Laguna Seca: Race notes

Allmendinger sweeps weekend at Grand Prix of Monterey; extends championship points lead in front of hometown friends and family MONTEREY, Calif. (June 14, 2003) - After breaking his day-old track record with a best lap of 1:16.986 (104.653 mph)...

Allmendinger sweeps weekend at Grand Prix of Monterey; extends championship points lead in front of hometown friends and family

MONTEREY, Calif. (June 14, 2003) - After breaking his day-old track record with a best lap of 1:16.986 (104.653 mph) to take the pole position to start the day, RuSPORT rookie A.J. Allmendinger (#4 RuSPORT) dominated the Grand Prix of Monterey later in the day by leading every lap en route to his second career CART Toyota Atlantic Championship race victory in his fourth career start on Saturday at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

On the opening lap, Allmendinger led the field cleanly through the first five turns, but trouble occurred in Turn 6 as Joey Hand (#27 DSTP Motorsports/BG Products)-who was running in fourth place at the time-put a wheel off-course at the exit of the turn and spun across the track, backing his car hard into the tire barrier. The car then shot back across the track and slid off course.

The drivers behind Hand were forced to take evasive action, and rookie Danica Patrick (#24 Argent Mortgage Company) ran into the right rear wheel of Bryan Sellers (#17 Lynx Racing/3Dimensional Services/Drive4USA) who was practically stopped on course. The contact forced the nose of Patrick's car into the air, and she careened into the tire barrier on the outside of the track. Stephan C. Roy (#16 PlayStation 2/MGD/Mexxsport) also suffered damage to the suspension on his car, and Patrick and Roy were both out of the race, but none of the drivers involved were injured.

Despite the crash, Hand made it back to his pit and was able to continue in the race after the team made repairs, albeit three laps down. Likewise, Sellers was also able to continue after lengthy repairs, but ultimately dropped out of the race with a mechanical failure after 22 laps.

That would be the only caution flag of the afternoon, and on the Lap 3 restart, Allmendinger once again rocketed out to a comfortable lead over Ryan Dalziel (#28 Pro-Works/Discovery Lake/Daily Record) and would never be challenged. Allmendinger managed to grow his lead over Dalziel on all but one of the remaining 27 laps, and went on to win by 17.779 seconds over the Scot. The win was also the second win in four races for RuSPORT, which is in its first season of Toyota Atlantic competition.

In the process, Allmendinger swept all 23 available championship points from the race weekend, and by winning his second race in four starts, he became the quickest rookie since Alex Barron in 1997 to win two races. Barron won in Rounds 3 and 4 at Nazareth and Milwaukee, respectively, en route to a championship-winning rookie season. The win also enabled Allmendinger to extend his points lead over Jonathan Macri (#84 NTN) to 11 points after coming into the weekend with a three-point advantage over the Canadian.

For Dalziel, the second place performance was his second straight podium finish following his win two weeks ago in the Milwaukee Mile Centennial 250, and was also his fifth top-four finish in six starts dating to a third place run in the penultimate round of 2002 at Montreal. The result also allowed him to move from fifth to fourth in the championship standings, and he now trails Allmendinger by 19 points after four of 12 races.

Macri worked his way up from sixth on the starting grid to a third place finish, and kept himself within sight of Allmendinger on the points table. He also managed to extend his streak of top-four finishes to four, and is the only driver to have finished inside the top four positions in each of the first four events of the season.

Likewise, Allmendinger's RuSPORT teammate Aaron Justus (#3 RuSPORT) continued his streak of top-five finishes with a fourth place finish in the Grand Prix of Monterey. Justus and Macri are the only two drivers in the series to have finished in the top five in each of the first four races this season, and Justus held onto third in the point standings. He now trails Macri by five points and Allmendinger by 16 in the points chase.

Rounding out the top five was outside polesitter Alex Figge (#69 Wine Country Motorsports/Patrick Racing/Trench Shoring) who matched his career-best starting spot by qualifying second earlier in the day, and also matched his career-best finish with a fifth place performance in the race. He also finished fifth in the Argent Mortgage Toyota Atlantic Race at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, and the result moved him back inside the top five in the point standings. He now stands fifth, trailing Dalziel by six points and Allmendinger by 25 markers.

Television coverage of the Grand Prix of Monterey will be carried on a tape-delayed basis on SPEED Channel at 1:00 p.m. ET on Monday, June 16. Next weekend, the series moves a few hundred miles along the Pacific Coast to the north for the G.I. Joe's 200 at Portland International Raceway. SPEED Channel will also feature tape-delayed coverage of that event on Monday, June 23 at 1:00 p.m. ET.

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

* A.J. ALLMENDINGER (#4 RuSPORT): "RuSPORT gave me a great car all weekend. Being a hometown track, it's a favorite place for me to race at. I just knew, what was critical was to get the start and not get bottled up in anything or get passed. From then on, the car was just amazing. I just can't thank my crew enough and my whole team for what they've given me throughout the season so far. Burke Harrison, my engineer, gave me the splits every lap, but I didn't want to lift. I wanted to show everybody that I was the fastest all weekend and I wasn't going to lift throughout the race. Every lap until the checkered flag, I pushed as hard as I could, just to show everybody what this team has and what I have. It's an amazing result so early in the season, and now to be in the points lead with an 11-point gap and two victories in four races, I think it's a lot of confidence for this big stretch run that we have coming up for the rest of the season."

* RYAN DALZIEL (#28 Pro-Works/Discovery Lake/Daily Record): "My goal before we went out was obviously to get past Alex (Figge) as quick as I could. I think on second qualifying, we were actually relieved to have third over second. The outside of the first corner here is not where you want to be, so we were happy with third. We were a little bit disappointed at the time gap to A.J., so we knew that we were going to struggle a little bit in the race. Like I said, I just had to get to second as quick as I could and work my way away from the rest of the pack and see how much I could hold onto A.J. Like I say, we just didn't have it today. It's great points for us. We thought our downfalls were going to be Laguna and Portland, so if we can podium on both and then get to street courses where we shine, I think we'll be in good shape."

* JONATHAN MACRI (#84 NTN): "At the start, I was able to get by Aaron (Justus) going into (Turn) 6 coming out of (Turn) 5, and we went to a full-course yellow. On the restart, I was able to get a good run going into Corner 2 on Alex Figge and just got by him. I was able to gap them out a bit, and they were staying behind me and were never really much of a threat. I was able to get some good laps in there and pull out a gap. I didn't have anything for Ryan or A.J. today, but I just sat in third by myself and was able to just stay really consistent and finish on the podium."


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About this article
Series Atlantic
Drivers Ryan Dalziel , Joey Hand , Stephan C. Roy , Jonathan Macri , Alex Barron , A.J. Allmendinger , Alex Figge , Aaron Justus , Bryan Sellers , Danica Patrick