Laguna Seca final qualifying report

(MONTEREY, Calif.) Oct. 13, 2001 -American Matt Plumb captured his fourth career Barber Dodge pole in qualifying for Sunday's 2nd Annual Racing For Kids Grand Prix at the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. It was the time he set in provisional qualifying...

(MONTEREY, Calif.) Oct. 13, 2001 -American Matt Plumb captured his fourth career Barber Dodge pole in qualifying for Sunday's 2nd Annual Racing For Kids Grand Prix at the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. It was the time he set in provisional qualifying on Friday that earned him the position. The final session Saturday morning did not see anyone mount a challenge to Plumb's time including Plumb himself. Thus he lines up in the prime position on the grid with a time of 1:26.507 sec. for an average speed of 93.133 mph around the 2.2 miles of Laguna Seca. As in provisional qualifying, championship points leader Nicolas Rondet shares the front row with Plumb's No 4 Premier Nutrition Dodge Reynard, as he starts on the outside. Barber-CART Scholarship Team driver Ryan Hunter-Reay was the only driver to make a significant improvement in the Top-10 during the final 30-minute session jumping from seventh to third.

"It was definitely difficult to go quicker today with the track conditions, but at the same time I feel like I drove better," said Plumb who has led every session thus far. "Hopefully tomorrow I'm just going to see people in my mirrors -or not in them would be even better. I'm excited to race. "

Right from the start of today's session Plumb proved to be the quickest driver on the circuit. He continually was the first to bring the times more in line with the provisional session. Also circulating quickly and looking ready to mount a challenge were Rafael Sperafico and Rondet. By the 25th minute no movement had occurred at the top of the time sheets. However soon Plumb and Sperafico along with Marc Breuers, Davy Cook and Hunter-Reay began to pick up the pace. It looked as though we were headed for a last minute dash for the pole. In the 27th minute Plumb fell just two-tenths shy of his provisional time. The next minute Hunter-Reay vaulted to third. Everyone had one more lap to improve, but as each car flashed through the timing beams each fell just short.

"The track was definitely a bit slicker today, but fortunately for me Sepp (Koster) is well behind me. The priority tomorrow is to keep in front of him to win the title. However if I have a car to win the race then I will try to win the race," said Rondet, driver of the Mini Vacations Dodge Reynard.

Koster slipped from ninth to tenth on the grid and will now need to put forth a massive assault if he is to have any hope of claiming the title. Do not discount the determined Dutchman. Recall that last year here at Laguna Seca, he also suffered misfortune in qualifying. Then he needed a good result to keep his title hopes alive, and turned in an inspired performance, rising from 17th to third and closing on second place when a broken suspension ended his day. The fight for the title is hardly over.

Hunter-Reay was pleased to move himself into more race-winning contention. Both he and Rondet have a little added incentive as they could take home an additional $5000 with a win as a result of being victorious two out of three times in the Conseco Triple Crown Challenge.

"As the fuel load started getting lighter, the car started feeling better. At the end Davy Cook and I were running close enough together that he was trying to pull away from me and I was trying to catch him, so that helped both of us. Third place on the grid will do, I actually think it's better than second place here," said Hunter Reay from Boca Raton, Fla.

Cook strengthened his grip on fourth place with a slightly improved time. Breuers slipped back to fifth with the improvement from both Hunter-Reay and Cook.

The Rookie of the Year battle should also provide some fireworks. Contenders Cook, Szymczak (5th), Sperafico (6th), and Morley (7th) are all grouped tightly on the grid. David Weiringa drove well to leap ahead of Koster into ninth leaving the beleaguered Dutchman to claim the tenth spot. Another Rookie of the Year contender, Akihira Okamoto is within earshot of his rivals as he lines up 11th.

The green flag is set to drop immediately following the CART FedEx Honda Grand Prix of Monterey at 3:30 p.m. PDT. The race can be followed live at barberdodge.com.

-BDPS-

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Series Barber Pro
Drivers Ryan Hunter-Reay , Davy Cook , Marc Breuers , Rafael Sperafico , Matt Plumb , Akihira Okamoto