins of his own to finish third. The second-place finish was Junco's best in two seasons of Indy Lights competition and it was the first time that Mexpro placed both of its race cars in the top three.
Faulkner was one of four front runners involved in a multi-car contact incident at the race start in Portland's notorious Festival Curves. As his teammate and polesitter Townsend Bell (DirecPC Lola) - who set a new track record in qualifying on Saturday of 109.067 mph (64.991 seconds) - led the field into the turn, he, Faulkner, outside front row starter Dan Wheldon (Gemstar Communications/PacWest Lights Lola) and his PacWest teammate Mario Dominguez (Del Valle/Corona/Televisa Lola) tangled and spun. Of the group, Faulkner fared the best and continued in third place behind race leader Kristian Kolby (Conquest Racing Lola), up all the way from sixth on the grid, and Luis Diaz (Telmex Lola) who moved to second after starting fourth. Dominguez retired on the spot while Bell and Wheldon each rejoined the race at least one lap down after pit stops for repairs.
After a four-lap full course caution period for the incident opened the race, Faulkner slipped past Diaz for second on lap five and began to pressure Kolby. As the duo drove into Turn 4 on lap 11, both drivers slipped off course but managed to continue in position and stay in front of Junco who moved to third after Diaz and rookie Matt Halliday (Conquest Racing Lola), who ran as high as third on two occasions in the race, each spun off course. Six laps later, Kolby went off course again, but this time Faulkner was able to stay on track and take the lead. As Kolby spun in Turn 8 and brought out the day's third and final caution, Faulkner cruised past for the lead and was never challenged again.
Bell, who also came together with Higgins in the Festival on lap six, recovered from his incidents to finish sixth on the lead lap. He continues to lead the Dayton Indy Lights Championship point standings, but saw his lead over Higgins cut in half. Bell leads the standings with 71 points, Higgins is second with 66 points and Faulkner has jumped to third with 55 points. Dominguez follows with 51 points while Wheldon, who retired with mechanical trouble soon after rejoining the race, is fifth in the standings with 47 points.
#31 Damien Faulkner (Dorricott Racing Lola) "It wasn't as easy as it looked. The track was very slippery. The first corner was a mess. Townsend and I braked late and certainly later than Dan (Wheldon). I think somebody hit me from behind and spun me around. Townsend, I believe, spun by himself. I don't know what happened to him. I managed to stay out of the gravel trap but I was turning backwards so I selected first gear and before the car stop I had spun it around. I was able to hound Kolby down to where it was getting pretty close. I think I was quicker."
#15 Rudy Junco (Mexpro/StarlightDiamonds.com/PrecioBase.com Lola) "Actually, I didn't want to make any more errors (after an early spin) and get a rhythm going, run my race and hope to finish. This means very much to us (in Mexico), we have worked very hard to get our cars better every time."
#16 Derek Higgins (Mexpro/StarlightDiamonds.com/PrecioBase.com Lola) "I'm really happy that I'm on the podium and got close to Rudy at the end. It's great to see Rudy have his first podium. It's been a job well done considering only last year I started working him and I knew he had the ability because of the way he drove. With our setups, I knew both of us were going to do very well in the rain. I'm really pleased because it's nice for everything Rudy's father has done to allow me to drive this year and I wouldn't be here except for his help and I'm glad we're on the podium together."
#30 Townsend Bell (DirecPC Lola) "I went into the first corner too hot as did everybody. Four of us ended up in the gravel trap. It took quite awhile for the safety guys to get me out of there. I went a lap down over that one. Soon after I got going again I had contact with Derek Higgins in turn two. Then we were hit with two penalties. The first was for too many people over the wall and another for shortcutting the chicane under a caution. Despite our misfortunes, we managed to get our laps back and finish on the lead lap."
Dayton Tire Awards: Rudy Junco receives four Dayton Daytona racing tires as the Move to the Front award recipient. Junco improved six positions to finish second. Damien Faulkner receives two Dayton Daytona racing tires as the Dayton Rookie Award recipient as the highest finishing first-year driver. Townsend Bell receives a pair of Dayton Daytona racing tires as the fast qualifier.
Worldcom Fast Pace Award: Townsend Bell receives the $1,000 Worldcom Fast Pace Award for setting the fastest race lap at 1:22.689 (85.724 mph).
Simple Green Clean-up Award: The Simple Green Award was not claimed in today's race and rolls $2,500 over to the next event at the Kansas Speedway where $5,000 will be posted.
Nation's Cup: With Damien Faulkner's win today, Ireland still holds the lead in the Nation's Cup with 85 points. The U.S. follows in second place with 70 points and Mexico is third with 69 points.
Racing for Kids Award: Damien Faulkner wins the Racing for Kids Award for $500. An additional $1,500 will be presented to the Doernbecher Children's Hospital in Portland, Oregon on behalf on Racing for Kids. Townsend Bell leads the RFK points championship with a total of 71 points.
* Television - Tonight! Round 5 of the Dayton Indy Lights Championship will be telecast in same-day coverage on ESPN2 in a one-hour 10:30 p.m. ET (9:30 p.m. CT/7:30 p.m. PT). An encore telecast of the race will air on ESPN2 on Tuesday, June 26th at 4:30 a.m. ET (3:30 a.m. CT/1:30 a.m. PT).
* Next Event Round 6 of the Dayton Indy Lights Championship will take place at the Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kansas on Sunday, July 8, 2001.