Laguna Seca Friday qualifying report

Matt Plumb picked up where he left off after the morning practice, namely at the top of the time sheets. This time however he had to fend off a vigorous attack from championship points leader Nicolas Rondet. Plumb took his Premier Nutrition Dodge...

Matt Plumb picked up where he left off after the morning practice, namely at the top of the time sheets. This time however he had to fend off a vigorous attack from championship points leader Nicolas Rondet. Plumb took his Premier Nutrition Dodge Reynard around the 2.2-mile Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in 1:26.509 sec. averaging 93.133 mph. Rondet ended the session just two-tenths of a second behind Plumb. Both drivers played cat and mouse in the waning moments with Plumb able to respond to every Rondet challenge. Marc Breuers ended the day third quickest with a late session charge.

"I'm excited to drive and having fun after the six-week break," said Plumb from Unionvillle, Penn. "I got feedback over the radio as to what Nicolas was doing lap time wise so it made it fun to have someone to chase. The car got better throughout the session and I think I could have driven just a touch better. There were a couple of places where I made a small mistake, so I think tomorrow will be good."

Plumb opened the account with the standard to beat at 1:30.379 sec. That time was quickly usurped by Rafael Sperafico and then Rondet in quick succession. With the time to beat now at 1:29.184 sec., Plumb was the first to dip into the 28-second bracket in the seventh minute of the 30-minute session with a quick time of 1:28.304 sec. The No. 21 Barber-CART Scholarship team car of Sperafico brought the time to beat down to 1:27.880 sec. in the ninth minute. It would be short-lived however as the red and white machine decked out with the Stars and Stripes on the front wings would reclaim his spot at the top by going seven-hundredths of a second faster.

A third of the way through, Plumb led Sperafico, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Breuers and Christian Szymczak. Rondet's only opponent in the title fight, Sepp Koster, was sixth quickest, and that is as high as the beleaguered Dutchman would get.

In the 11th-minute, Sperafico once again went quickest bringing the standard down to 1:27.6177 sec. Rondet meanwhile had slipped down the order but the fall would not last. A minute later Hunter-Reay fell fractions short of the pole but placed himself second. In the same minute Plumb came through improving once again to reappear atop the times. Rondet began to pick up the pace and halfway through the session the top-5 read Plumb, Sperafico, Hunter-Reay, Rondet and Breuers. Moments later, Rondet leapt to second overall and so it would remain until the 23rd minute when Plumb went faster yet again. Rondet improved but wasn't yet enough. In the 27th-minute he would go faster again and this time it was. Just as quickly, Plumb replied retaking the prime position. Once again Rondet went quicker, and yet again Plumb replied. Finally in the 28th-minute, Plumb mustered another tenth of a second, and sealed the provisional pole with a time of 1:26.507 sec.

"I'm confident the track conditions will get better tomorrow, and normally I always drive better on the second day. I didn't get a perfect lap in, unfortunately when I was quick I had traffic. It's my own mistake and I won't do it tomorrow," said Rondet who drives the Mini-Vacations Dodge Reynard. "I'm in a comfortable position to win the championship, but I won't be conservative. The best way for me to be assured is to keep Sepp (Koster) behind me and that's what I'm going to try to do."

Koster finished the session a disappointing ninth, but is hopeful that a new racecar tomorrow will improve his chances.

Breuers jumped into third place for certain in the 23rd minute. On his next pass through the timing beams he went faster still, but it was not to enough to gain a position. Like Plumb, Breuers was happy to be back in his Sunoco Dodge Reynard after the break and will be looking to improve in the final session.

"This is a difficult track to get that perfect lap on, so I think tomorrow I need to concentrate on being a little tidier. I'll know more after going back and looking at the data from this session," said Breuers. "I expect the track conditions are going to change tomorrow, but the most important thing is to set up a car that's going to last the full 40-minutes of the race."

The Rookie of the Year battle was also tight in the first qualifying session. Sperafico was quickest of all the contenders until the latter stages when Davy Cook leapt into third place overall. Breuers ultimately would unseat him but he would still hold onto the fourth provisional position. Szymczak, a RoY long shot improved his odds by finishing behind Cook in fifth place. Sperafico ended the day sixth while current rookie points leader Jon Morley overcame morning engine trouble to finish eighth.

Final qualifying takes place Saturday afternoon at 11:30 a.m. Follow it live via barberdodge .com.


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About this article
Series Barber Pro
Drivers Ryan Hunter-Reay , Christian Szymczak , Davy Cook , Marc Breuers , Rafael Sperafico , Sepp Koster , Matt Plumb , Jon Morley