Sebring: Round one qualifying report

Allmendinger Captures First Pole (SEBRING, Fla.) March 15, 2002 -American A.J. Allmendinger drove to his first career Barber Dodge Pro Series pole in only his fourth start at Sebring International Raceway. The rookie racer gained a championship...

Allmendinger Captures First Pole

(SEBRING, Fla.) March 15, 2002 -American A.J. Allmendinger drove to his first career Barber Dodge Pro Series pole in only his fourth start at Sebring International Raceway. The rookie racer gained a championship point in accordance with the new CART qualifying formula when on his final lap he stopped the clocks at 2:06.599 sec., averaging 105.214 mph. In fact, Allmendinger eclipsed his own mark set on the previous tour of the circuit. Brazilian Nilton Rossoni, the over night polesitter will start second, again as a result of the new qualifying rules which dictate that the provisional polesitter earns a point and a guaranteed front row starting position. Davy Cook will start the race from the third starting position.

"I knew within the first few laps the car was good today, so I just tried to save my tires," commented 18-year-old Allmendinger from Hollister, Calif. "I knew that with about three laps to go the fuel load would be light and the car would be better, so I just tried to stay smooth and fortunately I did.

"I'm going to be thinking about the start all night tonight. I probably won't get much sleep. I watched the start of last year's race so I want to get a good start and not get bunched up in the middle of the big pack, get through the hurricane, and then really start the race from there," added Allmendinger.

Cooler conditions and less wind made it a foregone conclusion that the faster times would be set in this final 30-minute session. What condition the track would be in following the night practice for the 12 Hours of Sebring was the only question. As it turned out the track was indeed fast, though not quite enough to set a qualifying record.

In a bit of foreshadowing, Allmendinger opened the proceedings with the fastest time of the session, and soon after a number of drivers began chipping away at it. It was Allmendinger again who was the first to break into the 2:07 sec. bracket in the ninth minute. Second quickest in the first qualifying, Marc Breuers was winding up to make his bid, posting a time of 2:07.380 sec., just two-hundredths of a second shy of the provisional pole set by Rossoni.

Midway, the top-5 consisted of Rossoni, Breuers, Cook, Julio Campos, and Christian Szymczak.

In the 16th minute, Breuers took over the top spot, besting Rossoni's time by three-tenths of second. By the 18th minute Allmendinger moved into second quick for the session. Both Breuers and Rossoni pitted to make adjustments to their Reynard Dodge 98E racecars. Meanwhile, Cook lowered the standard in the 26th minute, at 2:06.974 sec.

With two minutes remaining, Allmendinger put in a bid for the pole and on his next and final pass sealed the deal with a quicker lap still (2:06.599).

"Qualifying was going really well for me today. The car was performing just as I expected. I stopped late to make an adjustment and when I went back out someone spun in the hairpin, throwing dirt out on the track and I missed the corner on both of my last laps," said Rossoni, driver of the No. 36 Foster's Dodge Reynard. "I'm confident that I could have been fighting with A.J. for pole and that makes me feel good about tomorrow's race."

Cook's HMS Motorsports Dodge Reynard was struggling early on, but a quick visit to the pits for a change in settings put an end to that and put him into contention.

"After I set the quickest time late in the session, I backed off a little bit hoping to get an extra lap. Unfortunately I didn't as the checkered flag came out just as I had a clear lap. Still it would have been tough to beat A.J.'s time," said Cook of Tallahassee, Fla.

Breuers slipped two spots and will start the race from fourth while Campos holds on to the fifth starting position in what will be his maiden Barber Dodge start. Memo Rojas improved four spots to move up to sixth on the grid. He will start ahead of Leonardo Maia and Daniel Di Leo. Szymczak and Carlos Lievano round out the Top-10.

The green flag will drop on the opening round of the 2002 Barber Dodge Pro Series immediately prior to the start of the 50th running of the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring Presented by Dodge.

-barber/cart-

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About this article
Series Barber Pro
Drivers Christian Szymczak , Julio Campos , Memo Rojas , Leonardo Maia , A.J. Allmendinger , Marc Breuers , Nilton Rossoni , Carlos Lievano