News and Commentary
wins first Indy Lights pole
by Mark Cipolloni
March 10, 2001
MONTERREY, Mexico (March 10, 2001) - Derek Higgins (Mexpro/StarlightDiamonds.com/PrecioBase.com Lola) improved on his Friday provisional pole-winning time and retained the top qualifying spot for Sunday's inaugural Dayton Indy Lights Championship race at Fundidora Park with his second new track record in as many days.
The pole is the first for Higgins in Dayton Indy Lights and comes in his 32nd career race. He will lead the field to the green flag at 12:45 p.m. local time for the 35-lap (73.64 miles) race on the 2.104-mile circuit, and the race will be telecast on ESPN2 in same day coverage at 11 p.m. ET (8 p.m. PT).
Five different drivers swapped the top qualifying spot eight times in Saturday's final session, but Higgins prevailed at the end as he has all weekend. He has paced the field in all four practice and qualifying sessions run on the new road course and broke his own day-old track record Saturday with a lap at 88.750 mph (85.345 seconds).
"When I was here in Mexico, I was actually very good at winning the pole," Higgins said. "I had one year where I won seven races out of 10 and was on the pole at each of those races. Qualifying in Indy Lights is very difficult, it's not easy to get the pole, it's something you have to work at and when you get one you have to be really happy with the job that you've done."
Rookie Nilton Rossoni (Conquest Racing Lola) rallied late in Saturday's session to nail down second on the grid for his very first Dayton Indy Lights race. Rossoni, the reigning Barber Dodge Pro Series champion, lapped at an average speed of 88.401 mph (85.682 seconds).
"The Indy Lights car is a lot different than anything I've raced recently (in the Barber Dodge Pro Series)," Rossoni said. "It's a much more powerful car and has a lot more grip so you really have to step up your game in every way. I am very glad to be here, it was a very tough week for me. I'm still learning about the car, still learning about the set up. We didn't get to test much during the winter. We are just improving and it's just the matter of putting everything together."
Provisional Friday polesitter Townsend Bell (DirecPC Lola) improved his Friday time but fell to third on the grid with a lap of 88.233 mph (85.845 seconds).
"I'm disappointed with qualifying," Bell said. "I think I should have gone faster and pass or catch the pole time of Derek's. I thought we had all the right elements on my fastest lap to get over that last hurdle, but the new tires came in quicker than I anticipated. I tapped the wall in turn 12 at some point. The tires were going out, then the car stepped out. It hit the wall square and kept going. Any more of an angle and I may have spun around. The tire arm may be slightly damaged but it wasn't damaged enough to hurt my times."
Mario Dominguez (Corona/Jugos del Valle/Televisa Lola) qualified fourth in his debut with PacWest Lights. The Mexico City, Mexico native was one of five different drivers to hold the pole during the session. Dominguez lapped at 88.108 mph (85.967 seconds).
Bell's Dorricott teammate Jon Fogarty (Thomas Fogarty Winery & Vineyards Lola) rounded out the top five with a lap at an average speed of 87.807 mph (86.262 seconds).
"I was disappointed," Fogarty said. "I knew on my quick lap that I made a mistake. I nearly had the car where I wanted it. Fifth is a decent place to start and judging by the track anything can happen during the race. I knew I was running a fast lap until I came through the final corner. I fell off the groove and went into a slide. As soon as you get off line at this place, you're done."
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