Long Beach: Saturday qualifying notes

Allmendinger takes first career pole pole position in qualifying for the Argent Mortgage Company Toyota Atlantic Race at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. LONG BEACH, Calif. (April 12, 2003) - After losing his opportunity to win the race due...

Allmendinger takes first career pole pole position in qualifying for the Argent Mortgage Company Toyota Atlantic Race at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

LONG BEACH, Calif. (April 12, 2003) - After losing his opportunity to win the race due to an incident on the opening lap of the 2003 season opener in Monterrey, rookie A.J. Allmendinger (#4 RuSPORT) went a long way toward putting those painful memories behind him today in final qualifying for the Argent Mortgage Toyota Atlantic Race at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Allmendinger broke the one-day-old track record held by his RuSPORT teammate, Aaron Justus (#3 RuSPORT), to put his car on the pole position with a best lap of 1:16.267 (92.895 mph). It was the second time in as many Toyota Atlantic races in which the rookie has qualified inside the top three positions, and was the quickest a rookie has qualified on the pole since Mexican Luis Diaz (#33 Telmex/Dorricott Racing) took the pole in his first series start in Monterrey last year.

As a result of Allmendinger's performance, Justus was relegated to the outside of the front row with yesterday's lap at 1:17.260 (91.701 mph). It was the first time that teammates swept the front row since Dorricott Racing teammates Jon Fogarty and Alex Gurney qualified 1-2 at Toronto in 2002. On his "out lap" to begin the qualifying session, Justus made light contact with the wall in the hairpin in Turn 11 and missed the early stages of the session as his team made the necessary repairs. He finally turned a lap faster than his provisional pole speed with six minutes remaining in the session, but could only muster the fifth fastest speed of the day. He was guaranteed a front row starting position based on the fact that he qualified on the provisional pole.

Qualifying third was Sierra Sierra Racing second-year driver Ryan Dalziel (#28 Discovery Lake/Daily Record Newspaper), who posted a best lap of 1:16.331 (92.817 mph). It was the third time in the past four races that the second-year pilot has qualified inside the top three positions (including his first career pole at Denver in the 2002 season finale), and he goes into tomorrow's race looking to extend his streak of top-four finishes to four. He is also looking for his first career Toyota Atlantic victory.

Mexican Luis Diaz (#33 Telmex/Dorricott Racing) placed his car fourth on the grid after clocking a best lap of 1:16.459 (92.661 mph), marking the fourth time in the past five races that he has qualified inside the top four positions. He enters tomorrow's Argent Mortgage Toyota Atlantic Race looking for his third career race victory in the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship.

Rounding out the top five is Canadian Jonathan Macri (#84 NTN), who put in a best lap of 1:16.608 (92.481 mph). Macri slipped from second on the provisional grid to fifth on the final starting lineup, but managed to finish second in the season opener after starting sixth which bodes well for his chances tomorrow. He enters the race looking to collect his first CART Toyota Atlantic race victory.

Qualifying sixth was defending Argent Mortgage Toyota Atlantic Race champion Michael Valiante (#19 Lynx Racing) with a top lap of 1:16.899 (92.131 mph). Valiante looks to claim his second consecutive Atlantic win after taking the "W" in the 2003 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship-opening Tecate/Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix.

Local favorite Alex Figge (#69 Pacific Coast Motorsports/Patrick Racing) of Santa Barbara, Calif. qualified seventh at 1:17.079 (91.916 mph), followed by 2002 Long Beach polesitter Joey Hand (#27 DSTP Motorsports/BG Products), who qualified eighth at 1:17.516 (91.398 mph). Sierra Sierra Racing's Marc DeVellis (#67 Pro-Works) qualified ninth at 1:17.649 (91.241 mph), and Stephan C. Roy (#16 Miller Genuine Draft/Momo) qualified 10th at 1:17.865 (90.988 mph) in his 2003 Toyota Atlantic debut.

The race day schedule for the Argent Mortgage Toyota Atlantic Race at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach calls for a 15-minute warmup session beginning at 8:00 a.m. PT, and will be followed by Round 2 of the 2003 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship at 10:30 a.m. PT. SPEED Channel will feature live television coverage of the race, which is scheduled for 32 laps but is subject to a 50-minute time limit.

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

* A.J. ALLMENDINGER (#4 RuSPORT): "It was great. I mean, we had a good balance, (engineer) Burke Harrison, the whole crew did a great job on the car. It was good right away. It wasn't a perfect car, but it was a good car. I ran consistent three laps in-a-row that I think would have been pole every lap, and none of them were perfect laps either. I made a little mistake here and there, but they were good enough. It's a great way to start the season. I mean, after Monterrey, the result wasn't there, but the weekend was great. Now to be on pole, and especially an all yellow front row with Team RuSPORT, it's just amazing. Hopefully, we can finish like that, and get through Turn 1! No mistakes this time!"

* AARON JUSTUS (#3 RuSPORT): "It was not as good as yesterday, that's for sure. I made a small mistake on the out lap, just followed the driver (ahead of me) too close and didn't see the inside wall like I should have. I clipped it with my right rear, and that was the first lap. So, ten minutes later, we had everything fixed, got back on track, and then we were just in recovery mode. We got back to a decent car, put new tires on with limited time, and then you set yourself up for difficulty out there with traffic and those things. When you don't give yourself enough time, the inevitable happens, and you run into traffic and you don't get THE lap. At the end of the day, it didn't matter too much. I'm on the front row, I knew that, so with RuSPORT being on the front row, overall, it's a win."

* RYAN DALZIEL (#28 Discovery Lake/Daily Record Newspaper): "We're extremely happy to be on the second row. We missed the pole by half a tenth, and that's quite disappointing, 'cause I only got one clear lap because of traffic. I know the car's good and we have the speed, and I think it's going to be an interesting race. I think we're quick enough to win."


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About this article
Series Atlantic
Drivers Alex Gurney , Ryan Dalziel , Jon Fogarty , Michael Valiante , Joey Hand , Stephan C. Roy , Jonathan Macri , Luis Diaz , A.J. Allmendinger , Alex Figge , Aaron Justus