Allmendinger clinches championship at Denver

Allmendinger clinches championship at Denver

A.J. Allmendinger clinched the CART Toyota Atlantic 2003 Championship today on the streets of Denver, Colorado. The young RuSPORT rookie has had his sights set on the title since being crowned the 2002 Barber Dodge Pro champion. "Amazing, I...

A.J. Allmendinger clinched the CART Toyota Atlantic 2003 Championship today on the streets of Denver, Colorado. The young RuSPORT rookie has had his sights set on the title since being crowned the 2002 Barber Dodge Pro champion.

"Amazing, I just can't thank my crew enough," expressed the new champion. "The car was absolutely perfect again. It was unbelievable, we are the champs. Wow!"

A.J. Allmendinger.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.
Allmendinger is the second consecutive rookie to claim the coveted title under the CART ladder system, as Jon Fogarty also won last year's championship as a rookie. And, like Dorricott Racing last year, RuSPORT won the team title in its rookie year -- also for only the second time under CART.

With seven victories scored this year, the 21-year old Allmendinger owns the single season record for wins for a rookie driver, and there is still one more race remaining.

"To be able to cross the finish line as a champion," Allmendinger commented after the victory celebration. "I just can't believe it. It's rare that I'm at a loss for words. It means a lot to me. I can't put into words how much this means to me, and how prestigious it is to be the Toyota Atlantic champion, and just to be a part of this great organization like Champ Car and CART. Hopefully, we'll move forward."

Prior to the first caution of the 37-lap race, Allmendinger had the field covered to cruise to an easy victory. As the field bunched up and went back to the green flag, Aaron Justus brought out one final caution as he slid into the turn one tire wall.

With Lynx Racing's Michael Valiante hot on his heels, the rookie held the veteran off for the one-lap sprint to the finish with a margin of victory over two seconds.

"Our car was really good throughout the race," stated Valiante. "There was really nothing I could do today."

Under overcast skies and cool 59 degree temperatures, the Atlantic cars rolled off with Allmendinger sitting on the pole knowing the championship could be secured today. If not, then he would have had to wait for the season finale in Miami.

RuSPORT's other rookie, Justus, got off to a great start and took over the second position from the veteran driver Valiante. This allowed Allmendinger to stretch out his early lead.

Valiante and Ryan Dalziel were all over Justus to find any opening on this 1.647-mile street course so they could chase down the leader. None came until it was too late.

The Sierra-Sierra Racing veteran Dalziel settled for third. Returning to the series for the final two races was Fogarty who finished fourth. Fogarty's Team Rahal teammate, rookie Danica Patrick, came across in fifth.

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About this article
Series Atlantic
Drivers Ryan Dalziel , Jon Fogarty , Michael Valiante , A.J. Allmendinger , Aaron Justus , Eric Gilbert , Danica Patrick