A.J. ALLMENDINGER CAPTURES FIRST CHAMP CAR POLE AFTER LEADING FRIDAY AND SATURDAY QUALIFYING SESSIONS AT WEST EMONTON MALL GRAND PRIX OF EDMONTON EDMONTON (July 16, 2005) -- Saturday, June 16 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada was by no means a...
A.J. ALLMENDINGER CAPTURES FIRST CHAMP CAR POLE AFTER LEADING FRIDAY AND SATURDAY QUALIFYING SESSIONS AT WEST EMONTON MALL GRAND PRIX OF EDMONTON
EDMONTON (July 16, 2005) -- Saturday, June 16 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada was by no means a perfect day for racing, but it was a near-perfect day for 66,250 race fans in Edmonton as another capacity crowd came out to dodge the raindrops and see American phenom A.J. Allmendinger (#10 Western Union Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) score the first Bridgestone Pole Award of his Champ Car career.
Friday evening rains stretched into Saturday morning problems as the Champ Cars hit the 1.973-mile Finning International Speedway layout for the second day of the inaugural West Edmonton Mall Grand Prix of Edmonton. Persistent rains made for a wet track complete with standing water, causing the morning practice to be cancelled. The rains eventually subsided enough for the drivers and teams of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford to run a 45-minute practice heading into Saturday's final qualifying session, but 45 minutes would not be enough for anyone to find a way to catch young Allmendinger.
The track had dried before the afternoon qualifying session, but not enough to allow drivers to throw caution to the wind, as a few damp spots -- especially in the corners -- made the track a bit slippery in those sections and kept speeds down. However, while the chances were slim that anyone would approach Allmendinger's pole time of 58.628 seconds from Friday, the field was still able to chase the additional championship point and the guaranteed front-row starting spot awarded to Saturday's leader.
But even those points weren't enough to entice anyone at the start of the session as more than 10 minutes passed without a single driver trying their luck on the course. Eventually Ronnie Bremer (#19 American Medical Response Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) got the ball rolling in his new Dale Coyne Racing mount, sparking nearly half the field to join him in pursuit of the pole.
Paul Tracy (#3 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) joined those that had gone out first and put up his best lap of the session on just his fourth pass, but joined the rest of the field back on Pit Lane soon after as Mario Dominguez (#7 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Alex Tagliani (#15 Aussie Vineyards Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) got together in Turn Two to bring out the red flag. Both cars suffered damage in the incident, but more importantly, the contact ate up nearly eight valuable minutes as the Champ Car Safety Team cleared the track.
The field got the green light to resume activities with nine minutes to go in the session, but that access would last just two minutes before a pair of unrelated incidents put paid to the day's running. Timo Glock (#8 DHL Global Mail Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and front-row starter Justin Wilson (#9 CDW Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) got together in Turn Seven with Glock ending up in the tires with suspension damage. At the same time, Alex Sperafico (#55 HVM Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) spun and suffered heavy contact in Turn Two, damaging his car and bringing out the red flag.
The incidents brought an end to the qualifying session, but not before Allmendinger again showed his mastery of the new track, by posting the day's best time with a clocking of 1:01.070 (116.306 mph). His time was nearly a half-second faster than second-placed Tracy's effort, and solidified Allmendinger's first pole. The time also gave him an extra championship point, boosting his season total to 113.
Despite the late-session contact, Wilson would end up second by virtue of his Friday time, on a day when no driver was able to better his speed from Friday's first qualifying. Allmendinger and Wilson combined to give the second-year RuSPORT outfit its second front-row sweep of the 2005 season, following a similar result in Portland when Wilson started on pole.
Bremer ended up running the third-best time of the day, but will start 16th due to his Friday time. Series points leader Sebastien Bourdais (#1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) posted the fourth-best time of the day but could not improve his Friday time as well, leaving him 10th on the starting grid. His Newman/Haas Racing teammate Oriol Servia (#2 PacifiCare Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) will start fourth, matching his season-best starting spot while Portland winner Cristiano da Matta (#21 Bell Micro Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) and Tagliani will start fifth and sixth respectively.
Tomorrow's 88-lap West Edmonton Mall Grand Prix of Edmonton will get underway at 1:30 p.m. and can be seen live in the United States on SPEED Channel. Coverage begins at 2:30 p.m. Eastern Time with a 30-minute qualifying show, with race coverage beginning at 3 p.m.
QUOTES FROM TOP THREE QUALIFIERS
A.J. ALLMENDINGER: "It feels amazing, especially after what happened last weekend. You know, I think if I could only do four laps and have the pole like I did today, that would be easy. But, you know, the session obviously was crazy. As Paul said, everybody had to wait until the end to put a lap in. It just worked out in our favor that there were a lot of incidents. You know, it will be exciting. First time starting from the pole and leading in turn one here."
JUSTIN WILSON: "Yeah, obviously it was a bit disappointing, not how we wanted to finish the session. You know, from my point of view, I went out, I was behind Sebastien, was quicker than him, so I backed off to leave a gap, and let Timo get past me. That was fine. I just pulled over, let him go. And then I seemed to catch him up pretty easily in the first three or four corners. Into turn five, he slid in there, dropped back, missed the apex. Going into six, he seemed to slow up, hug the inside. I just presumed he was letting me through. Went casually up the inside into seven and found out that wasn't his plan."
PAUL TRACY: "Just, you know, we waited too long. We went out of the pits after AJ about a lap behind him. AJ went, did about a lap. We were basically one lap behind him. He finished his quick lap, and I was coming around and it went red. You know, I don't know if we could have beat the time, but we were up on the time that I did. So a little bit -- that's kind of the way the session went. We went back out. The second time around it went red again. So that was it."
A.J. Allmendinger became the 167th driver in the history of Champ Car racing to win a pole position in the series. He and RuSPORT teammate Justin Wilson are the only teammates to win poles during the 2005 season.
Sebastien Bourdais will start 10th in Sunday's race, remarkably marking the deepest in the field that the 2004 series champion has started on a road or street course in his three-year Champ Car career.