Mid-Ohio final qualifying report

(LEXINGTON, Ohio) August 11, 2001-Fourth fastest just didn't suffice for Matt Plumb provisionally, so in the 22nd minute of final qualifying for round 9 of the 2001 Barber Dodge Pro Series he put his Premier Nutrition Dodge Reynard on the pole. ...

(LEXINGTON, Ohio) August 11, 2001-Fourth fastest just didn't suffice for Matt Plumb provisionally, so in the 22nd minute of final qualifying for round 9 of the 2001 Barber Dodge Pro Series he put his Premier Nutrition Dodge Reynard on the pole. He stopped the clocks in 1:23.920 sec. for an average speed of 96.864 mph and earned his third career pole. With only three minutes remaining in the 30-minute session, points leader Nicolas Rondet leapt from sixth to second to start alongside Plumb, his principal rival in the point standings. With a point awarded for the pole, Plumb has clawed Rondet's lead down to 14 points. Overnight polesitter Alex Sperafico went faster than his provisional time but alas it was he would have to settle for third on the grid. In all the first 18 drivers qualified within one second of the pole, an incredible result on a natural terrain road course illustrating the competitiveness of the Barber Dodge field.

"I'm glad (to be here) because initially I didn't think it was going to be as fast as yesterday but halfway through the session I made a bunch of changes and went faster," said Plumb, 25, of Unionville, Penn. "It makes me feel good (to be ahead of the other title contenders) and I've driven around Nicolas a number of times and he's a great driver. We both want to go for the win, but I'm comfortable knowing that none of us is going to do anything drastic."

With a time to beat of 1:24.183 sec. set yesterday by Sperafico, the times were slow to come in the final session. Sepp Koster, Davy Cook and Sperafico were quick off the bat, but it wasn't until the 11th minute that Koster broke through with a time of 1:24.138 sec. Most of the front runners pitted to make set-up changes midway through the session, then drivers like Ryan Hunter-Reay, Cook and Sperafico began to attack though each fell fractions of a second short. Cook finally succeeded in setting the fastest time in the 20th minute with a lap of 1:24.089 sec. Two minutes later, Sperafico would lower the mark by another 0.024 sec. Plumb finally eclipsed them all by dipping below the 1:24 sec. bracket with his time of 1:23.920 sec. Rondet popped onto the front row in the 27th minute and was working a faster lap when the red and checkered flag appeared simultaneously due to a pair of cars off course in separate corners.

"Towards the second half of the session when I started going faster it seemed like there was either traffic or a local yellow flag that would ruin my lap," said the Frenchman who drives the No. 24 Mini Vacations Dodge Reynard. "Tomorrow's going to be a long day and though I would have rather started from the pole to gain the point, second isn't a bad place to be and there are opportunities to pass here. Matt is a good guy to race against. We had a terrific battle at Lime Rock and it was great. This also my favorite track in the U.S. so I'm looking forward to it."

Sperafico attempted valiantly to defend his overnight pole but he too was thwarted by local yellow flags on his flying laps. Though disappointed not to be on the front row the affable Brazilain hopes to make up for it with a victory.

"The yellows took my concentration away and I wasn't able to put a good string of laps together," recalled the Bauducco Dodge Reynard driver. "It's okay though, I'm on the inside of the second row which is a good place to defend your position at the start. I'm not thinking so much of the championship any more so all that matters to me are wins."

The other leading title contenders will be grouped together on rows three and four. Koster was most disappointed, slipping from third provisionally to fifth. Last year he slipped from provisional pole to fifth on the grid as well only to finish on the podium and kept his 2000 title bid alive. Hunter-Reay will start alongside in fifth while Yasukawa rebounded slightly from an unlucky start of the weekend to qualify eighth. Davy Cook did wonders for his Rookie of the Year bid by qualifying fourth while fellow rookies Akihira Okamoto (7th), the continually impressive A.J. Allmendinger (9th) and the Christian Szymczak (10th) rounded out the fastest ten drivers.

The green flag drops on round 9 at 4:15 p.m. EDT after the CART FedEx Miller Lite 200. Live timing of the Barber Dodge Race will be available on the web at barberdodge.com.


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Series Barber Pro
Drivers Ryan Hunter-Reay , Christian Szymczak , Davy Cook , A.J. Allmendinger , Sepp Koster , Alex Sperafico , Matt Plumb , Akihira Okamoto