GRAHAM RAHAL TOPS HIS OWN TRACK RECORD, CLAIMING FOURTH SERIES POLE TO LEAD FINAL ROUND OF DENVER ATLANTIC QUALIFYING DENVER, Colorado (August 12, 2006) -- There must be something about qualifying on the streets of Denver that brings out the...
GRAHAM RAHAL TOPS HIS OWN TRACK RECORD, CLAIMING FOURTH SERIES POLE TO LEAD FINAL ROUND OF DENVER ATLANTIC QUALIFYING
DENVER, Colorado (August 12, 2006) -- There must be something about qualifying on the streets of Denver that brings out the best in Atlantic teenagers. For the second consecutive season a 17-year-old rookie will start up front in the Mile-High city following Saturday's final round of qualifying for the Grand Prix of Denver Atlantic race (tape-delayed on SPEED at 3 p.m. ET on Saturday, August 19).
Last season, it was Alan Sciuto (#12 Sealy/PKV Racing/The RoomStore of Phoenix) who won the pole on the Pepsi Center street circuit at age 17 to become the youngest-ever polewinner in 32 years of Atlantic racing. Saturday, Graham Rahal (#18 Gehl Company) lived the teen dream on the 1.657-mile course, breaking his own track record while earning his fourth pole position in the 2006 Yokohama Presents the Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda.
Rahal, former Champ Car champion Bobby Rahal's 17-year-old son, has been nearly flawless over the first two days of competition in Denver. He shattered the old Atlantic track record on Friday while leading first-round qualifying. Saturday, he raised the bar another level. The Mi-Jack Conquest Racing rookie led the morning practice session and once the green flag flew for final qualifying, he once again assumed control. Rahal broke his own record time on just his eighth qualifying lap, running an impressive orbit of 1:06.798 (89.302 mph) on an older set of Yokohama ADVAN tires.
Once he changed to a new set of rubber, Rahal continued to dominate. He posted two more lap times that were beneath the one-minute, seven-second mark -- the only driver to accomplish that feat -- but his remarkable early time stood as the top mark all weekend. Rahal claimed his series-leading fourth pole of the season and he also helped his title hopes with Saturday's result. He earned his second bonus championship point of the weekend for topping both rounds of qualifying and he now trails series leader Simon Pagenaud (#15 Team Australia/Location U/Cons. Gen. Vienne) by just 24 points (200-176) remaining second in the standings entering Sunday's Round 10 of 12 in the Atlantic Championship.
Seemingly sensing Rahal's charge this weekend, Pagenaud also impressed in final qualifying. The fast Frenchman turned it on late in the afternoon session to post the second-fastest lap of the day at 1:07.026 (88.998 mph). He earned his seventh front-row start in 10 races with the result as he'll start alongside Rahal when the Atlantics launch from a standing start Sunday on the tight street course. The Team Australia rookie also equaled his best qualifying result on a street course this season, tying his second-place effort from the season-opening race at Long Beach.
One year after his landmark performance in Denver, Sciuto came through with a strong qualifying of his own. The Polestar Racing Group pilot recovered from a brush with the wall in first-round qualifying and clocked a fast lap of 1:07.045 (88.973 mph) to earn his best qualifying result of the season.
Brazil's Raphael Matos (#6 ProWorks), who saw his bid for three straight series poles fall just short on Saturday, actually recorded the exact same time of 1:07.045 (88.973 mph) as Sciuto. Matos wound up fourth in the qualifying order as his second-fastest qualifying lap was just a bit slower than Sciuto's, according to the series' tiebreaking formula.
The defending Atlantic champion at Denver, Andreas Wirth (#37 INDECK/Layer 7/Wirth Solar), earned his seventh top-five start of the year. The Forsythe Racing sophomore owned a top time of 1:07.055 (88.960 mph) to qualify fifth overall. Wirth enters Sunday's race still third in the championship standings, just 28 points behind Pagenaud.
Keeping alive his season-long streak of top-10 qualifying performances, American racer Jonathan Bomarito (#23 Miracle Sealants/Dynacor) finished sixth in the order on Saturday. He had a time of 1:07.104 (88.895 mph) for PR1 Motorsports.
