In 1986, Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) launched the American Racing Series. This championship was created as a training series for those drivers that aspired to compete at the top level of open-wheel racing in North American. The inaugural season consisted of ten races which ran as a support events for the CART series. In 1991, there was a name change to Indy Lights.

In the first year, all drivers competed in a modified F3000 March 85B powered by a Buick V6 engine. By 2001, the Indy Lights spec car was a Lola T97/20. It features a carbon-fiber monocoque chassis that weighs 1,450-lbs. when fitted with the V6 engine and transmission. The series continued to use the production-based Buick V6 motor, which produces 425-horsepower. The Lola’s transmission is a five-speed Hewland.

The 2001 Firestone / Dayton Indy Lights championship consisted of twelve events. The season opened in March at Parque Fundidora in Monterrey, Mexico. Returning to the US, teams visited the temporary street circuit at Long Beach, California. The following two rounds were oval events conducted at the Texas Motor Speedway and the Milwaukee Mile. In late June, drivers competed on the road course at Portland International Raceway, followed by the oval at Kansas Speedway. The championship headed north of the border in July for an event at Toronto’s Exhibition Place. Toronto was followed by a stop at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Round nine was conducted on the oval at Gateway International Raceway. The following two races were contested on road courses at Road Atlanta and Laguna Seca. The finale was held on November 4 at California Speedway.

Round seven at Toronto’s Exhibition Place kicked off the second half of the 2001 Firestone / Dayton Indy Lights season. Drivers would complete on the eleven turn 1.755-mile temporary street circuit for forty-three laps.

The No. 30 DirecWay sponsored Lola T97/20 was driven by Townsend Bell. Bell joined the series last year and, in his rookie season, finished second to the champion, Scott Dixon, by nine points. Demonstrating his versatility, he entered round seven at Toronto with victories on the street circuit at Long Beach and Milwaukee’s oval. Bell would start race seven on the pole and lead flag-to-flag.
Finishing in the runner-up spot at Toronto was Mario Dominguez. Dominguez entered the second half of the season sixth in the title chase. His record to date included a second-place at Milwaukee and poles at Long Beach and Kansas. However, Dominguez failed to finish three events, two of which involved wrecks. At Toronto, he qualified second in the PacWest Lola finished 7.002-seconds behind Townsend Bell.
Rookie sensation Dan Weldon had already secured a North American title by claiming the 1999 US F2000 National Championship. He entered the Toronto weekend with three podium results and was fifth in the standings. During the qualifying session for the seventh race of the year, he was third fastest but finished in the seventh position. Weldon drove the No. 1 PacWest Motorsports prepared Lola T97/20.
Another series newcomer, who didn’t make his debut until round four at Milwaukee, was New Zealander Matt Halliday, who piloted the No. 21 Conquest Racing prepared Lola T97/20. Before joining the Firestone / Dayton Indy Lights championship, Halliday drove a Formula Holden in the Australia Drivers’ Championship, where he finished third in 1999 and 2000. At Toronto, he qualified ninth and finished fourth.
Mexican competitor Luis Diaz joined the Firestone / Dayton Indy Lights series in 1999 with Team Mexico Quaker Herdez but left them in 2001 for Roquin Motorsports. On the ovals at the Texas World Speedway and Milwaukee Mile, the driver of the No. 65 Telmex sponsored Lola T97/20 collected fourth-place finishes. In round seven, Diaz was gridded sixth for the forty-three lap contest and finished fifth.

11Townsend BellDirecWayLola T97/20 / Buick43-
22Mario Dominguezdel Valle / CoronaLola T97/20 / Buick43-
34Damien FaulknerDorricott RacingLola T97/20 / Buick43-
49Matt HallidayMi-JackLola T97/20 / Buick43-
56Luis DiazTelmexLola T97/20 / Buick43-
68Geoff BossFogarty Winery & VineyardLola T97/20 / Buick43-
73Dan WheldonGemstarLola T97/20 / Buick43-
811Rolando QuintanillaTelmexLola T97/20 / Buick43-
95Derek HigginsStarlightDiamonds.comLola T97/20 / Buick42-
107Kristian KolbyConquest RacingLola T97/20 / Buick24Accident
1110Cory WitherillWSA HealthcareLola T97/20 / Buick14Accident

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