Allmendinger breaks track record in Toronto Friday qualifying

Rookie driver A.J. Allmendinger broke the track record for the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship in the first qualifying session for the Molson Indy Toronto. His time of 1 minute 5.477 seconds tops the previous record of 1:05.578 set last year by...

Rookie driver A.J. Allmendinger broke the track record for the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship in the first qualifying session for the Molson Indy Toronto. His time of 1 minute 5.477 seconds tops the previous record of 1:05.578 set last year by Jon Fogarty and was almost seven seconds quicker than the fastest time posted in the morning practice session.

Heavy rain fell on the 1.755-mile temporary street circuit about 45 minutes before the qualifying session. However, the sun reappeared and dried out most of the track in time for the green flag.

Allmendinger dominated the Barber Dodge Pro Series last year, capturing the championship with six victories, four pole positions, and nine podium finishes in 10 races. One of those victories was the race held here in Toronto.

"Looking at the track out there from when I raced in Barber Dodge Pro, I had a pretty good idea of what the track would be like," said an elated Allmendinger after topping the provisional grid. "The track was drying up, so I pushed the car really hard and the car performed better at the beginning."

When asked if he is on a roll with his recent success, the 21 year-old native of Las Gatos, California replied, "It is never easy. But I have a lot of confidence in the team's ability and the car's ability.

Fellow rookie and RuSPORT teammate Aaron Justus qualified second in the late stages of qualifying, finishing just a half-second off the pace at 1:05.943.

"This was my first time racing here so I had to be careful in the wet and careful in the dry as well," commented Justus about the track condition.

Justus's previous best finish so far in the 2003 campaign was second place at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach back in April.

Michael Valiante, who won last year's Toyota Atlantic race here in Toronto, completed the third fastest time at 1:05.982. Valiante finished second in the driver's championship last year with a series-leading three victories and one pole position.

"With the weather, we were worried about getting out there and getting a good lap in," added Valiante. "We stayed on slicks because it was pretty dry when we went out there."

The top ten in the final classification of the qualifying session were Allmendinger, Justus, Valiante, Ryan Dalziel, Jonathan Macri, Alex Figge, Bryan Sellers, Joey Hand, Danica Patrick and Luis Diaz. Of note is Patrick, who is the first full-time female driver in the 30-year history of the Toyota Atlantic series.

The CART Toyota Atlantic series race will take place tomorrow at 4:00 p.m EDT. It is the seventh of 12 races in the 2003 campaign.

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Series Atlantic
Drivers Ryan Dalziel , Jon Fogarty , Michael Valiante , Joey Hand , Jonathan Macri , Luis Diaz , A.J. Allmendinger , Aaron Justus , Bryan Sellers , Danica Patrick