(Toronto, Canada) July 5-A.J. Allmendinger continued to stretch his lead over the rest of the Barber Dodge field in the season championship standings today as he earned one more championship point by taking the provisional pole position in the...
(Toronto, Canada) July 5-A.J. Allmendinger continued to stretch his lead over the rest of the Barber Dodge field in the season championship standings today as he earned one more championship point by taking the provisional pole position in the first round of qualifying for Sunday's race. The performance guarantees Allmendinger of a front-row starting position for Sunday's race.
Behind Allmendinger, Rafael Sperafico, Memo Rojas, Davy Cook, and Christian Szymczak made up the provisional top-5, with Josh Beaulieu, Marc Breuers, Leo Maia, Dan Di Leo, and Julio Campos rounding out the Top-10. The top 12 qualifiers were separated by less than one second. With this extremely competitive field, Allmendinger was happy with his run, but is unlikely to rest on his laurels during the second qualifying session on Saturday.
"I knew I needed to get a fast lap in early in the session just in case," said Allmendinger. "Running on a street course, you can find your session ruined pretty quickly if there is any kind of accident that needs to get cleaned up. It was really just a matter of getting some clean laps in to get a good time. I am happy to get the point and to know that I will be starting on the front row on Sunday. It gives me a lot of confidence for the race and for qualifying tomorrow. "
The 2001 Barber Dodge Pro Series Rookie of the Year, Rafael Sperafico, came up less than .3 seconds short in his effort to top Allmendinger's time. Sperafico's efforts were thwarted when his session was cut short after he got sideways in the exit to turn-1 and made contact with the wall, leaving him to watch the last minutes of qualifying tick away.
"My car was loose, but I was happy to get a time in before I had the contact with the wall," said the winner of the Laguna Seca race. "I hated to sit there and wait for everyone to try and improve on my time at the end of the session. The track should be faster tomorrow, so I am hoping to do a better time and get the pole for the race."
Memo Rojas, of Mexico City, Mexico, made the most of his last qualifying lap in the 30-minute session to improve his time enough to finish in the top-three.
"I don't have too much experience on the street courses," said the driver of the Telmex-sponsored machine, "so I am glad to be getting up to speed here in Toronto. It is difficult to guess how the track is going to be each time you go out, so you can't make big changes on the car. I know where I can be faster tomorrow, so I am looking forward to it."
The Barber Dodge drivers had only one practice session to get themselves and their cars up to speed before the afternoon session began. Many of the drivers have never raced on the 1.755-mile temporary street circuit, and the challenge is even greater as the conditions of the track continue to change throughout the weekend. Christian Szymszk led the morning session with a fast lap of 1:12.515 seconds, only .6 sec away from the track record of 1:11.908 set here last year by Matt Plumb. Szymczak was fast again in the qualifying session, setting a time that placed him in the top-5 before mechanical problems left him unable to improve on his early morning speed.
With the Toyota Atlantic Series and the FedEx Champcars having taken to the track after the Barber Dodge cars ran in the morning, Rafael Sperafico was hoping that the increased grip on the track would help him to set the new record in the qualifying session, and was the first driver to get his time under the one-minute thirteen mark with a 1:12.789 on just his fourth flying lap. The next person to get under that mark was Allmendinger, who carded a 1:12.523 on just his fifth lap, and was never topped on the sheets again. Allmendinger continued to give the field something to shoot for as he improved his time lap after lap to finish with a best lap of 1:12.034 sec.
The Barber Dodge Pro Series field will have one more chance on Saturday to take the top starting position for Sunday's race during the second and final qualifying session which begins at 11:30 a.m. Full results and story to be posted at www.barberdodge.com