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INDY LIGHTS: Townsend Bell keeps championship hopes alive by winning at Gateway

18 September 2000

Posted By Terry Callahan
Motorsports Editor, The Auto Channel
MADISON, Ill. - Townsend Bell (DirecPC Lola) kept his championship hopes alive and led a record Dorricott Racing top-three sweep with a victory Sunday in Round 10 of the Dayton Indy Lights Championship at Gateway International Raceway. Bell led all 79 race laps from the pole and crossed the finish line 6.757 seconds ahead of Casey Mears (Dorricott Racing/Sooner Trailer Lola) while his other teammate Jason Bright (Dorricott Racing Lola) finished third.

Dorricott's top-three showing was the first time in the 15-year history of the Dayton Indy Lights Championship that one team swept the podium in a single race. Last year, Dorricott set another Indy Lights record when drivers Oriol Servia, Mears and Philipp Peter finished in the top-three in the season championship.

Sunday's race couldn't have gone better for Bell as his 22-point sweep was combined with a rare DNF by points leader Scott Dixon (Invensys/Powerware/PacWest Lights Lola). Bell, who won his second pole of the season with a new track record of 159.271 mph (28.625 seconds) in Saturday's single-car qualifying, took the lead from the start, but the expected challenge by Dixon never emerged. As Dixon trailed Bell by less than half a second in the early going, the points leader's race car broke loose in Turn three and backed into the wall. Dixon was uninjured, but failed to finish a race for the first time this season and lost more than half of his points lead to Bell. Mears, Bright and seventh-place finisher Felipe Giaffone (Hollywood Lola) also remain alive in the championship with two events remaining on the 12-race schedule.

Dixon came into Gateway with a season-high 42-point lead, but now tops Bell by 20 points, 134 - 114. Mears, who finished second for the third time this season, is third in the standings with 107 points and is followed by Giaffone (97 points) and Bright (91 points).

Among the drivers eliminated from the championship at Gateway were fourth-place finisher Tony Renna (Motorola/PacWest Lights Lola) and rookie Jeff Simmons (KOOL Lola). Renna scored his sixth top-four finish of the season, but is mathematically out of reach of his teammate Dixon. Simmons, who finished third in the last two races at Vancouver and Laguna Seca, was running second on lap 56 when he spun in Turn four and backed into the wall. Simmons was uninjured but failed to finish a race for the first time this year.

Chris Menninga (Mi-Jack Lola) finished fifth.

The day's only two caution periods were for the Dixon and Simmons incidents, but Bell still averaged a record 125.507 mph winning average speed..

* Quotes

Townsend Bell (Dorricott Racing/DirecPC Lola) - "The car was adequate after morning warm-up but It wasn't working where I wanted it. We took a gamble with some changes right before the race and they worked. The car ran better as the race wore on. It made my job easier. The car slid less and handled generally better with each lap. It lowered the risk of problems. Dixon was right behind me when he was in the race. He had a better run out of turn two than I did and he ran better in turbulent air in lapped traffic. I was quicker through corners three and four."

Casey Mears (Dorricott Racing/Sooner Trailer Lola) - "We didn't have a good start. I started seventh but the line I was in somehow slowed at the start. I exited turn two in ninth place. Everything eventually worked its way out. This was one of the most fun and satisfying races I'd ever run. It's about as satisfying as getting second place can be. We knew we had a good car. We ran on old tires all weekend until qualifying and the race. I was unsure how much grip the tires would give us for qualifying. They had much more grip than I thought but I had it figured out for the race."

Jason Bright (Dorricott Racing Lola) - "My crash at Chicago obviously set us back a bit. I wasn't able to test at Gateway because of the crash. Full credit is deserved for Townsend, Casey and their crews. They tested and gained valuable data which helped make me more competitive. We surprisingly ended up with a bunch of push in the race. Maybe we went too far with our changes after warm-up."

Scott Dixon (Invensys/Powerware/PacWest Lights Lola) - "My accident was kind of strange. There was no contact with any other cars, when my car stepped out on me a little going into Turn three. I was able to save it, but I still had to make my turn into three. When I started to turn, the backend completely stepped out and I contacted the wall. I'm fine, but I just feel bad for my Invensys/Powerware crew because they worked so hard all week."

* Special Awards

Dayton Tire Awards: Mario Dominguez receives four Dayton Daytona racing tires as the Move to the Front award recipient. Dominguez improved six positions to finish in sixth place. Jason Bright receives two Dayton Daytona racing tires as the Dayton Rookie Award recipient as the highest finishing first-year driver. Townsend Bell receives a pair of Dayton Daytona racing tires as the fast qualifier.

MCI Worldcom Fast Pace Award: Townsend Bell receives the $1,000 MCI WorldCom Fast Pace Award for his fast lap of 157.043 mph (29.113 seconds) on lap 67.

Nation's Cup: Townsend Bell's win helps the United States extend its lead over New Zealand. The United States now has 162 points with New Zealand holding at 134 points. Brazil sits in third with 97 points.

Racing for Kids Award: Townsend Bell wins the Racing for Kids Award of $500. An additional $1,500 will be presented to a local children's hospital in Townsend's name.

Bosch Platinum+4 Speedway Challenge: Townsend Bell takes over the lead in the Bosch Platinum+4 Speedway Challenge with 58 points, 13 points ahead of Casey Mears. The winner-take-all $10,000 Bosch award is paid to the driver that earns the most points in the year's five oval track races.

Text Provided By Adam Saal

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