CHAMPCAR/CART: Portland: Friday qualifying report

A.J. ALLMENDINGER CELEBRATES NEW CHAMP CAR RIDE WITH FIRST-DAY POLE AT PORTLAND INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY PORTLAND (June 16, 2006) -- Armed with a new driver's suit, a new teammate and a new outlook on racing, A.J. Allmendinger ( ...

A.J. ALLMENDINGER CELEBRATES NEW CHAMP CAR RIDE WITH FIRST-DAY POLE AT PORTLAND INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY

PORTLAND (June 16, 2006) -- Armed with a new driver's suit, a new teammate and a new outlook on racing, A.J. Allmendinger (#7 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) went out and set a new season-high for himself in the first round of qualifying for Sunday's G.I. Joe's Presents The Champ Car Grand Prix of Portland.

Allmendinger, who moved this week to Forsythe Championship Racing after running all of his Champ Car career with RuSPORT, used the red-rimmed alternate Bridgestone Potenzas to steal the first-day pole from Sebastien Bourdais (#1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone), setting a best time of 58.378 seconds (121.114 mph).

The Californian wrested the pole away from the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford points leader on his last lap around the 1.969-mile Portland International Raceway road course, pacing the session and guaranteeing himself his first front-row starting spot of the 2006 season.

Allmendinger and his Forsythe Championship Racing crew gambled on using the softer-compound alternate Bridgestone while many of the other pole favorites did not, and reaped the reward on his final lap. The last lap ended up being a shootout with nearly every car on course after Dan Clarke (#14 CTE Racing -- HVM Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) brought out the red flag with a spin with five minutes to go in the session. The stoppage was cleared up with little more than two minutes remaining before the checkered flag, meaning that teams had one flying lap at their disposal to try and better their times as time expired on the 35-minute session.

The new Forsythe driver left Pit Lane at the end of the queue, avoiding the traffic jam and earning himself the space he need to turn in a quick lap and steal the first-day pole. The effort also earned Allmendinger a championship point, giving him 70 on the season and putting him in sole possession on fourth place in the series standings.

Bourdais settled for second with a time of 58.464 seconds (120.936 mph) and joined Allmendinger as the only drivers to break into the 58-second range on the day. Paul Tracy (#3 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) took the third spot with a best time of 59.121 seconds (119.592 mph). Tracy, like Bourdais, set his best time on his first set of tires, and both drivers have two sets of the Bridgestone alternates at their disposal for Saturday's final qualifying.

Rookie points leader Will Power (#5 Aussie Vineyards Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) was the surprise of the field today, logging the fourth-best time with a 59.160-second (119.513 mph) clocking. Power actually led the session through the first 10 minutes, but not satisfied with that, went out and hung up his best time on the last of his 13 laps.

Power's Team Australia teammate Alex Tagliani (#15 Aussie Vineyards Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) was equally impressive, claiming the fifth position in the opening-day order with a time of 59.275 seconds (119.281 mph), while defending polesitter Justin Wilson (#9 CDW Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) ended up sixth with a time of 59.283 seconds (119.265 mph).

The CTE Racing -- HVM squad continued to show signs of improvement, taking the seventh and eighth spots in the order. Fresh off a career-high finish two weeks ago, Nelson Philippe (#4 Wellbox Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) took seventh at 59.354 seconds (119.123 mph) while Clarke was eighth at 59.416 seconds (118.998 mph). Clarke however did run the fourth-best lap of the day at 59.151 seconds only to see it wiped off the board after bringing out the scarlet banner with his late-session spin.

New RuSPORT pilot and defending Portland winner Cristiano da Matta (#10 RuSPORT Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) was 10th in his first outing, posting a time of 59.575 seconds (118.681 mph). Mario Dominguez (#19 Sonny's BBQ Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) was 15th in his first session in his new Dale Coyne Racing mount, while former Champ Car Atlantic racewinner Tonis Kasemets (#18 Flexovit Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) was 18th in his first-ever Champ Car qualifying session.

The final grid for Sunday's Champ Car race will be set with tomorrow's final qualifying, which will get underway at 1:45 p.m. Pacific Time. In a deviation from normal Champ Car procedure, the final practice that usually takes place on Sunday morning will be run tomorrow evening after qualifying, running from 5:30 -- 6:00 p.m. The track is under a noise ordinance on Sunday morning that prevents the Champ Cars from running before 10 a.m. on Sunday, which necessitates the change.

QUOTES FROM THE TOP THREE QUALIFIERS

Paul Tracy: Yeah, we're just really struggling with our car. Sounds like Sebastien has the same trouble. Turn six and seven, I just don't seem to have any grip. Really just chasing the car across the track. I try to turn in, the car won't turn. All of a sudden it's in an oversteer condition. I'm losing a lot of time just in the one corner. We were kind of chasing our tails a little bit, trying to fix the problem.

Sebastien Bourdais: You know, we're fighting Justin, so it's okay. We just looked around in pit lane and saw who was going to put the option Bridgestone tires. AJ was one of the few takers, so tomorrow we'll have two sets. We'll stick to our guns, keep the same strategy week in, week out. Well, we hope it's going to work out tomorrow with no rain.

A.J. Allmendinger: More than anything, I wanted to prove to Forsythe and the whole crew and the whole team for working so hard and bringing me here, that I deserve to be there and hopefully show them that I can do the job. Hopefully today just kind of starts that process. Obviously, there's still a lot of weekend left, there's still a lot of things we're going to go through. It starts a process of showing them how hard I'm going to work and how much I want to be here at Forsythe.

-cc

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Justin Wilson , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Mario Dominguez , Sébastien Bourdais , A.J. Allmendinger , Nelson Philippe , Will Power , Tonis Kasemets , Dale Coyne , Cristiano da Matta
Teams Dale Coyne Racing