DETROIT (June 14, 2000) - Scott Dixon (Invensys/Powerware/PacWest Lights Lola) will be shooting for his third-consecutive Dayton Indy Lights Championship victory when CART's top-rung development series heads to the Raceway on Belle Isle this ...
DETROIT (June 14, 2000) - Scott Dixon (Invensys/Powerware/PacWest Lights Lola) will be shooting for his third-consecutive Dayton Indy Lights Championship victory when CART's top-rung development series heads to the Raceway on Belle Isle this weekend at the Tenneco Automotive Grand Prix of Detroit.
The 32-lap (75.072 miles) Dayton Indy Lights sprint race on the 2.346-mile temporary road course is the main Sunday support race for the featured FedEx Championship Series event that runs later that afternoon. Round Three of the 12-race 2000 schedule, the Indy Lights green flag is scheduled to drop at 11:15 a.m. local time and can be seen later that day in a one-hour show on ESPN2 at 7 p.m. ET.
Dixon, 19, is just the fourth driver in Indy Lights history and the first since eventual series champion David Empringham in 1996 to sweep the opening two rounds of an Indy Lights season. The second-year driver from New Zealand won the season-opening race in Long Beach in April and Round Two at the Milwaukee Mile, June 5. He leads the Dayton Indy Lights Championship with 42 points, 10 ahead of rookie Jason Bright (Dorricott Racing Lola) who finished second to Dixon at both races. Bright's teammate Casey Mears (Dorricott Racing/Sooner Trailer Lola) is third in the standings with 20 points.
A win at Detroit would put history on Dixon's side and place him in some championship-dominating company. Each of the three drivers before Dixon who won the first two races of a season went on to win the points championship, but victory in the year's first three events has traditionally signaled total championship domination. Paul Tracy (1990 Indy Lights champion) won the first three races of the 1990 season and went on to trounce the competition with six more victories and an early-lock on the title. The late Greg Moore combined his opening trio of victories in 1995 with two more wins for an unprecedented run of five straight victories that remains a series record today. He went on to win five more times that year and wrapped the championship up in July at Cleveland, four races from the end of the season.
Dixon and the PacWest Lights team have clearly demonstrated championship-winning form on the race track. Dixon pressured pole winner and race leader Jonny Kane (KOOL Lola) into over-shooting Turn 1 at Long Beach and slipped by for the win four laps from the finish. The Milwaukee victory was even stronger as Dixon won the pole, led the most race laps and set the fastest lap of race he won by more than eight seconds.
This weekend marks Dixon's second appearance at Detroit. Last year, he qualified 15th and improved more positions than any other driver to win the Dayton Move to the Front Award with a seventh-place finish. Dixon's teammate at PacWest is Floridian Tony Renna (Motorola/PacWest Lights Lola) who qualified third and ran in the lead pack before a receiving a restart penalty in his only previous appearance at Belle Isle in 1998. Renna did not race at Detroit last year, but was signed to the full season with PacWest after showing well in five races with the team in 1999. His only career win came in the 1998 Detroit News 100 at Michigan Speedway. Renna also led the first 34 laps at Milwaukee two weeks ago before retiring with an oil leak.
If not for Dixon's fast start, Bright would likely be the talk of the 2000 Dayton Indy Lights season. He wasted little time in emerging as the fastest of the three drivers at Dorricott Racing, the 1999 championship winning team with Champ Car graduate Oriol Servia. Bright, an Australian, raced against Dixon in the 1997 Formula Holden championship in his home country. Bright won the title and Dixon finished third in the championship while taking Rookie of the Year honors, establishing a rivalry that continues in Indy Lights.
Mears, 22, has moved off to a typically consistent start, finishing fifth in each of the year's opening races for the second straight season. The third member of the Dorricott team is rookie and Barber Dodge graduate Townsend Bell (DirecPC Lola) who earned his first Indy Lights points with a sixth place finish at Milwaukee.
Mears leads a record group of nine drivers from the United States in Indy Lights. The group also includes Renna, Bell, Native American driver Cory Witherill (WSA Healthcare Lola), Chris Menninga (Mi-Jack Lola), rookies Jeff Simmons (KOOL Lola) and Todd Snyder (Outpost.com Lola) and brothers Geoff Boss (Cross Pens/Lacoste/ ITIS Lola) and Andy Boss (Cross Pens/Lacoste/ITIS Lola).
Menninga is coming off a career-best fourth-place finish at Milwaukee, Simmons is fourth in the championship with 18 points, and Geoff Boss has top-three finishes at Detroit in 1997 and 1998.
Kane, the reigning Rookie of the Year, will drive at Detroit after escaping major injury in a heavy accident at Milwaukee. A rear wheel on Kane's KOOL Lola failed entering Turn 4 and the race car broke apart and slid on its side after heavy contact with the wall. Kane emerged with nothing more than a few aches and pains and will be back in the car at Belle Isle, the site of his first podium finish (third) last year.
Mario Dominguez (Herdez "Viva Mexico" Lola) finished third at Milwaukee to earn his first podium finish since winning the 1999 opener at Milwaukee last year. He is fifth in the championship with 17 points and leads a group of five drivers from Mexico. Veteran Rodolfo Lavin (Corona/Modelo Lola) - who has earned a career-best finish of seventh at Long Beach - and rookies Rolando Quintanilla (Telmex/Prodigy Internet Lola), Luis Diaz (Quaker State Mexico Lola) and Rudy Junco (Mexpro Lola) complete the Mexican contingent.
Diaz is teammates with Dominguez and drives the same Team Mexico entry that Derek Higgins won with at Detroit last year. Higgins in turn is a driver coach for Junco and Team Mexpro who have purchased the race cars and equipment that the disbanded Forsythe Championship/Tasman team used to win at Detroit in 1998 with Airton Dare.