Toronto: Toyota Saturday report

Allmendinger guarantees himself another front row start by taking provisional pole in first-round qualifying for Molson Indy Toronto; extends points lead again TORONTO (July 11, 2003) - A.J. Allmendinger ( ...

Allmendinger guarantees himself another front row start by taking provisional pole in first-round qualifying for Molson Indy Toronto; extends points lead again

TORONTO (July 11, 2003) - A.J. Allmendinger (#4 RuSPORT) strengthened his grip on the 2003 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship again in Friday provisional qualifying at Exhibition Place by establishing a new track record of 1:05.447 (96.536 mph) to put his car on the provisional pole position for Saturday's Molson Indy Toronto (SPEED Channel, 4:30 p.m. ET).

The rookie has not failed to start outside the top three in any of the previous six events on the 2003 Toyota Atlantic schedule, and has extended that streak to seven consecutive races by virtue of his performance on Friday, as he is guaranteed a front row starting position. Allmendinger also managed to grow his lead in the point standings by another marker as a result of his performance and now leads Sierra Sierra Enterprises driver Ryan Dalziel (#28 Pro-Works/Discovery Lake/Daily Record) by 16 points heading into Round 7 of the 12-race series. Allmendinger's lap was the fastest ever for a Toyota Atlantic car on the 1.755-mile temporary street circuit in Toronto, eclipsing the previous record of 1:05.578 (96.343 mph) established by 2002 Toyota Atlantic champion Jon Fogarty last year.

Allmendinger was joined on the provisional front row by his RuSPORT teammate Aaron Justus (#3 RuSPORT), who was second quickest in the session at 1:05.943 (95.810 mph). Justus' equaled his previous best qualifying position in the provisional round on Friday, as he also started second in the Argent Mortgage Toyota Atlantic race at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. He has also finished inside the top five in five of the six races thus far in 2003.

Qualifying third on the provisional grid was defending Molson Indy Toronto champion Michael Valiante (#19 Lynx Racing), who posted a best lap of 1:05.982 (95.753 mph). Valiante is looking for his second straight top three starting position, as he also started second at last weekend's Argent Mortgage Toyota Atlantic 100k at Cleveland. The Lynx Racing pilot is also hoping to bring Lynx Racing its third consecutive win at Exhibition Place, as David Rutledge began the run of success for Lynx in 2001, and Valiante made it two-in-a-row for the team last year.

Valiante is also among the drivers looking to extend the streak of victories for Canadian drivers at Toronto to five consecutive races, dating to Alex Tagliani's win in front of his countrymen in 1998. The other Canadian to win at Toronto was Andrew Bordin in 2000, as there was no Toyota Atlantic event here in 1999.

Dalziel claimed fourth on the provisional grid with a best lap of 1:06.495 (95.015 mph), and will extend his streak of top four starting positions to six consecutive races if he is able to stay within the top four following Saturday morning's final qualifying session. The Scot is also looking to extend his streak of podium finishes to five races in the Molson Indy Toronto on Saturday afternoon.

Local favorite Jonathan Macri (#84 NTN Bearings) rounded out the top five at 1:06.656 (94.785 mph). The Gormley, Ontario native is still seeking his first career Toyota Atlantic victory, but equaled his career best result with a second place run here last year. He also finished second last weekend in Cleveland.

Placing his car sixth on the provisional starting grid was Alex Figge (#69 Wine Country Motorsports/Patrick Racing/Trench Shoring) at 1:06.755 (94.645 mph), while rookie Bryan Sellers (#17 Lynx Racing/3Dimensional Services/Drive4USA) is poised to take the best starting position of his young Toyota Atlantic career after putting his car seventh on the provisional grid at 1:06.812 (94.564 mph). DSTP Motorsports driver Joey Hand (#27 DSTP Motorsports) filled the eighth spot on the provisional starting grid at 1:06.820 (94.553 mph), with Danica Patrick (#24 Argent Mortgage Company) ninth at 1:07.183 (94.042 mph), and Luis Diaz (#33 Telmex/Dorricott Racing) filling out the top 10 at 1:07.211 (94.002 mph).

Saturday's schedule calls for the Toyota Atlantic machines to have a 45-minute practice/qualifying session beginning at 9:00 a.m., and that session will be followed by Round 7 of the 12-race 2003 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship, the Molson Indy Toronto, beginning at 4:00 p.m. ET. The scheduled distance for the race is 35 laps (61.425 miles), but is subject to a 50-minute time limit.

SPEED Channel will cover same-day coverage on a half-hour tape delay with the broadcast slated to begin at 4:30 p.m. ET. Live timing & scoring data from every session is also available on the official web site of the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship, www.toyotaatlantic.com.

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

A.J. ALLMENDINGER (#4 RuSPORT):

"It was a tough session because it was going to be a bit of a guessing game with the weather and the car wasn't really balanced right. But it really helped having raced here last year in the Barber Dodge Pro Series because I could get comfortable and start pushing right away. We thought it might rain, sop we pushed hard from the start to get a fast lap in."

AARON JUSTUS (#3 RuSPORT):

"It was a bit of a challenge because this was the first time out on a dry track. It took us the first half of the session to get a good read on the car and find where I could really push hard and press on the track. The car didn't get perfect, but it's good to be on the front row for now."

MICHAEL VALIANTE (#19 Lynx Racing):

"We think we had a minor gearbox and brake problem, so we think the car can go faster. But the car wasn't too bad and we were able to run third today. Hopefully it won't rain tomorrow so that we can get a chance to go faster."

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Series Atlantic
Drivers Ryan Dalziel , Jon Fogarty , Michael Valiante , David Rutledge , Joey Hand , Jonathan Macri , Luis Diaz , A.J. Allmendinger , Alex Figge , Andrew Bordin , Aaron Justus , Bryan Sellers , Danica Patrick