SBRS: A.J. Allmendinger diary

Barber-CART Karting Scholarship winner A.J. Allmendinger has completed four remarkable rounds of the 2001 Formula Dodge National Championship, particularly when you consider he is new to race cars. The former karting champion, one of four ...

Barber-CART Karting Scholarship winner A.J. Allmendinger has completed four remarkable rounds of the 2001 Formula Dodge National Championship, particularly when you consider he is new to race cars. The former karting champion, one of four Barber-CART Karting Scholarship winners competing in our series, has scored points in all four contests and been on the podium for three consecutive races. The Californian recently shared a lap of Indianapolis Raceway Park and some thoughts on how the most recent rounds [three and four] went in Indiana.

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"Rounds three and four of the Formula Dodge National Championship presented by RACER were held at Indianapolis Raceway Park on the 2.5-mile road course around the outside of IRP's oval track. The track was very fast and bumpy. The track started with IRP's long drag strip front straightaway that led into corners one and two that were fifth gear sweeping right-handers. A drop down to fourth gear was made for the next right-hander. Turn four was a sweeping left with a dogleg right that led onto a short back straightaway. Turn six, which was a right corner was taken in third gear, then you had to swing back to make the flat out left-hander. Turn nine was a fourth gear corner that dropped off camber into a left-right combination that lead into turn thirteen which was a sweeping right carousel. Come out of the corner, make the left kink and set up for the final corner. Turn fifteen was very critical. It was a second gear left-hand corner that led onto the long front straightaway. At times it was a very tough track to pass on. I started off Thursday's lapping day learning the track and getting up to speed slowly. I did not want a repeat of what happened at Sebring's lapping day. The day went very smooth and by the end of my last session, I was within a couple of tenths of the fastest laps. I was ready for Friday's qualifying sessions.

"Friday's schedule was a morning practice session and two qualifying sessions for Saturday and Sunday. The forecast for Friday was for heavy thunderstorms late in the afternoon, so qualifying would be kind of tricky with the weather. After the practice session, the sky was darkening with clouds. As we rolled out of the pits for the first qualifying session, it started to sprinkle. I knew I would only get one chance at getting a good lap in, but unfortunately I got stuck behind to cars on my first lap and then the heavens let go. I felt really fortunate to end up in the top ten, qualifying eighth in the twenty-one car field. For the second qualifying session, treaded tires were put on all the cars because of the threat of rain. This time though no rain would come. The car was very loose with the treads on the dry pavement. It was actually fun sliding the car around for the thirty-three minute qualifying session. I would again start from the eighth position for Sunday's race. The highlight of Friday was getting to go to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Thanks to Robbie Buhl and Racing for Kids, they gave everyone from Skip Barber passes to go into Gasoline Alley. To stand in the pit lane and watch the cars go screaming by at 230 mph down the front straightaway was unbelievable. It made my heart beat faster and faster every time a car went by. I hope to be there racing in a few years.

"Saturday, I was confident going into the race. After the morning warm-up session, I was right there with the fastest times. The race distance was eighteen laps. I fell into eighth of the start. Slowly I worked my way up to fifth. For the next twelve laps, I stayed in fifth, watching the four leaders do battle right in front of me. A couple of times they touched wheels ahead of me, white tire smoke rolling off of them. With about four to go, it was time to make my move. I made a daring out breaking move going into turn six to move into the fourth position. The next lap I would draft by the third place down the long front straightaway. That would be as far as I would move up though missing second at the finish line by only five hundredths of a second. I was very happy to be on the podium for the second race in a row and I gained valuable points on the drivers ahead of me.

"I was again very confident for round four on Sunday. Going into turn one of the start, I fell in line into the eighth position. I moved into sixth quickly, but struggled to get around fifth position for about two laps. By this time, the front four started to get away by about two seconds. After I drafted into the fifth spot, I set my sight on the leaders. I caught them within about five laps. Coming to complete the tenth lap, I got a great drive out of the critical tight turn fifteen leading onto the front straightaway. I got a great draft off of third and fourth position car in front of me. I had to decide quickly what move to make as third position stayed low to block and fourth swung high. At the last second, I decided to try and split the two cars ahead of me. As I made my move, third position drifted out to set up for turn one. His left rear touched my right front turning him violently into the outside concrete wall and sending me bouncing off the driver in fourth. Debris exploded everywhere, flying over my helmet, but fortunately I was able to keep my car off the wall and stay in third for the restart. Luckily the driver was okay after the accident. With five to go, the green flag came back out. My car had minor damage on it with the toe end being knocked out of alignment. It handled fine, but it did not have the straightaway speed anymore due to the alignment problem.

"On the final lap, I was running fourth. The three leaders were drafting each other down the bottom of the straightaway, but when it was time to turn into the first corner, the leader over shot it going into the grass. On the exit of turn one, I dove into second place, right behind the leader. I did not get a good run out of turn four and down the backstretch I was passed for second. At the finish line, I would cross the line in third position, one second behind the winner. It was my third straight podium finish.

"I am so thrilled with the start of the season. I am leading the Formula Dodge National Championship Series by eight points after only the second weekend of my rookie season in car racing. I am also leading the highly competitive series in podium finishes with three out of the first four races. I know if I keep putting myself in the right position, my first win will come very soon. I would like to thank everyone at Skip Barber and especially the mechanics that put so much hard work in during the weekend preparing and fixing the cars. I would also like to thank my sponsors; the Barber-CART Karting Scholarship, Paul Tracy Kart Racing, Arai Helmets and Troy Lee Designs. See you at Gratton, Michigan for rounds five and six."

- Andrew Torres

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About this article
Series Other open wheel
Drivers Robbie Buhl , Paul Tracy , A.J. Allmendinger , Skip Barber