TORONTO, Ontario, Canada (July 12, 2001) - Riding a wave of momentum from last weekend's record-setting race at Kansas Speedway, the Dayton Indy Lights Championship will make its first appearance on the streets of Toronto in two years Sunday where...
TORONTO, Ontario, Canada (July 12, 2001) - Riding a wave of momentum from last weekend's record-setting race at Kansas Speedway, the Dayton Indy Lights Championship will make its first appearance on the streets of Toronto in two years Sunday where the "Official Development Series" of CART kicks-off the second half of the 2001 season.
Round 7 of 12 on the 2001 schedule, a 43-lap (75.465 miles) Dayton Indy Lights sprint at 10:15 a.m. on Sunday will set the stage for the featured Molson Indy Toronto FedEx Championship Series race later that afternoon. The Dayton Indy Lights race will be telecast in same day coverage on ESPN2 in a one-hour show airing at 10:00 p.m. PT Sunday night. East of the Mississippi, the ESPN2 air times are early Monday morning (late Sunday night) at 1 a.m. ET and 12 Midnight CT.
The Toronto race comes just one week after the Dayton Indy Lights Championship produced the closest finish in modern auto racing history on the new 1.520-mile Kansas track. Rookie Kristian Kolby (Conquest Racing Lola) won in a three-way photo finish, edging fellow first-year driver Damien Faulkner (Dorricott Racing Lola) by a mere .001 of a second. Even more impressive, Dayton Indy Lights Championship points leader Townsend Bell (DirecPC Lola) was also part of the historic moment and crossed the finish line in third place, just .017 of a second behind the winner. The record margin of victory beat the previous closest finish of .002 of a second that was set twice in the 1999 season. One of those races was a Dayton Indy Lights event at Michigan Speedway in July where Philipp Peter beat then teammate Casey Mears. Earlier that year, Terry Labonte beat Joe Nemechek by the same margin in a Busch Grand National race at Talladega Speedway.
The historic Kansas finish has resulted in a busy week of media activity for Kolby, but the victory also made up for a blunder one race earlier at Portland where he spun off course in the rain while running up front.
"I was leading in Portland and made a mistake and unfortunately that cost me the victory there," Kolby said. "But it's just nice to come back out and straight-out win a race, so hopefully I can make it again in Toronto. We are back to street circuits. The last we were on one of them was at Long Beach where we had a strong car in the race. We have a car that is good enough to be a top three car, at least, and possibly even a win, and that's definitely what we are going for."
A win in Toronto would tie Kolby with Dorricott Racing teammates Bell and Faulkner as two-time race winners this season. Bell, who leads the championship with 82 points, won at Long Beach in April and last month on the Milwaukee Mile. His Kansas finish appeared to be his fourth top-three podium result of the year, but he was assessed a two-position post-race penalty and fined $1,000 by Dayton Indy Lights Chief Steward Terry Dale for "unjustifiable risk" in that event. Bell also had a one-race probation, served at Kansas for a contact incident at Portland, extended through the next two races, including this weekend at Toronto and Round 8 of the championship at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Aug. 12.
Faulkner, who is second in the championship with 71 points, won in his oval track debut at Texas Motor Speedway in April and took the lead when Kolby spun at Portland for his second victory. Combined, Bell and Faulkner have earned six top-three finishes this season, including their four victories, Faulkner's runner-up in Kansas and a second-place finish by Bell in the season-opening race in Mexico.
The Mexico race was won by Derek Higgins (Mexpro/StarlightDiamonds.com/PrecioBase.com Lola) who has had a feast or famine season in the year's first six races. He leads the series with four podium finishes but has finished last in the other two races. A minor electrical fire eliminated him just after the green flag waved last week at Kansas and he didn't even start the Milwaukee race after a contact incident with Jon Fogarty (Dorricott Racing Lola) during a parade lap knocked him from contention. He remains third in the championship with 68 points earned mainly with his Mexico win from the pole, second at Texas and third at Long Beach and Portland.
Fogarty remains on the sidelines for the third straight race due to a herniated disk in his cervical vertebrae. His spot in the third Dorricott Racing Lola will likely be filled this weekend, and 1999 Toronto Dayton Indy Lights winner Geoff Boss is among the drivers who are reportedly being considered for the ride. If Boss does get the assignment, he would be reunited with top engineer and Canadian native Burke Harrison who was part of the dominating 1999 effort at Toronto - Boss led every lap from the pole - while at Lucas Motorsports.
Kolby, who earned his first podium showing with a third-place finish at Texas, has moved to fourth in the championship with 65 points after last weekend's win. He is followed by PacWest Lights teammates Dan Wheldon (Gemstar Communications/PacWest Lights Lola) and Mario Dominguez (del Valle/Corona/Televisa Lola) fill the next two spots in the championship with 61 and 55 points, respectively. The duo has done everything but win a race so far this season, including the second pole of the season for Dominguez at Kansas where he led early before retiring with mechanical problems. Dominguez also won the pole at Long Beach and has a season's-best finish of second at Milwaukee. Wheldon's top showings are second at Long Beach where he led the most race laps before Bell passed for the win and thirds at Milwaukee and Kansas.
Higgins teams with second-year driver Rudy Junco (Mexpro/StarlightDiamonds.com/PrecioBase.com Lola) at Mexpro Racing, a team that is also in its sophomore season in Dayton Indy Lights. Junco is coming off a career-best second-place finish at Portland two races ago and is seventh in the championship standings with 46 points. He is followed in the standings by two of his Mexican countrymen, Luis Diaz (Telmex Lola) and Rolando Quintanilla (Telmex Lola), who drive for Roquin Motorsports. Diaz, eighth in the championship with 40 points, placed a career-high fourth at Texas and Milwaukee while Quintanilla, ninth in the points race with 35, posted personal-best fifth place finishes at Texas and Portland.
Rounding out the top-10 in the championship with 28 points is rookie Matt Halliday (Conquest Racing Lola) who had a break out event at Kansas in just his third race start and first on a superspeedway. He qualified third and led three different times for three laps, ultimately finishing fourth for the second consecutive race. This weekend marks his Dayton Indy Lights street circuit debut although the New Zealander made his first North American start on the similar circuit at Long Beach in April in Toyota Atlantic competition.
American Cory Witherill (WSA Healthcare/Motors Lola) is completing the Dayton Indy Lights Championship season after finishing 19th with Indy Regency Racing in May's Indianapolis 500, a race that was won by former Indy Lights star and Helio Castroneves. Witherill, the only Native American driver currently competing in major league auto racing, earned a road-course career-best finish of seventh at Portland two races ago.