LEXINGTON, Ohio (August 13, 2000) - Townsend Bell, of Costa Mesa, Calif., showed he had the "right stuff" as he convincingly earned his first career Indy Lights victory in round seven of the 12-race Dayton Indy Lights Championship, at ...
LEXINGTON, Ohio (August 13, 2000) - Townsend Bell, of Costa Mesa, Calif., showed he had the "right stuff" as he convincingly earned his first career Indy Lights victory in round seven of the 12-race Dayton Indy Lights Championship, at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Sunday, Aug. 13.
Bell, who started from the outside pole, led all 34 race laps to cross the finish line 0.381-seconds ahead of series leader Scott Dixon. The 25 year-old Californian averaged 88.072 mph around Mid-Ohio's 2.258-mile, 13 turn permanent road course in a race only blemished by four caution periods. Bell's victory was enhanced by impressive finishes from teammates Jason Bright and Casey Mears who finished third and fifth place, respectively.
"I'm elated," said Bell. "I knew from testing that we had a good car. I just needed to be in position to prove it in the race. Qualifying on the front row was a big advantage and then I had a good start."
It was only Bell's seventh career Indy Lights start but it more importantly positioned him as Dixon's closest challenger. Bell earned 21 championship points for the win including 20 points for the victory and one bonus point for leading the most laps. He trails the New Zealander by 13 points, 93-80.
Bright, who started from the pole with a record setting qualifying time of 1:15.094 = 108.248 mph, earned 15 points for the weekend including 14 points for third place and one bonus point for winning the pole. Bright's effort clearly thrust him back into the championship hunt despite a painful crash at Chicago Motor Speedway that prevented him from racing in round six. Bright is securely in third place with 72 points.
Mears started fifth and although it wasn't the type of result he sought it clearly kept him in the title chase too. Mears earned eight points to improve his season total to 69 points and fourth place in the driver standings after Mid-Ohio.
A summarized look at Dorricott Racing after Mid-Ohio affirms its dominance in Indy Lights as its drivers are in second, third, and fourth place. It was Dorricott Racing's sixth career Indy Lights team victory and its second win in 2000. Bright earned his first career Indy Lights win last June at Portland.
The race's most controversial moment was its start. Bright and Bell brought the 17-car field down and through the back-stretch in a neat but slow order. However, a noticeable disorder began to appear as the green flag was being shown and waved.
"It was a horrible start," said Mears. "I can't believe they threw the green flag. That was unbelievable. There were two cars in front of Jason when the green dropped. Everybody on the right side row was held up while it seemed the entire left side row ran by us. I don't understand why they threw the green flag with that type of alignment but it wasn't even close to being correct."
The net result was Bell passed Bright as the green flag waved and assumed a lead he would not relinquish. Bright fell from the pole to third place when Felipe Giaffone, of Brazil, followed Bell in line. Mears, meanwhile, lost three positions to eighth place. Bright continued a downward spiral to sixth place by the end of lap two.
"I got caught out on the start," said Bright. "The polesitter is supposed to set the pace. For a second there, Townsend was setting it. Maybe I missed it although I don't know how you can miss it when you're on the pole. I was way behind when they waved the green flag. I thought they would wave off the start but it didn't happen.
"I had cars all over me for the first lap. Jeff Simmons and I were side-by-side for the first half of the lap. Jeff then dived into the 'keyhole' at the end of the first lap. I had to get out of his way because he was coming through regardless of where I was. That's where I lost a couple of more positions."
It was the proverbial "off to the races" from that point forward but the advantage favored Bell as he methodically increased his lead over Giaffone on each succeeding lap. Bell accrued a 4.69-second margin over the Brazilian by lap 11. Misery beset Giaffone at the beginning of lap 12 when Ireland's Jonny Kane literally swept down on Giaffone while attempting to pass him at the entry to turn four. Kane made contacted Giaffone's car sending him careening off course and out of contention. Kane also spun and lost precious positions essentially ending his threat for a checkered flag. Both Giaffone and Kane returned to pit lane for brief repairs but Giaffone fell one lap down to Bell at that point. Bright and Mears benefited the most as they moved into third and fourth place, respectively.
The race resumed on lap 15 with Bell easily jumping ahead of Dixon, who moved to second place during the earlier melee. Mears lost his position to Tony Renna on lap 16 when Renna slipped past Mears in turn two.
"I picked up a huge push through turn one and Renna found his way past me," said Mears. "I had a quicker car than he did but I couldn't regain enough ground to get past him later."
Two more caution flags were issued late for cars that lost control and spun to stops. In each re-start, Bell met Dixon's challenges to maintain his grip on first place.
"We were a little worried about only having two sets of tires available for Saturday and the race" reflected Bell. "Our Saturday morning practice was off the pace. We were also slow in Sunday morning warm-up because we ran the same set of tires each session. The tires naturally started to fade. We had a sticker set left for final qualifying so we used it for the race."
The fastest lap of the race was turned in by Mears with a time of 1:16.242 = 106.618 mph on the 10th lap of the race. This brought a $1,000 bonus to Mears as recipient of the MCI WORLDCOM Fast Pace Award. Besides taking home a $25,000 race purse, Bell was also awarded two Dayton Daytona racing tires for being the highest finishing Indy Lights rookie driver. Bright received two Dayton Daytona racing tires and a $1,000 bonus for being the top qualifier.
Bell continues to lead all newcomers for Rookie-of-the-Year honors by virtue of his eight point margin over his closest challenger Bright, 80-72. He was also honored with the Racing For Kids Award and a $500 bonus. An additional $1,500 will be presented to a local children's hospital in Bell's name.
Race results, team, and sponsor information are available on Dorricott Racing's official web site, http://www.dorricottracing.com. Round eight of the Dayton Indy Lights Championship will be at the Molson Indy Vancouver, from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, Sunday, Sept. 3.