MIAMI (September 27, 2003) - In a dramatic final qualifying session for Sunday's 2003 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship Presented by Yokohama season finale, RuSPORT rookie A.J. Allmendinger ( ...
MIAMI (September 27, 2003) - In a dramatic final qualifying session for Sunday's 2003 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship Presented by Yokohama season finale, RuSPORT rookie A.J. Allmendinger (#4 RuSPORT) jumped from third on the provisional grid and put his car on the pole position for the Argent Mortgage Toyota Atlantic 100k (SPEED Channel, 12:00 p.m. ET). The pole was Allmendinger's ninth of the season, tying Gilles Villeneuve's 1976 record for most pole positions in a single season.
After placing third in provisional qualifying on Friday, Allmendinger and his RuSPORT teammates made several changes to the car overnight. The changes continued throughout the final qualifying session, and with fewer than five minutes remaining, the 2003 champion clocked a best lap of 47.717 seconds (86.762 mph). That would be enough for Allmendinger to usurp Friday's provisional polesitter Ryan Dalziel (#28 Pro-Works/Discovery Lake/Daily Record) and Michael Valiante (#19 Lynx Racing) and put himself on the inside of the front row for the race. In addition to it being the ninth pole of the season for Allmendinger, the rookie also maintained his perfect record of qualifying inside the top three for every race this year.
Allmendinger's late flyer relegated Dalziel to the outside of the front row, as he was guaranteed a front row starting position owing to his provisional pole winning performance on Friday. However, Dalziel would have qualified second based on speed anyway, as he was second quickest today with a best lap of 47.760 sec. (86.683 mph). It is the Scot's best starting position since he qualified on the pole for Round 5 at Portland, and is his third front row starting position of the season.
Valiante starts third after logging a best qualifying lap of 47.868 sec. (86.488 mph), for his third consecutive top three qualifying performance. It is also the eighth consecutive race that the Canadian has qualified inside the top five, and he has gone on to finish inside the top four in each of those events. It is Valiante's ninth top-five qualifying performance in 11 races this season.
Jon Fogarty (#1 Norwalk Furniture) had the biggest improvement from provisional to final qualifying, as he vaulted himself from 10th on Friday to fourth on Saturday after clocking a best lap of 47.943 sec. (86.353 mph). It will be the third consecutive race that Fogarty has started fourth, as the 2002 Toyota Atlantic champion qualified fourth in his return to the series last month in Denver, and also qualified fourth at Denver to finish out the '02 season. It is the 11th consecutive event in which Fogarty has qualified inside the top four, and is his 13th top-four qualifying performance in 14 career appearances.
Fogarty's Team Rahal teammate Danica Patrick (#24 Argent Mortgage Company) fills out the top five on the starting grid after turning in a best lap of 48.052 sec. (86.157 mph). For Patrick, the qualifying performance represents the third time in the past five races that she has qualified inside the top five positions, and is her fourth top five starting spot of the year.
Rookie Aaron Justus (#3 RuSPORT) qualified sixth at 48.128 sec. (86.021 mph), while third-year competitor Joey Hand (#27 DSTP Motorsports) is seventh on the grid with a best lap of 48.613 sec. (85.162 mph). The top seven drivers in the field turned laps within one second of each other. Mexican Luis Diaz (#33 Dorricott Racing/Telmex) qualified eighth at 48.742 sec. (84.937 mph), with Jonathan Macri (#84 NTN Bearings) ninth at 49.157 sec. (84.220 mph), and rookie Marc Breuers (#12 Hamilton Lane) rounding out the top 10 at 49.249 (84.063 mph).
Sunday's schedule at the Argent Mortgage Toyota Atlantic 100k provides for a 15-minute warm-up beginning at 8:00 a.m. ET, with the race scheduled to get the green flag at 10:30 a.m. ET. The scheduled distance for the 2003 Toyota Atlantic season finale is 55 laps (63.25 miles), but is subject to a 50-minute time limit. SPEED Channel will provide television coverage in the United States and Canada on a 90-minute tape delay beginning at 12:00 Noon ET.
Quotes from the day's top three qualifiers follow below:
* A.J. ALLMENDINGER (#4 RuSPORT): "First off, I'm really proud of my team. We struggled both days. I think, as Ryan (Dalziel) said, he probably has been the fastest car, along with Michael (Valiante) all weekend. I'm just really proud of my crew, 'cause we worked really hard over the two days trying to get the car better. It's still not perfect, by far, but thanks to (engineer) Burke Harrison and everybody at RuSPORT, because this is probably the hardest pole we've had to win, probably all season. The car's not been good from the start, and we just worked and kept working and working. It's gradually gotten better. We put the new tires on, and I knew Ryan was quick, and Burke told me that he was about three-tenths (of a second) quicker than me, and I had just done a good lap on my new tires. I thought there was really no chance. It's really hard in this heat holding your breath for that long. For three laps, I was trying to hold my breath, and really, I got one good on in there. I couldn't get back within about two-tenths. I guess that's all it takes in qualifying and we barely pulled it out."
* RYAN DALZIEL (#28 Pro-Works/Discovery Lake/Daily Record): "I think, over the past couple of days, we've consistently been probably the quickest car. The track changed a lot from this morning to this afternoon. Unfortunately, we predicted the track to go the opposite way, so we made an early stop. We made a lot of good changes to the car through the session, and I put in a real quick lap early on my new tires. I think that stood, really, until the last five minutes. Unfortunately, the time that my tires were best, I ran into a lot of traffic and there was a pileup in the hairpin. I didn't get back on after that, I got, like, one lap at the end and made a mistake. I'm quite disappointed, but I think it's going to be an interesting race. I think we've definitely got a car that can win the race. It's going to be important, whoever can get through the first lap in the lead, because I think overtaking here is going to be pretty much impossible. I'm looking forward to nudging on A.J. (Allmendinger) a little bit at the start and we'll see what happens from there."
* MICHAEL VALIANTE (#19 Lynx Racing): "For one, I think the track today it's just so hot out that it was extremely greasy. It took a long time, I don't know if it was the temperature or what, but the tires, it took a long time for them to come in. We started on a used set, actually. The car actually was quite good at the beginning. I think I was the quickest for a little while early on, and it was just a matter of trying to get clear track. When I put new tires on, I think there was two cars that crashed in the hairpin, so it took a few laps to get that cleared up. My car was pretty good, I think I just didn't get a perfect lap in today. It should be good for tomorrow."