Rookies top Thursday practice at Michigan

JACKSON, Mich. (July 20, 2000) - American rookies Jeff Simmons (KOOL Lola) and Townsend Bell (DirecPC Lola) were the pacesetters Thursday in the opening day of practice for The Detroit News 100 Dayton Indy Lights Championship race at Michigan ...

JACKSON, Mich. (July 20, 2000) - American rookies Jeff Simmons (KOOL Lola) and Townsend Bell (DirecPC Lola) were the pacesetters Thursday in the opening day of practice for The Detroit News 100 Dayton Indy Lights Championship race at Michigan Speedway.

Simmons and Bell, who will make their superspeedway debuts in Saturday's race, led a group of 12 drivers that all lapped under the lap record of 184.054 mph (39.119 seconds) set in 1998 by Tony Renna (Motorola/PacWest Lights Lola). Final practice is Friday morning with qualifying scheduled for 3:15 p.m. ET Saturday's race starts at 4:15 p.m. ET and can be seen on ESPN the following day at 6:00 p.m. ET (3:00 p.m. PT).

Simmons, teammates with defending pole winner Jonny Kane (KOOL Lola), set Thursday's fastest lap in the first of the day's three sessions. He lapped the two-mile oval at an average speed of 187.086 mph (38.485 seconds). Bell topped the final session of the day with Thursday's overall second fastest lap at an average speed of 186.950 mph (38.513 seconds).

Simmons and Bell are coming off career-best performances one race ago at Portland International Raceway where Simmons finished third and Bell came home second after winning the pole. Thursday, Portland winner Jason Bright (Dorricott Racing Lola) joined them near the top of the time sheets to make it three rookies in the top five. Bright was fifth quickest on the day at an average speed of 186.562 mph (38.593 seconds).

Felipe Giaffone (Hollywood Lola), who finished third here last year, and Kane were third and fourth fastest, respectively. Giaffone lapped at an average speed of 186.940 mph (38.515 seconds) while Kane recorded a lap of 186.896 mph (38.524 seconds).

In addition to the top five, Chris Menninga (Mi-Jack Lola), Rodolfo Lavin (Corona/Modelo Lola), Casey Mears (Sooner Trailer/Dorricott Racing Lola), Scott Dixon (Invensys/Powerware/PacWest Lights Lola), Todd Snyder (Outpost.com Lola), Renna and Cory Witherill (WSA Healthcare Lola) were the other drivers to lap under the track record.

Thursday was run without incident and, ironically, Simmons had the only minor problem when he cut a tire down in the first session.

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Series Indy Lights
Drivers Felipe Giaffone , Casey Mears , Cory Witherill , Scott Dixon , Chris Menninga , Townsend Bell , Jonny Kane , Rodolfo Lavin , Tony Renna , Jason Bright , Jeff Simmons , Todd Snyder