Its all Allmendinger again in Toronto thriller. (Toronto, Canada) July 7-A.J. Allmendinger has taken a hold of the Barber Dodge Pro Series 2002 championship points lead with authority and ran with it as he emerged from a race-long battle with...
Its all Allmendinger again in Toronto thriller.
(Toronto, Canada) July 7-A.J. Allmendinger has taken a hold of the Barber Dodge Pro Series 2002 championship points lead with authority and ran with it as he emerged from a race-long battle with pole sitter Rafael Sperafico to take the win and the 20 championship points that go with it, giving him 21 points for the weekend. Allmendinger was joined on the podium by Memo Rojas of Mexico City, Mexico and Marc Breuers of Philadelphia, PA. The second podium finish of the 2002 season moved into the second spot in the season championship points battle some 45 points behind Allmendinger.
Behind the podium finishers were Davy Cook, who finished forth ahead of Dan Di Leo after a mammoth race-long battle. Christian Szymczak was forced to storm from the back of the field after a first-lap incident to move himself all the way up to sixth place, showing the speed he had demonstrated all weekend. Danica Patrick finished an impressive seventh after starting back in 14th in her first Barber Dodge Pro Series race, and her first-ever open wheel street race. Josh Rehm kept up his impressive season-long run of top ten finishes after finishing in the eighth spot, with Chris Baker carding his first-ever top ten finish in Barber Dodge competition. Rhonda Trammel recovered from early contact with Tom Fogarty to charge into a tenth-place finish. Sperafico ended up in 11th place after running off course late in the race in his heated battle for the lead with Allmendinger.
Today's victory was Allmendinger's fourth win in five races so far this season. Allmendinger has led the points ever since taking the win at the season opener in Sebring, and now finds himself with a commanding lead over the rest of the field. Allmendinger was happy with the result, and was quick to point out the fact that his race-long battle with Sperafico was tough but fair.
"I just have to thank Rafael, since he gave me racing room every single time we were close," said Allmendinger. "It was just such a fantastic race. He (Sperafico) was really fast on the restarts on cold tires, but I was able to get by him going into turn one for the lead. I knew the restarts would be tough. I wasn't that concerned about the first yellow, since I knew that we would still have lots of time to get the Michelins up to temperature, but the second yellow was so close to the end of the race that I knew it could be a tough finish. This was really a fantastic race, and I am really looking forward to getting to Cleveland."
Allmendinger was joined on the podium by Memo Rojas in the Telmex-backed machine. The Toronto event was only Rojas' second street race in his career, and he really enjoyed the technical challenge as well as the close racing the Toronto track provided.
"I was trying to run as fast as I could, and I nearly touched the wall several times," said Rojas. "Marc was pressuring me throughout, and I was able to pass Rafael at one point, but then he got by me again. I wasn't looking too much in my mirrors since I was trying to concentrate on getting caught up to Allmendinger. This was only my second street course race, and I really liked it. I am looking forward to racing on the rest of the street tracks this season."
Marc Breuers made his second trip to the podium this season as he was able to secure the third position from his sixth starting spot. The effort moves him into second place in the championship standings.
"Memo and I were close the whole time," said Breuers. "He was good at the exit of turn one, but I was good under braking for turn three, so we were staying in touch nearly everywhere around the track. My car was rock-solid today, and I want to thank my mechanics for getting everything all set with my car since we had some problems with the brakes earlier in the weekend. I qualified on the front row for Cleveland and Vancouver last year, so I am looking forward to getting there and trying to bring the points gap down to A.J."
The race itself provided plenty of entertainment for the large Canadian crowd. At the start, Sperafico led the field to the green and got a good jump, while the rest of the drivers jockeyed for positions behind him. As the field entered turn one, third-place starter Memo Rojas made a strong inside move on Allmendinger stick for second place.
The rest of the field made it through the first corner clean and headed down Lakeshore Drive only to bunch up once again heading into the tight turn three, where Julio Campos made an optimistic inside move and spun Christian Szymczak around, leaving them both at the back of the field and Campos with a damaged front wing. The rest of the field was able to get through turn three cleanly despite having Szymzcak's car blocking part of the exit of the corner.
Allmendinger got a run out of turn one onto Lakeshore Drive as Rojas protected the inside line, but Allmendinger was able to get around him on the outside of turn 3 for second place. At the same corner, Josh Beulieu passed Tom Fogarty and then moved up to join the battle with Davy Cook and Dan Di Leo. Beaulieu then tried to make it three wide amongst them going into turn one, and found the fit too tight, forcing him to check up to make the corner, losing two spots in the process.
On the following lap, Kelowna, B.C.'s Mike Richardson had to pull off the track after a mechanical problem ended his race early. At the front, Sperafico built up a one-second lead over Allmendinger. John Vannini, who started the race in 17th place, had made the most of the passing zones on the tight Toronto circuit to move into the top ten and then moved past Leo Maia for ninth place as he outbraked him going into turn three.
Allmendinger began to reel Sperafico in during the next few laps and passed him for the lead on the exit of turn one after Sperafico defended the inside line, allowing Allmendinger to make an outside-inside pass on the exit of the turn with Sperafico leaving just enough room for Allmendinger to make the pass safely.
Meanwhile, Josh Beaulieu kept the charge alive as he retook several positions and began to make a charge on Dan Di Leo. The Canadians continued to battle, running nose to tail for several laps until Beaulieu made contact with the wall to bring out the first full course caution of the race. Beaulieu was extremely disappointed with the result.
"Its so frustrating since I was having a really good battle with Di Leo and my car was really fast," said Beaulieu. I am not sure how many positions I had moved up, but I was feeling really comfortable in the car. Its tough since I had some new partners on my car for this race, but I am looking forward to making it up when we get to Cleveland."
The ensuing yellow flag bunched the field up behind Allmendinger, who made a good jump on the field to hold onto his position as the field went back to green. Di Leo and Cook continued to battle for fifth place and traded the spot several times. Di Leo got a good run out of turn two, but Cook made an inside move in turn three stick to get back by Di Leo as the top four cars continued to break away from the field.
Vannini and Rehm made contact, bending the front wing on Vannini's car, but the two continued to challenge for the position. Rehm ran as high as sixth on his way to finishing eighth.
Meanwhile, the race for the lead continued as Sperafico was able to reclaim the front spot when he went inside Allmendinger into turn one, only to have Allmendinger retake the position as the two entered into turn three, allowing Memo to take the second position after Sperafico lost momentum in the exchange. Sperafico took second place back from Rojas just one lap later.
Rhonda Trammel, who was in the midst of a strong run from her 12th starting position, left her braking too late and made contact with Tom Fogarty in turn three in the battle for ninth place, bringing out a second full course yellow.
With only a few laps left, Sperafico was going to have to make something happen right away if he was going to take the win. Allmendinger again had a good jump on the field as the green flag flew again, but Sperafico had a run on Allmendinger down Lakeshore Drive and tried to outbrake Allmendinger heading into turn three, but locked up his front wheels and had to go straight into the run off to avoid hitting the wall, ending any chance he had to for the victory in Toronto. The white flag flew over Allmendinger on the very next lap, and he was able to bring it home for another win.
The Barber Dodge Pro Series will race next weekend at the Burke Lakefront Airport in support of the CART FedEx Championship Series in Cleveland. There is no doubt who all the drivers will be trying to beat, as Allmendinger now holds a commanding 45-point lead over his closest challenger Marc Breuers.