Laguna Seca: Friday qualifying notes

Allmendinger adds to CART Toyota Atlantic Championship points lead by taking provisional pole for Grand Prix of Monterey at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. MONTEREY, Calif. (June 13, 2003) - RuSPORT rookie A.J. Allmendinger ( ...

Allmendinger adds to CART Toyota Atlantic Championship points lead by taking provisional pole for Grand Prix of Monterey at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

MONTEREY, Calif. (June 13, 2003) - RuSPORT rookie A.J. Allmendinger (#4 RuSPORT) extended his points lead in the 2003 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship by one marker in provisional qualifying Friday by putting his car on the provisional pole for Saturday's Grand Prix of Monterey at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca (SPEED Channel, June 16, 1:00 p.m. ET).

Allmendinger, a native of nearby Hollister, Calif., toured the 2.238-mile permanent road circuit in 1:18.082 (103.184 mph), and shattered the one-lap qualifying record of 1:18.755 (102.302 mph) established in 1997 by Alex Barron, who went on to win the '97 Toyota Atlantic title. As a result, Allmendinger is guaranteed a starting spot on the front row for the race, and now leads Jonathan Macri (#84 NTN) by three points, 45-42. Should Allmendinger remain on pole after Saturday morning's final qualifying session, it would be the second pole of his young Toyota Atlantic career.

Qualifying second on the provisional grid was Sacramento-born Joey Hand (#27 DSTP Motorsports/BG Products), who posted a best lap of 1:18.144 (103.102 mph). Despite being hampered by an illness that required attention from the CART Champ Car medical staff, Hand managed to position himself among the top contenders to take the victory in the Grand Prix of Monterey. If Hand is able to take the pole in Saturday morning's final qualifying session, it would be the third pole of his CART Toyota Atlantic Championship career, and his first since the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach in 2002.

Alex Figge (#69 Wine Country Motorsports/Patrick Racing/Trench Shoring) qualified third with a best lap of 1:18.343 (102.840 mph). Figge also qualified third on the provisional grid for the season opener in Monterrey before slipping to eighth on the final grid, and his previous best start this season was seventh at Long Beach. His career best starting position was second at Chicago Motor Speedway last year.

Fourth on the provisional grid was Milwaukee winner Ryan Dalziel (#28 Pro-Works/Discovery Lake/Daily Record) at 1:18.465 (102.680 mph). The Scot was second quickest to Allmendinger in the first practice session of the day, but dropped a few spots in the qualifying session. Nevertheless, Dalziel appears to have one of the strongest cars and stands a chance to take his second straight pole position and race victory Saturday.

Allmendinger's RuSPORT teammate Aaron Justus (#3 RuSPORT) filled out the top five on the provisional grid after posting a best lap of 1:18.626 (102.470 mph), while Lynx Racing's Michael Valiante (#19 Lynx Racing) was sixth at 1:18.712 (102.358 mph). The top six drivers in the field turned laps in excess of Barron's previous track record. Macri was seventh on the provisional grid at 1:17.784 (102.264 mph), and was the last driver in the field to turn a lap within one second of Allmendinger's quick time.

Danica Patrick (#24 Argent Mortgage Company) was eighth after first-round qualifying by turning in a best lap of 1:19.146 (101.797 mph), and Venezuelan Alex Garcia (#9 Dixien/Omnisource/LA Fitness/Diestra) was ninth at 1:19.450 (101.407 mph). Mexico's Luis Diaz (#33 Telmex/Dorricott Racing) rounded out the top 10 at 1:19.505 (101.337 mph).

The entire first round qualifying session was run without a red flag, enabling several drivers to turn more than 20 laps during the 40-minute session. Aside from a brief stoppage for the Simple Green Champ Car Safety Team to retrieve Allmendinger's car-which was stopped on-course without power-the entire morning session was also run without incident.

Saturday's schedule for the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship calls for a final, 40-minute qualifying session beginning at 9:05 a.m., and will be followed at 4:00 p.m. by Round 4 of the 12-race 2003 series, the Grand Prix of Monterey. Television coverage of the event will be carried in the United States and Canada on SPEED Channel on a tape-delayed basis at 1:00 p.m. ET on Monday, June 16. Live timing and scoring information for all sessions is available on the official web site of the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship,

Quotes from the day's top three qualifiers follow below:

* ALEX FIGGE (#69 Wine Country Motorsports/Patrick Racing/Trench Shoring): "It feels great. I've actually been up here once or twice before with these guys so it's pretty cool. In the beginning of the session, the change we made after the first session worked really good. As soon as the tires came in, the car was really comfortable and really good in the high speed stuff. We got a pretty quick lap, and then when we went to stickers, we made some changes to compensate for the new tires, and I think maybe that wasn't exactly the right call. But there's still another session tomorrow, and the times look good so it should be fun."

* JOEY HAND (#27 DSTP Motorsports/BG Products): "It's always easier once you get in the car. I felt pretty bad throughout the day and last night. The CART medical people are really good and they hooked me up with some IV around noon today, and that really helped a lot to get my energy back. It all came together right there in the last three laps. I was able to put some new tires on. We ran most of the session on first session tires, and one thing is, this DSTP team has really stuck with us. These guys have really worked hard no matter when we're slow, when we're fast, and we've had our slow weekends that last couple of weekends. They've done a great job making sure this car was really good, and the car was really good. I made a couple of mistakes. I think we could have made the car better, but I decided to stay out there and run and see what I had. I had more than I think the team thought I had, and I had more than what most people thought I had, so that's what I want to do. I was just a little bit short, but I think we're all right. I told Allmendinger to watch his back tomorrow."

* A.J. ALLMENDINGER (#4 RuSPORT): "First off, Joey, I was watching my back when we were riding in the golf cart. You looked a little pale, and I didn't want a little present from you, so I've already been watching my back. Anyway, we had a good day today. We had a good test when we tested here after Long Beach, so we had a baseline to start the car with. Throughout the practice session today, we worked on the car a little bit. We got hooked a little bit with the red flag that I brought out due to a mechanical, but my team did a great job. They got the car back out there, and we learned some things that last part of the session and we took it into qualifying. We ran on old tires through most of the session and then threw the stickers on with about 12 minutes left. The car was good, RuSPORT gave me a good car. I honestly think there's a lot more in it, because it wasn't the right balance that I wanted in the car, but it was good enough to get the job done today. I actually felt that I drove a pretty good session today, kind of compensating for the handling that I had in the car. The thing had some understeer in it. I felt like I did a good job to change my driving style to help get the car through the corners. RuSPORT's been great so far, and I think we're going to go back, look at our notes, and I think we have a lot left in the car tomorrow. I'm excited for it."


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Series Atlantic
Drivers Ryan Dalziel , Michael Valiante , Joey Hand , Jonathan Macri , Luis Diaz , A.J. Allmendinger , Alex Garcia , Alex Figge , Aaron Justus , Danica Patrick