SIMMONS PICKS UP POLE, POINT AT PETIT LEMANS
BRASELTON, Ga. (October 9) _ Jeff Simmons spent most of the final 30-minute qualifying session for the Barber Dodge Pro Series race at the Petit LeMans holding his breath, crossing his fingers and trying to improve his best lap time on the 2.56 mile circuit at Road Atlanta.
It turned out that he had nothing to worry about.
Simmons of East Granby, Conn. fired the latest salvo in the ongoing battle for the Barber Dodge Pro Series championship by edging arch rival Todd Snyder of Sheffield, Mass. to claim the pole position for Round 10 of the $1.1 million, 12 race series at the Petit LeMans at Road Atlanta Friday afternoon.
Simmons recorded a quickest lap of 1:24.213 at an average speed of 109.437 mph in the first morning qualifying session, and saw the time stand through the final 30-minute afternoon session to start from the inside of the front row. Snyder, with a lap of 1:24.641 at 108.883 mph, will start on the outside of row one.
In the process, Simmons picked up a crucial bonus point to add to his season total. The Barber Dodge Pro Series points system only counts the driver's ten best finishes towards the series championship. Simmons and Snyder came into the Petit LeMans weekend with 105 points apiece when each driver's two lowest scores were dropped.
For his efforts Friday, Simmons received a bonus point for earning the pole that is counted in the standings regardless of the driver's finish in the race, giving him a one-point lead (106-105) heading into the race Saturday.
"Fortunately it was slower this afternoon," Simmons said. "We were able to run quicker this morning and nobody was able to beat those times this afternoon. It's really important. Obviously, being in a tie right now, every point is going to help."
Cooler air and a clean track in the morning session were the key components in allowing the 15 of the top 16 drivers on the starting grid to maintain their early lap times as the quickest.
Of that group, only Eric Tresslar of Denver, Colo. was able to improve on his first session time, although that change was not enough to move Tresslar out of the ninth starting spot overall.
Snyder recorded the quickest time of the second session (1:25.095), but came up short of the pace set earlier in the day.
"I think that as far as the second session went, we were the quickest car. But the air was warmer and there was some oil on the track," Snyder explained. "It's looking like it's going to be me and (Simmons) for the championship, so we're just looking for three good races in a row."
Series newcomer Iradj Alexander-David of Switzerland claimed the third slot on the starting grid with a best lap of 1:24.796/108.864 in his first Barber Dodge appearance. Alexander-David spent the 1998 season racing in the French Formula 3 series. Townsend Bell of Los Altos Hills, Calif. (1:24.844/ 108.623 mph) and Memo Rojas Jr. of Mexico (1:24.949/ 108.489 mph) complete the top five qualifiers.
Overall, Simmons was pleased with his effort, which set a new series record for the reconfigured Road Atlanta circuit. Simmons has already wrapped up the Barber Dodge Rookie of the Year award and is looking to become the second rookie to win the overall Barber Dodge Pro Series title. Current Indy Racing League points leader Kenny Bräck of Sweden (1993) is the only rookie to win the crown.
But with the $300,000 Barber Dodge Career Enhancement Award hanging in the balance, another restless night appeared to be looming for Simmons.
"Obviously, it's good to start from the front," Simmons admitted. "But I wish that Todd was a little further behind me."
The Barber Dodge Pro Series race Saturday morning will be simulcast live on the internet at the Petit LeMans website - www.petitlemans.com. The 40-minute timed race is scheduled to begin at 8:50 a.m EST.
Starting order for Saturday's Barber Dodge Pro Series race at the Petit LeMans at Road Atlanta in Braselton, Ga. Qualifying position, driver, hometown or country, lap time and average miles per hour around the 2.56-mile, 12-turn road course. All cars are identical Reynard Dodge V-6, open-wheel, single-seat race cars on Michelin racing tires.
1 21 Jeff Simmons/East Granby, Conn. 1:24.213 109.437
2 11 Todd Snyder/Sheffield, Mass. 1:24.641 108.883
3 31 Iradj Alexander-David/Switzerland 1:24.796 108.684
4 25 Townsend Bell/Los Altos Hills, Calif. 1:24.844 108.623
5 15 Memo Rojas, Jr./Mexico City, Mexico 1:24.949 108.489
6 32 Sepp Koster/The Netherlands 1:24.952 108.485
7 76 Will Langhorne/Warrenton, Va. 1:25.004 108.418
8 27 Alex Gurney/Newport Beach, Calif. 1:25.123 108.267
9 22 Eric Tresslar/Denver, Colo. 1:25.130 108.258
10 52 Jon Fogarty/Portola Valley, Calif. 1:25.477 107.818
11 4 Thomas Schie/Oslo, Norway 1:25.478 107.817
12 18 Giovanni Anapoli/Montecchio, Italy 1:25.593 107.672
13 55 John McCaig/Victoria, B.C., Canada 1:25.616 107.643
14 85 Brian Pelke/Lansing, Ill. 1:25.687 107.554
15 6 Peter Boss/Narragansett, R.I. 1:25.701 107.537
16 2 Jamie Menninga/Pella, Iowa 1:25.757 107.466
17 40 Tom Woods/Rancho Cordova, Calif. 1:26.104 107.033
18 1 Charles Willis/Germantown, Tenn. 1:26.838 106.129
19 29 Jens Tjarnlund/Stockholm, Sweden 1:26.852 106.112
20 77 Scott Mayer/Franklin, Wis. 1:28.023 104.700
21 9 Brent Sherman/Northbrook, Ill. 1:28.347 104.316
22 16 Sal Lombardo/Brooklyn, New York 1:30.828 101.467