PORTLAND, Ore. (June 23, 2001) - Improving on his overnight pole lap set on Friday, Townsend Bell (DirecPC Lola) set yet another Dayton Indy Lights Championship track record Saturday in final round qualifying for Sunday's Spirit Mountain Casino ...
PORTLAND, Ore. (June 23, 2001) - Improving on his overnight pole lap set on Friday, Townsend Bell (DirecPC Lola) set yet another Dayton Indy Lights Championship track record Saturday in final round qualifying for Sunday's Spirit Mountain Casino Challenge at Portland International Raceway.
Bell broke the track qualifying record he set here yesterday when he drove one lap around the 1.969-mile road course at an average speed of 109.067 mph (64.991 seconds) which was good enough for his fourth career Dayton Indy Lights pole and second straight in 2001. Yesterday's lap clocked in at 108.795 mph (65.154 seconds) and Bell improved his speed on two different occasions in today's qualifying session, finally becoming the only driver to break the 65-second barrier.
"This is only my third time racing at Portland but the track has been good to me," Bell said. "This is my third pole in three races so Portland rates as one of my favorites. I ran here in Barber Dodge (in 1999) and won the Indy Lights pole last year. Portland was my first pole in Barber Dodge. It's a fairly straightforward track. The left-right off the back straight-away is probably one of my favorite corners anywhere because it's really fast and you can jump over the curbs to pick up time."
The pole is the third consecutive at Portland for Dorricott, including Bell's top qualifying efforts this year and last and a pole by current FedEx Championship Series driver Oriol Servia.
Rookie Dan Wheldon (Gemstar Communications/PacWest Lights Lola) was second fastest at an average speed of 108.385 mph (65.400 seconds) and will share the front row with Bell for the first time.
"Starting second on the grid is pretty good," Wheldon said. "We closed the gap a little today and hopefully will close it even more tomorrow. This track is great -very similar to the European circuits, which I'm use to. We need to make some changes on the set-up of the car, which we'll do tonight and be ready for the race tomorrow. We have a fast car and it's important I'm aggressive at the start of the race and I'm confident we'll bring PacWest to the podium again."
Bell's teammate Damien Faulkner (Dorricott Racing Lola) was third fastest at an average speed of 108.223 mph (65.498 seconds), giving Dorricott two entries in the top three.
"It's nice to be back on a road course," Faulkner said. "This is the first proper road course since Monterrey. Yesterday's first practice went well. My fastest lap was my tenth lap. Unfortunately, in an effort to improve the set-up with the car we turned in the wrong direction. Then we back-stepped and again went in the wrong direction. We tried to return to the set-up that worked so well in the first practice. I know it's not the right thing to do in general but it was what we had to do in this instance. For us to go back to the basics of our set-up for qualifying isn't ideal. Townsend improved as did many but I still have room."
Second-year driver, Luis Diaz (Telmex Lola) will start in the fourth position with an average speed of 107.841 mph (65.730 seconds), his best career start in 17 races in Dayton Indy Lights.
"I am very happy with my car and team," Diaz said. "Portland is one of my favorite road courses. I feel I have improved my performance from last year. We have a great team that gave me a quick car, which has given me a lot of confidence for tomorrow's race. I am very optimistic for a podium position!"
Sunday's race will be televised in a one-hour show on ESPN2 in same-day coverage at 10:30 p.m. ET (7:30 p.m. PT).