Simmons and Bell fly at Michigan

Two-time Barber Dodge Pro Series champion Jeff Simmons led the way in the practice at Michigan Speedway in preparation for round five of the CART Dayton Indy Lights Series. Second overall was 1999 third-place finisher Townsend Bell who set the...

Two-time Barber Dodge Pro Series champion Jeff Simmons led the way in the practice at Michigan Speedway in preparation for round five of the CART Dayton Indy Lights Series. Second overall was 1999 third-place finisher Townsend Bell who set the fastest time of the final session of the day, which in fact placed him second overall to Simmons. The Lights drivers will take their green flag at what is reputed to be the fastest racetrack on earth Saturday afternoon. Simmons unofficially lowered the standard on the high-banked, 2-mile oval to 187.086 mph eclipsing the track record for the Lights class which had been held by another Barber Dodge veteran, Tony Renna at 184.054 mph.

Simmons had set the benchmark throughout the day as he had been quickest from the outset. It is important to note that Simmons used the draft to great advantage during the practice sessions in which all of the Lights runners were free to take to the track. Qualifying for the race set to get underway at 3:15 p.m. EDT Friday, July 21, will be of a single-car variety where the draft is not a factor. Still, the positive form demonstrated by Simmons as well as Bell bodes well for the qualifying run this afternoon.

“It’s a long run out there. Not long in time, but the lap just seems long when you’re out there,” Simmons commented. “I wanted to set a good time this morning to get a late qualifying spot. We’ll try to go quicker in tomorrow morning’s practice. It didn’t take that long to adapt to the track. The KOOL car was good right out of the truck. We were making minor adjustments to go a little quicker. It’s hard to tell what works though, because when we make it a little quicker it’s only a couple hundredths of a second. I’m pretty happy with the day and I think we have a very good shot for the race.”

Bell set his fast lap at the end of the day on Thursday as track conditions steadily became favorable, but at 186.950 mph fell less than 1 mph short of Simmons’ best.

"The car was razor's edge the entire day," said Bell. "I ran flat nearly the entire third session so my confidence increased on running the super-speedway. Maybe we'll roll the dice in qualifying and run flat laps again. This is a great style of racing but so much depends on the car. If the car is properly set, it's more about steering than anything else. I also started to get a feel of how the car would respond in traffic."

Simmons and Bell were not the only Barber Dodge Pro Series veterans to fare well in Michigan. Chris Menninga finished day one fifth overall. He was followed by Todd Snyder in ninth and Tony Renna in tenth.

- George Tamayo

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Series Indy Lights
Drivers Chris Menninga , Townsend Bell , Tony Renna , Jeff Simmons , Todd Snyder