The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford rolled into the Mile High city of Denver this week, and A.J. Allmendinger put his mark on the first day of qualifying taking the provisional pole.
"I was very fortunate to get one good lap in and really go out there and able to get the pole."Allmendinger said of the effort."I think it was good. The Forsythe Indeck team gave me a good car to start with today. I think from last year when both P.T. (Paul Tracy) and Mario (Dominguez) were really quick here, gave us a good starting point. We just kept working on it. The session was a bit difficult initially.
His time of 1:00.714 (98.251 mph) beat out series points leader Sebastien Bourdais best lap of 1:00.763 (98.172 mph).The two are running one-two in the drivers championship with five races yet to run.
Amongst all the joy of Allmedingers' resurgence on track these past two months, is the sadness that one of the most talented drivers in the series is not able to be on track this weekend.
What has always been a racing community and a family made from the teams, the series is short one very popular and formidable competitor in Christiano da Matta.The 2002 champion and RuSPORT Racing team driver hit a deer that had wandered onto the Road America racing circuit where the cars were testing last week.Reports are that Christiano is making slow but steady progress as his family, friends and the racing community at large pray for his swift recovery.
Early on in the first round of qualifying, Paul Tracy put a quick end to his afternoon when he found a barrier after only completing four laps.The resulting damage left the Canadian out of the pole hunt for the day and a last place result.
Bourdais got a late start on track appearing after the halfway point.He got up to speed quickly though and was in second spot after just four hot-laps, and inched closer on successive circuits.
That promoted A.J. to jump on it with seven minutes to go in the session.He gained a few hundredths of a second a popped into the pits for some fresh rubber before returning to the track for a final run.
"Everybody was just kind of stacked together and going out there and trying to force a lap".A. J. said."I mean, I think that was the biggest thing for me."
Bourdais finally found some clean room again and started on a fast one in hopes of vaulting onto the provisional pole and securing a critical championship point.Both would take it all the way to the end, running within a tenth of their best times.In the end however it was Allmendinger with the coveted front row starting position guarantee and one point closer to his rival in the championship hunt.
Yeah, for me, it's just we decided to just play it safe and have only one run."Said the two-time defending series champ."From there on, after that, it was very difficult because, you know, I did do one lap, was going to be another one, got traffic, had to back off."
Behind the battle for top honors, Justin Wilson was busy with holding onto the third best time of the afternoon.That spot was soon to fall into the hands of a driver with a lot to prove after having his race pulled out from under him at the previous venue in San Jose.
Tagliani was just that driver and made his presence felt when he jumped to third best with under a minute remaining, beating Wilson by only .003 seconds with a blistering 1:00.988 (97.809 mph).It was a fare cry from two weeks ago when his race was brought to a grinding halt when Tracy ran into him.
Yeah, Denver has never been a track that's had luck. But, you know, I love street course."Tagliani said. "This is one of the tracks that, you know, it's pretty rewarding when you put a lap together."Tags went on to say."It's one of those bonsai laps that you have to hang out if you want to do a good lap. It worked out for us today. You know, it's good. Hopefully in the race we'll stay out of trouble and finally finish where we need to be.
Wilson finished fourth followed by Junqueira who was as high as first halfway through the round.Oriol Servia ran his fastest time on only his fourth lap out, which was good enough for third then, but would have to be happy with sixth in the end considering that the top-ten cars were separated by a mere 1.01 seconds.
The final four spots in the top ten went to Mario Dominguez in seventh, then rookie drivers Will Power and Charles Zwolsman, and at last Andrew Ranger.