PORTLAND, Ore (June 24, 2000) - - In what may be termed an eye-opener, Dorricott Racing rookie Townsend Bell saved his best for last when he popped an Indy Lights record shattering lap at Portland International Raceway to win the pole for...
PORTLAND, Ore (June 24, 2000) - - In what may be termed an eye-opener, Dorricott Racing rookie Townsend Bell saved his best for last when he popped an Indy Lights record shattering lap at Portland International Raceway to win the pole for Sunday's fourth round of the 12-race Dayton Indy Lights Championship.
Bell eclipsed the former track record set yesterday by Jonny Kane (1:.05.647 = 107.978 mph) with a blistering 1:05.275 = 108.593 mph on his 31st of 31 completed qualifying laps. It was the second consecutive year that Bell had won a pole at Portland. He started from the pole at PIR in last year's Barber Dodge Pro Series race.
Bright held the top position at various times throughout the 30-minute final qualification but ran out of time with an outside pole secured at 1:05.342 = 108.482 mph.
Casey Mears was also in the mix for the pole ran many of the period's fastest times until an input shaft broke with eight minutes remaining in the session. Mears was forced to retire from qualifying with a session best 1:05.744 = 17.818 mph - good for seventh on the starting grid. "I lost the input shaft," said Mears. "Three or four laps before the breakdown, I put in a good lap and was about to run a quick time when Jonny Kane slowed in front of me. I guess he wanted to cool off his tires but I lost that lap. I had to pass him and the slower cars. Then Jeff Simmons slowed down. I lost that lap. I figured three was the charm so I set up for a flyer and that's when Scott Dixon was let out after a stop and go penalty. He naturally ended up right in front of me. It wasn't anybody's fault. It was a matter of poor circumstances. I kept getting 'caught out' on the laps I was most ready to fly. Then the input shaft gave out. I'm fortunate to be starting seventh considering the situation but I think we could have challenged Jason and Townsend better. It appears high downforce is the way to go."
Weather remained trackside perfect with overcast and 73 degrees. Dayton Tire engineers reported a track temperature of 102 degrees. The green flag dropped at 12:15 p.m. (PT) to start final qualifying for the 18 entrants. The only caution issued came nine minutes into the session when Scott Dixon stalled on course between Turns 1 and 2. The session resumed three minutes later.
The final 10 minutes of qualifying were primarily a three-way duel between Bell, Bright, and Kane. Kane still held the pole with 10 minutes remaining. Five minutes later, Bell set the fastest time of the weekend with a lap of 1:05.404 = 108.379 mph. Bright did one better the following lap at 1:05.342 = 108.482 mph. Bell reclaimed the pole position with less than two minutes remaining at 1:05.275 = 108.593 mph. Bright secured second place.
"I think my car had given all it could when I ran my best lap," said Bright. "I ran two more laps afterwards but I could tell during the laps that I wasn't getting any faster. Townsend had the right timing and found the clear track he needed for his pole. He gets the credit and I'm glad we're starting on the front row."
It was Bell's first pole of the season and first career Indy Lights pole. His previous best start was eighth at Milwaukee with his best finish being seventh in Detroit. Bell is currently ninth place in the championship with 15 points after the bonus point he earned by winning the Portland pole.
"We started the weekend running low downforce until final qualifying." said Bell. "Jason's (Bright) success influenced our decision since he started with high downforce. It's a huge advantage to have this much data available within the team so we can make comparisons with the cars. I think we could have been outside pole in provisional qualifying on low downforce but my gear lever snapped apart in the Festival Corners on my flying lap. I didn't think my time was going to hold. My engineer, Alex Purdy, kept telling me it was fine but I didn't believe it until I knew the last car had taken the checkered flag. It feels good to be back on a pole. Fortunately I have a friendly Australian on the front row next to me. I have to thank Dorricott Racing and DirecPC for making it possible."
Bell is the first American-born Indy Lights driver to win a pole since Geoff Boss won the pole in Toronto in 1999. The 38 lap/74.822 mile race is set to drop the green flag at 11:30 a.m. (PT) tomorrow.
ESPN2 will provide a delayed telecast of the Portland Indy Lights race, Saturday, July 1, from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. ET (2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. PT).