Allmendinger extends points lead to 27 with provisional pole; shatters year-old track record in first-round qualifying at the Argent Mortgage Challenge DENVER (August 29, 2003) - With his eyes focused on wrapping up the 2003 CART Toyota Atlantic...
Allmendinger extends points lead to 27 with provisional pole; shatters year-old track record in first-round qualifying at the Argent Mortgage Challenge
DENVER (August 29, 2003) - With his eyes focused on wrapping up the 2003 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship title this weekend, rookie A.J. Allmendinger (#4 RuSPORT) extended his championship lead by another point by putting his car on the provisional pole for Sunday's Argent Mortgage Challenge at the Centrix Financial Grand Prix of Denver (SPEED Channel, 2:00 p.m. ET).
With a best lap of 1:07.653 (87.641 mph), Allmendinger obliterated the previous Toyota Atlantic track record at the 1.647-mile temporary street circuit of 1:09.085 (85.825 mph) established by Ryan Dalziel (#28 Pro-Works/Discovery Lake/Daily Record) in the inaugural Toyota Atlantic visit to the Mile High City last year. It was the 13th time this season that Allmendinger has earned a bonus championship point for being the fastest qualifier, and he has earned an additional six bonus points for leading the most laps in each of his six race victories this season, which has significantly contributed to the 27 point lead he now holds over Dalziel. If Allmendinger's lead is more than 22 points after Sunday's race, he will clinch the title and become the second consecutive rookie driver to wear the Toyota Atlantic crown.
Qualifying second on the provisional grid was Michael Valiante (#19 Lynx Racing) at 1:08.306 (86.804 mph). The Canadian has started inside the top four positions in each of his past five starts, including a pair of second place starting spots in the last three races. However, he goes into Saturday's final round of qualifying looking for his second career pole position and his first since starting on the inside of the front row at Trois-Rivieres last year.
Third quickest in the provisional qualifying session was Allmendinger's RuSPORT teammate Aaron Justus (#3 RuSPORT) at 1:08.360 (86.735 mph). Justus was second-quick in the morning practice session and briefly led the session before a light brush with the wall and a mechanical problem prevented him from advancing further up the grid. Nevertheless, Justus credited his previous experience at the track with his speed on the first day, and he expects to improve throughout the weekend. He has started inside the top five in each of the past five events.
Dalziel, the defending Denver polesitter, was fourth on the provisional grid after turning in a best lap of 1:08.419 (86.660 mph). He has started third in each of the past three races and has not failed to qualify outside the top four since he put his car ninth on the grid for the season-opening Tecate Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix. He has also finished second in each of the past three races, and knows that he will need a win or podium finish and some help if he is to push the championship fight to the season finale in Miami next month.
Rounding out the top five in provisional qualifying was Danica Patrick (#24 Argent Mortgage Company), who posted a best lap of 1:08.578 (86.459 mph). The rookie has qualified inside the top five in two of her past three starts, is working with a teammate for the first time this season, as Jon Fogarty (#1 Norwalk Furniture) has joined the team for the final two races. Fogarty-the defending champion of the Argent Mortgage Challenge and the reigning champion of the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship-joins Patrick on the provisional third row after qualifying sixth at 1:08.671 (86.342 mph).
Luis Diaz (#33 Telmex/Dorricott Racing) was seventh in first round qualifying after posting a best lap of 1:08.723 (86.277 mph), followed by Alex Figge (#69 Wine Country Motorsports/Patrick Racing/Trench Shoring) at 1:08.815 (86.161 mph). Canadian Jonathan Macri (#84 NTN Bearings) turned in the ninth quickest time at 1:09.004 (85.925 mph), and 17-year-old Kyle Krisiloff (#7 U.S. Grand Prix Formula One) filled out the top 10 after clocking a best lap of 1:09.095 (85.812 mph).
The top five drivers turned laps within one second of each other, and the top nine drivers turned laps quicker than the previous track record.
Saturday's schedule for the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship provides for the Toyota Atlantic machines to have a second, 30-minute practice session beginning at 9:15 a.m. MT, and will be followed by the final round of qualifying from 3:00-3:30 p.m. MT. Live Timing & Scoring data from every session is available on the official web site of the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship, www.toyotaatlantic.com.
Quotes from the day's top three qualifiers follow below:
A.J. ALLMENDINGER (#4 RuSPORT):
"It's a brand new track for me, I didn't race here last year. Fortunately enough, Aaron (Justus) did. He was really quick this morning, so I was able to talk to him a little bit and look at his data, so he was a huge help heading into qualifying to learn what I needed about the track. I'm proud of my crew, RuSPORT, the whole team, they're just doing a great job. I've been very happy with these two sessions, because, with me learning the track and trying to get the right setup, we've been able to make great changes at the right times. I think we've worked both sessions, practice and qualifying, perfectly for the time we used and the changes we made. All together right now, it's great. There's still some left in the car, there's some left in me, trying to figure out this track still. The most important thing is it's one more point towards the championship, which is basically what we're here for, which is trying to clinch the championship this weekend. It's very important, and I think it's a great start."
MICHAEL VALIANTE (#19 Lynx Racing):
"The car was great right out of the box this morning. Being on a hot track (this afternoon), it was just really a struggle. We put a new set of tires on, and I'm not sure if it was the tires or if it was a combination of things. It was a little frustrating, because we are faster than we showed in qualifying. Still, second isn't a bad place to start this race."
AARON JUSTUS (#3 RuSPORT):
"The day started out really good. I'm familiar with this track, so we started out and we were second behind Michael (Valiante), so I felt very encouraged about the direction of the car and the pace that we were on. I made the appropriate changes for qualifying, and the opening laps were fine. The car responded really well to the input I was giving it, so I was pleased. I thought that it was just a matter of burning fuel, putting on tires, and going for the pole. Unfortunately, I feel really bad for the RuSPORT guys, they've provided a flawless car all year. We had one little brush with the shift arm, and that caused us to come in during our new tire run and interrupted our pace. It's unfortunate, but the guys will fix it. I did have a small brush with the wall, and I probably felt some urgency when I noticed there was an issue and the pole was slipping away. It was a slight brush, and it didn't affect the car at all."