After a strong opening-round qualifying effort that found him fifth at the end of the day on Friday, 16-year-old Forsythe Racing rookie Richard Philippe (#33 INDECK/Layer 7) continued his Mile-High magic on Saturday. He recorded a lap of 1:07.164 (88.815 mph) to earn a seventh-place starting position.
Gelles Racing's Robbie Pecorari (#28 Western Union/USA Today/Gelles Racing) produced his third-best qualifying result of the season as he was eighth in the order Saturday at 1:07.235 (88.722 mph). Canadian James Hinchcliffe (#3 Emexis/INDECK) of Forsythe Racing enjoyed his seventh top-10 qualifying effort as he produced a fast time of 1:07.268 (88.678 mph) to claim ninth. Condor Motorsports' Danilo Dirani (#1 Canary Fund/Funcional Card/Sala Design/Perkons) rounded out the top-10 qualifiers in Denver as he carded a fast time of 1:07.298 (88.639 mph).
Sunday the Atlantics will welcome race day with a 15-minute morning warm-up session beginning at 8:30 a.m. MT. Round 10 of the Atlantic Championship will begin with the sixth standing start of the season at 11:15 a.m. Follow all of the racing action from Denver through the Live Timing link and watch all of this season's races on demand at www.champcaratlantic.com.
ATLANTIC QUALIFYING NOTES
The top 12 drivers in final-round qualifying all topped Graham Rahal's track record time from Friday of 1:07.492 (88.384 mph).
The top 18 Atlantic qualifiers were separated by less than a second on the timing sheets.
Local racer Steve Ott (#35 Newman Wachs Racing), who was born and raised in nearby Thornton, Colorado, will start 19th on Sunday after posting a final qualifying time of 1:07.850 (87.917 mph).
Video highlights of Sunday's Atlantic race will be included on the Champ Car satellite video uplink feed. Racing action and interviews with the top finishers from the Atlantic Championship will be featured on the feed, scheduled for Sunday, August 13 from 7-7:30 p.m. ET. The satellite coordinates from the uplink are: KU-Band (ANALOG), AMC 6, Transponder: K-11, D/L Frequency: 11920 Vertical and Audio: 6.2 6.8.
Quotes from the top three qualifying drivers follow:
Graham Rahal (#18 Gehl Company) of Mi-Jack Conquest Racing:
"We did our quickest lap on really old tires. I was surprised. When we put new ones on, it was difficult for me to get a clean lap. We were having trouble with the starter motor and couldn't get it started coming out of the pits. We lost a little time there, but we had three laps that were good enough for pole. It's not like yesterday, when we had eight or nine, but we'll take it. Between today and tomorrow, that's two more points. My car in race trim is absolutely consistent and I'm still not pushing 100%. I feel pretty comfortable going into the race. (On catching up to Pagenaud's lead in the points) It's difficult to make up points. The one race he made a mistake, I made a mistake. We need a lot of points. We need Simon to have a bad weekend. Getting poles and fast laps helps. Hopefully, we'll get the fastest lap tomorrow. My car is great. I think we have a good chance of winning."
Simon Pagenaud (#15 Team Australia/Location U/Cons. Gen. Vienne) of Team Australia:
"Obviously, we have a very good car on road courses. We struggle a bit with street races, to be honest. But, we finally found something good on the car. As we saw in San Jose, in the first lap of the race, the car was good, but after the accident it was not so good. We improved a lot this weekend and we're going to fight for the win. (On Rahal's success as a motivation for him) It doesn't change a lot. I'm always pushing 100%. We were strong in Edmonton and sometimes we were strong on Friday, but not on Saturday. We are still leading the championship and we have been very consistent."
Alan Sciuto (#12 Sealy/PKV Racing/The RoomStore of Phoenix) of Polestar Racing Group:
"In qualifying yesterday, I touched the wall on my second lap and bent the car up pretty bad. We tried to fix it as best as we could, but it just wasn't the same. We were struggling the whole session to get the car right. We had a good set-up today. I was hoping it would work and the car worked really well. It was a great result. (On his success on street courses and Denver) I like the track. It's fun. We have a good street course set-up, but we've struggled this year and had bad luck on the other street courses. (On losing P2 to Pagenaud in the end of the session) I thought I could get a better lap on my last lap. Unfortunately, I hit traffic and didn't know until I got back to the pits that I got bumped down. I didn't care if it was second or third, I wanted the pole."