BRASELTON, Ga. (Oct. 4, 2001) - Series points leader Townsend Bell (DIRECWAY Lola) earned a key championship point today by winning a series-leading sixth pole of the season in qualifying for Friday's Dayton Indy Lights Championship race at Road...
BRASELTON, Ga. (Oct. 4, 2001) - Series points leader Townsend Bell (DIRECWAY Lola) earned a key championship point today by winning a series-leading sixth pole of the season in qualifying for Friday's Dayton Indy Lights Championship race at Road Atlanta. Bell now has a 23-point lead in the Dayton Indy Lights points lead which ensures that he will leave Road Atlanta with sole possession of the championship lead regardless of the outcome of Friday's race.
Bell established the Dayton Indy Lights track record at Road Atlanta with an average speed of 122.392 mph (74.711 seconds). He led a 1-2-3 sweep of the top-three qualifying spots and was followed by returning teammate Jon Fogarty (Thomas Fogarty Winery & Vineyards Lola) and Damien Faulkner (Dorricott Racing Lola).
"I raced here in 1998 in Barber Dodge and finished third," Bell said. "Actually, I came about a week earlier than that and ran a couple of sessions with the Lotus Club. I was in a Nissan Altima, compliments of Budget. It helped me learn the track. I really want to congratulate Jon (Fogarty). I think it's really impressive that he ran the time he did after coming off an injury and sitting out awhile. I'm really happy for him and think he's the real star today."
Fogarty has not raced since early in June after he was sidelined with a herniated cervical disk. Now recovered, he will grid second for tomorrow's race with a qualifying average speed of 122.104 mph (74.887 seconds). Like Bell, he has previous experience at Road Atlanta in Barber Dodge competition.
"The most important thing in coming back is to be able to go 100%," Fogarty said. "I had an injury to my cervical vertebrae but I still felt good when I was out of the car. The doctors didn't want to take any chances. Physically I feel one hundred percent. Emotionally, and considering I placed my car 'P2,' I feel even more fantastic. I had a lot of time to think when I wasn't racing about what I needed to do when I finally got back into a race car. My time off was productive. It seems to have paid off."
Faulkner, making his Road Atlanta debut, qualified at an average speed of 121.291 mph (75.389 seconds) on a road course he found to his liking.
"I like the fast corners and variety of Road Atlanta", Faulkner said. "I wish I had been here before. Tommy Byrne helped me in the first session. Tommy is well regarded as a driver so it was good to meet with him again this weekend. Unfortunately, we didn't get a chance to take a few laps in a road car. We hooked up this morning and checked out a few things. It's too bad the final qualifying session wasn't as productive as provisional. We made a few changes that didn't help, but to echo Townsend's words, it's good to see Jon back."
Rookie Matt Halliday (Mi-Jack/Conquest Racing Lola) continued to impress and qualified fourth at an average speed of 121.180 mph (75.458 seconds). He was followed by Luis Diaz (Telmex/Roquin Motorsports, LLC Lola) who will grid fifth after qualifying at an average speed of 121.050 mph (75.539 seconds), his best qualifying effort since starting fourth at Portland in June.
"I'm so glad to be in the top five again," Diaz said. "This track is great. I think we have a really good, balanced car. I'm very happy with the team; they are working together perfectly and if we keep this up - tomorrow should be a very successful day. I'm excited about the race tomorrow."
Dan Wheldon, Mario Dominguez, Derek Higgins, Cory Witherill and Rolando Quintanilla complete the starting field.
Road Atlanta will be a pivotal race in the battle for the overall Dayton Indy Lights points championship, and is the first of back-to-back races over the course of the next two weeks. Round 11 is scheduled for next Sunday, Oct. 14, at Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterey, Calif. Both the Road Atlanta and Laguna Seca races will be telecast on ESPN2 in back-to-back one-hour shows late Sunday, Oct. 14. The Road Atlanta race airs at 1:30 a.m. ET and will be immediately followed at 2:30 a.m. ET by the Laguna Seca race that will be run earlier that day. Although the late-night television times are actually early Monday morning, Oct. 15, viewers on the West Coast can catch the shows on the 14th at 10:30 p.m. PT and 11:30 p.m. PT, respectively.