Aaron Justus sets new track record in taking provisional pole for Sunday's Argent Mortgage Toyota Atlantic race at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. LONG BEACH, Calif. (April 11, 2003) - CART Toyota Atlantic Championship rookie Aaron Justus (...
Aaron Justus sets new track record in taking provisional pole for Sunday's Argent Mortgage Toyota Atlantic race at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
LONG BEACH, Calif. (April 11, 2003) - CART Toyota Atlantic Championship rookie Aaron Justus (#3 RuSPORT) threw down a blistering lap of 1:17.260 (91.701 mph) in provisional qualifying for Sunday's Argent Mortgage Toyota Atlantic Race at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach (SPEED Channel, Sunday, April 13, 1:30 p.m. ET) to claim his first career provisional pole.
Justus' performance today shattered the previous track record for a Toyota Atlantic car on the 1.968-mile temporary street circuit, which was set by Canadian David Rutledge in 2001 at 1:18.168 (90.636 mph). In total, the top six qualifiers today turned laps in excess of the former track record.
In the process, Justus earned one championship point and guaranteed himself a Toyota Atlantic career best starting position, as he will start no worse than second on Sunday. His previous best starting position was 10th, which he achieved in the 2003 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship season-opening Tecate/Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix three weeks ago. Sunday's race will be just the fifth Toyota Atlantic start for the 2000 U.S. Formula Ford 2000 national champion.
Building on the momentum of a second place result in Monterrey, Canadian Jonathan Macri (#84 NTN) placed his car second on the provisional grid after posting a best lap of 1:17.549 (91.359 mph). Macri matched his previous best qualifying performance today, as he also started on the outside of the front row for Toyota Atlantic events at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in 2001 and 2002. After finishing second four times, Macri enters the weekend looking for his first career Toyota Atlantic victory.
Qualifying third provisionally was Mexican Luis Diaz (#33 Telmex/Dorricott Racing), who clocked a best lap of 1:17.613 (91.284 mph). Going into tomorrow's final qualifying session, Diaz will be looking to claim his second consecutive Toyota Atlantic pole position after taking the pole at the season opener in Monterrey. Should he take the top qualifying position, it would be the fourth pole of his Toyota Atlantic career. He is looking for his third career Toyota Atlantic race victory this weekend.
Scotland's Ryan Dalziel (#28 Discovery Lake/Daily Record Newspaper), who finished fourth in the Monterrey event three weeks ago, also qualified fourth on today's provisional grid at 1:17.623 (91.272 mph). The second-year driver has finished fourth or better in each of his past three CART Toyota Atlantic Championship events, but is still looking for his first victory in the series. His career best finish to this point has been second, which he achieved in Monterrey and Denver in 2002, the latter event also being the site of his first career Toyota Atlantic pole position.
Rookie A.J. Allmendinger (#4 RuSPORT) rounded out the top five in provisional qualifying after turning in a best lap of 1:17.779 (91.089 mph). Allmendinger posted the fastest time of today's morning practice session and traded top time with his teammate, Justus, through the early stages of the qualifying session this afternoon. However, he made a slight mistake in the second half of qualifying that forced him to make light contact with the tire barrier in Turn 1, and the contact was just enough to prevent his car from challenging any further for the provisional pole.
Defending Argent Mortgage Toyota Atlantic Race winner Michael Valiante (#19 Lynx Racing) was sixth on the provisional grid with a best time of 1:17.964 (90.089 mph), and looks to win his second event in-a-row after taking the checkered flag first in Monterrey. Seventh was local favorite Alex Figge (#69 Pacific Coast Motorsports/Patrick Racing), as the Santa Barbara, Calif.-resident clocked a best lap of 1:18.237 (90.556 mph), and was followed by defending Long Beach polesitter Joey Hand (#27 DSTP Motorsports/BG Products) at 1:18.412 (90.354 mph). Rounding out the top 10 were Canada's Marc DeVellis (#67 Pro-Works) at 1:18.594 (90.144 mph), and Danica Patrick (#24 Argent Mortgage Company) at 1:18.663 (90.065 mph).
Saturday's schedule calls for the Toyota Atlantic cars to have a 30-minute practice session beginning at 9:15 a.m. PT, and final qualifying is scheduled for 3:00-3:30 p.m. PT. On Sunday, the 15-minute warm-up session takes the green flag at 8:00 a.m. PT and will be followed by Round 2 of the 30th Anniversary CART Toyota Atlantic Championship season, the Argent Mortgage Toyota Atlantic Race, at 10:30 a.m. PT.
Quotes from the day's top three qualifiers follow below:
* AARON JUSTUS (#3 RuSPORT): "This morning when we unloaded the car was really good. We went out to try and get the car balanced and the car was really good. We made a few changes and went out and tested them, just to get up to speed and the car was more balanced. We were able to find more speed since the Champ Cars put more rubber down. During the session we managed to get down into the (one minute) 17s (-second range), and kept throwing down good laps. It just feels really good to be up here and we'll keep going tomorrow. I don't want to say that there's nothing left in the car, but it's rare when you are able to put in a lap where you feel like you've gotten just about everything there is. We were pretty close to that today."
* JONATHAN MACRI (#84 NTN): "The session was good for us. The staff at Long Beach did a really good job of cleaning the track. We made changes that improved the car. At the end, I was fighting with traffic, but the last few laps, I got a clean lap and was able to be quick. If I get the pole tomorrow, I don't have to worry about visibility in the rain on Sunday."
* LUIS DIAZ (#33 Telmex/Dorricott Racing): "It's very close, a little bit like Monterrey. I know it's going to be tough for the pole, there's a lot of good drivers here. Now Aaron is at the front, which I think is pretty good. It's going to be pretty exciting all weekend. I think that the team is doing a great job. I think I have to try for more consistency, and also I don't want to crash anymore, so it's good to go a little bit slow, but not too much."