Monterrey: Saturday qualifying notes

Diaz thrills mexican fans with second consecutive Tecate/Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix pole position; Hand starts second to repeat last year's front row. MONTERREY, Mexico (March 22, 2003) - For the second consecutive year, Mexican Luis Diaz ( ...

Diaz thrills mexican fans with second consecutive Tecate/Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix pole position; Hand starts second to repeat last year's front row.

MONTERREY, Mexico (March 22, 2003) - For the second consecutive year, Mexican Luis Diaz (#33 Telmex/Dorricott Racing Toyota/Swift) and American Joey Hand (#27 BG Products/DSTP Motorsports Toyota/Swift) will share the front row when the green flag falls on the 2003 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship season Sunday morning (SPEED Channel, 11:30 a.m. ET) for the Tecate/Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix.

In a thrilling battle with rookie driver A.J. Allmendinger (#4 RuSPORT Toyota/Swift) in which the two drivers traded fast laps, Diaz managed to put down the fastest lap of the weekend at 1:24.960 (89.153 mph) with two minutes remaining in the final qualifying to take the pole position in front of thousands of his adoring countrymen. It was Diaz's third career Toyota Atlantic pole position, and his first since starting from the pole at Road America in 2002, a race he would go on to win. Diaz finished fifth in last year's race after leading the first five laps under rainy conditions before giving way to his Dorricott Racing teammate, Jon Fogarty, who went on to claim his first of two 2002 victories en route to the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship title.

Despite posting the third quickest speed in today's final session at 1:25.385 (88.709 mph), Hand will start from the outside of the front row based on the fact that he qualified on the provisional pole yesterday. After starting second last year, Hand picked up what would be his best result of the season with a third place performance in the 2002 Tecate/Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix.

Allmendinger starts third after posting the second-quickest qualifying time of 1:25.114 (88.991 mph). The 2002 Barber Dodge Pro Series champion is making his CART Toyota Atlantic Championship debut in tomorrow's race, and narrowly missed starting his first race from the pole position. He twice knocked Diaz off the pole position in the final 20 minutes of the session before Diaz turned in his late flyer.

Starting fourth on the grid tomorrow will be 2002 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship runner-up Michael Valiante (#19 Lynx Racing Toyota/Swift), who logged a best lap of 1:25.417 (88.676 mph) to improve from eighth quickest on Friday to fourth today. The performance was Valiante's eighth top-10 qualifying performance in his past nine races, dating to an eighth place qualifying effort at Portland last year.

Turning in the fifth quickest qualifying time was Team Rahal rookie Danica Patrick (#24 Argent Mortgage Company Toyota/Swift), who clocked a best lap of 1:25.533 (88.555 mph). Patrick, the first full-time female competitor in the 30-year history of the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship, ran out of fuel on her final qualifying lap, which could have been quicker than the one that put her fifth on the grid.

Rounding out the top ten are Canadians Jonathan Macri (#84 NTN Toyota/Swift), who turned in a best lap of 1:25.596 (88.490 mph); Marc DeVellis (#67 Pro-Works Toyota/Swift), who was seventh quickest at 1:25.657 (88.427 mph); American Alex Figge (#69 Pacific Coast Motorsports/Patrick Racing Toyota/Swift) at 1:25.669 (88.415 mph); Ryan Dalziel (#28 Discovery Lake/Daily Record Newspaper Toyota/Swift) at 1:25.711 (88.371 mph); and American rookie Aaron Justus (#3 RuSPORT Toyota/Swift) at 1:26.041 (88.032 mph).

The top nine cars on the starting grid were within one second of each other, and the top 11 in the field are within two seconds of the polesitter. The entire 40-minute final qualifying session was run without a red flag, and there were only three minor incidents during the session that were handled with local yellow flags.

Sunday's CART Toyota Atlantic Championship schedule calls for a 15-minute warmup session beginning at 8:00 a.m., and the green flag drops on the Tecate/Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix and the 2003 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship season at 10:30 a.m. local time. The scheduled distance for the race is 32 laps, but is subject to a 50-minute time limit. The race is being broadcast live on SPEED Channel in the United States and Canada at 11:30 a.m. Eastern time, and live timing and scoring data will also be available on the official web site of the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship,

Quotes from the top three qualifiers follow below:

* LUIS DIAZ (#33 Telmex/Dorricott Racing Toyota/Swift): "I had a very good car today and I'm very proud of the team. I think if we can make a few changes in the car, I think we can be up there for tomorrow. I think tomorrow is going to be a very tough race, because I think these two guys (Hand and Allmendinger) are very tough competitiors, and there's a lot of people who haven't been in the championship but me. I just think we're going to have a great race."

* JOEY HAND (#27 BG Products/DSTP Motorsports Toyota/Swift): "It went well today, actually, we have been on top of the charts all weekend and I guess it has to come to an end at one point, but these guys threw down some fabulous laps. At the beginning of the session, we worked on race setup on older tires and we held off as long as we could before going to qualifying tires. When we put the tires on, we just couldn't get down there quickly. I caught a little but of traffic on my good laps. I tried to throw down a good one at the end, but that's all I had. We are still very happy to be starting on the front row, and it has been at great weekend for DSTP (Motorsports). It was an interesting race last year, and I'm looking forward to doing the same again tomorrow."

* A.J. ALLMENDINGER (#4 RuSPORT Toyota/Swift): "We started off good. After the first set of tires that we used in practice yesterday, we put a good base on the car. After that, we put the qualifying tires on that we ran in yesterday's session, and the car had a very good balance, and we could do good laps with both sets. We found that with a new set of tires, we just missed the balance on a new set of tires, we just couldn't put a really good lap in. This weekend, we're still learning every lap, and I'm really excited to be in this position, especially with these guys, but it's not going to be easy. Hopefully I can win tomorrow and be up here at the end of the race tomorrow. Hopefully, we have a good car for tomorrow's race."


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