Allmendinger rebounds from Mid-Ohio misfortune to claim wire-to-wire victory in Montreal, pares championship chase down to two with two races to run. MONTREAL, Quebec, Canada (August 23, 2003) -- A bump between Michael Valiante ( ...
Allmendinger rebounds from Mid-Ohio misfortune to claim wire-to-wire victory in Montreal, pares championship chase down to two with two races to run.
MONTREAL, Quebec, Canada (August 23, 2003) -- A bump between Michael Valiante (#19 Lynx Racing) and points leader A.J. Allmendinger (#4 RuSPORT) on the first green flag ended the day for CART Toyota Atlantic Championship points leader Allmendinger one race ago at Mid-Ohio but the diminutive Californian rebounded in a big way Saturday, rolling from the pole to claim a modern-era rookie record sixth victory.
After the first attempt to start the race was waved off, the field took the green on the second pass with Allmendinger storming into the lead while Valiante and Ryan Dalziel (#28 Pro-Works/Discovery Lake/Daily Record) took up the chase behind him. Allmendinger earned the right to start on pole with a blistering final qualifying run on Saturday, bouncing back after a mechanical failure kept him from running in Friday's first round of qualifying.
Dalziel needed just two laps of green-flag racing to knock Valiante from the second spot and immediately closed to within a second of the lead while Valiante would find his hands full with the advances of Aaron Justus (#3 RuSPORT), Joey Hand (#27 DSTP Motorsports) and Jonathan Macri (#84 NTN Bearings) while opening-round winner Luis Diaz (#33 Telmex) would see his chances of victory end as a mechanical gremlin forced him down Pit Lane on Lap 6.
Allmendinger and Dalziel took the next couple laps to distance themselves from the field but saw their efforts go for naught as a Philip Fayer (#8 PaySystems) spin brought out the yellow flag, bunching the field for a Lap 11 restart.
Equal to the task, Allmendinger got the jump on the field and roared away with the lead, while the race for third heated up as his RuSPORT teammate Justus pulled alongside Valiante on the restart lap. The former U.S. F2000 champion made quick work of Valiante on the backstretch and slipped into third while the Mid-Ohio winner fell back to fourth where the rapidly-advancing Macri pulled to his rear wing. Macri, who made up three spots to run fifth after just 13 laps, set his sights on the fourth-place Lynx Racing pilot while Allmendinger continued to stretch his advantage at the front of the field.
The points leader would find himself unchallenged at the point while the battle raged behind. Allmendinger had built his lead to 2.485 seconds over the Scotsman Dalziel after 17 of the 25 laps -- a cushion that was more than twice the gap that was separating the machines of Justus, Valiante, Macri and Hand. The quartet ran nose-to-tail for the entire last half of the race, in a battle that swelled to five cars when Danica Patrick (#24 Argent Mortgage) joined the fray behind Macri.
With Allmendinger running away, the attention of the large Montreal crowd focused on the battle for the top five and the driver of the Toyota Atlantic Championship did not disappoint. Hand and Macri engaged in a fierce, tire-smoking battle for fifth that saw the two go side-by-side through Turn 10 on Lap 18 and resulted in a brief swap of positions for fifth. Macri would hold off that ingress but could not hold the Ohio-based driver at bay as Hand took fifth for good with three laps to go.
With that battle done, Macri found himself under fire from another Ohio-based pilot at Patrick closed onto the rear of the blue NTN-sponsored car. The pair went wheel-to-wheel on the final lap of the day with another brief exchange of positions before Macri prevailed and held on to the sixth spot.
Unfazed by the turmoil behind him, Allmendinger romped to the sixth win of his rookie season, rolling home with a 3.747-second margin of victory to earn 22 championship points. The win stretched his series lead over Milwaukee winner Dalziel to 36 points with two races to run, putting Allmendinger in position to claim the championship next weekend at Denver.
Justus would hit the line in the third spot to claim his fourth podium finish of the season and the third in the last four races. Valiante earned his sixth consecutive top-four finish by coming home in fourth but the runs would not be enough to keep them in the title hunt as the pair were eliminated from championship contention with two races to go.
Hand would round out the top five for his third straight top-five run, placing ahead of the warring duo of Macri and Patrick. Alex Figge (#69 Pacific Coast Motorsports) finished eighth with Kyle Krisiloff (#7 U.S. Grand Prix Formula One) fighting off Stephan C. Roy (#16 PlayStation 2) for the ninth position. Diaz came back from his early-race pit stop to earn the 11th spot while Louis-Phillipe Dumoulin (#17 Lynx Racing) scored a 12th-place finish.
Next week's Centrix Financial Grand Prix of Denver will be the penultimate race of the 2003 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship, with on-track action taking place on all three days of the event. Qualifying will run on Friday and Saturday with the 37-lap event on the downtown street course taking place Sunday morning.