Indy Lights season preview

The PPG Dayton Indy Lights championship reconvenes this year as support race to the CART Grand Prix of Long Beach on Saturday

Indy Lights season preview

This year's series promises to be one of the most competitive on record, with a large number of previous race winners and championship contenders returning for another shot at the title - in addition to a bevy of talented newcomers.

A record three teams will run three cars in the championship, including reigning champion team Dorricott Racing, adding to the promise of too-close-to-call competition in the CART feeder series this year.

Dorricott will run Casey Mears, who finished second in last year's championship, in his fourth (and surely last) crack at the title. The nephew of CART legend Rick Mears did not win a race last year, but this is to take nothing away from his speed. The Californian lapped the California Speedway at 193.643mph at last year's season finale, to set an Indy Lights record.

Phenomenal consistency should see Mears challenging throughout the season - last year, Mears completed the incredible feat of finishing every one of the 685 laps run in the season. Of the drivers in the series this season who competed at last year's Long Beach round, Mears is the highest finisher, so he will have more than a strong chance of victory.

Team Dorricott's other two drivers, Jason Bright and Townsend Bell have a historical statistic recommending them for high championship placings - last year the team swept the top three spots with its drivers Oriol Servia - current PPI Motorsports CART driver - Philipp Peter, and Mears.

Bell is a veteran of the Barber Dodge series, finishing third in the 1999 championship. He will race in the No. 1 Lola Buick, and will no doubt hope to carry that position until the end.

Australian Jason Bright follows fellow antipodean Scott Dixon into the series, hoping to make a similar impression to that which the talented New Zealander made last season. Bright was a star of the Shell Racing series in his native Australia last year, with a devastating qualifying record. His speed is not in question, and after he learns the car and tracks, is likely to challenge strongly.

Team KOOL Green's Jonny Kane blitzed the final race of last year at Fontana, which handed him the Rookie of the Year title. Kane returns in 2000 to attempt to claim the title outright.

"Our goals are a little higher this season with the focus squarely on winning the championship for Team KOOL Green," confirmed Kane.

"Having the added benefit of team-mate Jeff Simmons will no doubt help us because we'll have twice as much data at every race. It's time to get it done, score points and chase the championship."

Kane's team mate Simmons breaks into Indy Lights on the crest of a wave. Back to back Barber Dodge titles means that Simmons is likely to be a strong challenger for top rookie honours, if not an outside shot at the title itself.

Adding to his comfort factor in what might otherwise be an unfamiliar environment will be his engineer - brother Jeff Simmons.

"He's a former TKG Indy Lights driver himself, so I'm sure he'll get me around the streets of Long Beach as quick as I can. It's going to be fun," claims Simmons.

The Long Beach round will provide the first clue as to how these drivers and teams will figure in the season, how the rookies will shape up against the old hands, and above all, whether Dorricott's dominance

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