Originally-From: firstname.lastname@example.org BRASELTON, Ga. (Oct. 3, 2001) - Series points leader Townsend Bell (DIRECWAY Lola) picked up where he left off little more than a month ago and set the pace Wednesday in the opening day of practice in the debut of...
BRASELTON, Ga. (Oct. 3, 2001) - Series points leader Townsend Bell (DIRECWAY Lola) picked up where he left off little more than a month ago and set the pace Wednesday in the opening day of practice in the debut of the Dayton Indy Lights Championship at Road Atlanta. Bell, who has led the Dayton Indy Lights standings since June and made a successful CART Champ Car debut last month in Europe, paced both of the practice sessions conducted on the 2.540-mile circuit today.
Relying on cooler conditions, Bell set the day's top time in the morning session at an average speed of 120.892 mph (75.638 seconds). His best afternoon practice lap was slightly slower at 120.536 mph (75.861 seconds) but both laps solidly out-distanced the competition.
"Road Atlanta is one of my favorite tracks," Bell said. "It lends itself to a lot of technique in running quick and some deep breaths in some places. I like tracks like this. We had a good car off the trailer. That's always a good place to start. Gerald Tyler, my engineer, has raced here in Formula Fords. That's helped us get quicker 'to speed' so to say. He has a reasonable sense of what this track is about and that helps in engineering the car. We also have data from Barber Dodge that's useful. I ran at Road Atlanta in 1998 in the Barber Dodge Pro Series. Fogarty (teammate Jon) has also run here so I think we have a breath of knowledge and experience within the team to draw upon. I anticipate we'll keep improving through the weekend."
Rookie Matt Halliday (Mi-Jack/Conquest Racing Lola) was the second fastest driver on the day at 119.725 mph (76.375 seconds). Although the lap trailed Bell by nearly three-quarters of a second, Halliday was the only driver in the top three to improve in the hotter afternoon conditions.
Dan Wheldon (Gemstar Communications/PacWest Lights Lola) was third quickest with a morning session lap of 119.706 mph (76.387 seconds).
Wheldon's teammate Mario Dominguez (del Valle/Corona/Televisa/PacWest Lights Lola) was the only other driver in the top five to set his fastest lap in the afternoon. He toured the Road Atlanta course at an average speed of 119.381 mph (76.595 seconds) to nail down fourth spot. Bell's Dorricott Racing teammate Damien Faulkner (Dorricott Racing Lola) completed the top-five with a lap of 119.261 mph (76.672 seconds).
"Mistakes, I made too many mistakes," Faulkner said of his Road Atlanta debut. "We changed the car's set-up. We had two set-ups in mind when we started the day. We used the second set-up in the afternoon. It was very different than the morning set-up. It was difficult to assess if the second set-up could improve because I didn't find a clear lap. I destroyed a gear instead. I lost at least one second on that lap. It should have brought us closer at least in theory. We'll have to review the telemetry and see what we can do to clean it up."
Laps run during the heat of the afternoon today and tomorrow could be telling for Friday's race. The 19-lap event is scheduled to start at 3 p.m. local time. Both today's afternoon practice and tomorrow's only qualifying session are being held at 3:30 p.m.
Jon Fogarty, returning for his first race since Milwaukee last June, was sixth fastest Wednesday and was followed by Derek Higgins, Luis Diaz, Rolando Quintanilla and Cory Witherill. The day was incident free with the exception of a non-contact Turn 1 spin in the afternoon by Witherill.
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.