CHAMPCAR/CART: Denver: Friday qualifying report

A.J. ALLMENDINGER FRONTS FIRST-DAY CHAMP CAR WORLD SERIES QUALIFYING AT GRAND PRIX OF DENVER SPONSORED BY BRIDGESTONE DENVER(August 11, 2006) -- Looking to get back to his winning ways and keep his title hopes alive, Forsythe Championship...

A.J. ALLMENDINGER FRONTS FIRST-DAY CHAMP CAR WORLD SERIES QUALIFYING AT GRAND PRIX OF DENVER SPONSORED BY BRIDGESTONE

DENVER(August 11, 2006) -- Looking to get back to his winning ways and keep his title hopes alive, Forsythe Championship Racing's A.J. Allmendinger (#7 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) got on top early and cemented his status late to lead first-round Champ Car qualifying at the Grand Prix of Denver Sponsored by Bridgestone.

Allmendinger made a quick early lap around the 1.657-mile Denver street course to get to the top of the time charts, then strapped on his red-walled alternate Bridgestone Potenzas to turn an even-faster lap, allowing him to take the top spot in Friday's qualifying for Round 10 of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford.

Concerned with avoiding traffic on the tight street course as well as outracing an ominous cloud bank that threatened to douse the Denver course, competitors rolled off Pit Lane as son as the green flag flew on the session, going against standard protocol that sees the veterans wait while the younger drivers cut the first laps.

But rain and traffic were the least of the worries in the session as a pair of early red flags thwarted early runs. Allmendinger rocketed to the top of the speed sheets early, getting in a fast lap of 60.725 on his last orbit prior to the first red flag, which was brought out by his teammate Paul Tracy (#3 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone). Last year's polesitter in Denver, Tracy bounced into the Turn Five fence after sliding through the corner, incurring damage to his rear wing that would end his session after just four laps.

The session went green for just three minutes before Jan Heylen (#11 Muermans Group Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) brought out another scarlet banner, stalling in the runoff area and requiring a tow. The quick cleanup would be the last required of the day, and sent the field back on track in search of the first-round lead.

Justin Wilson (#9 CDW Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) was the first to make a move once the green flag wave, moving from fourth to third and then to second on three successive laps. The run ended there as two-time defending Denver champion Sebastien Bourdais (#1 McDonald's Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) turned his best lap of the day, swooping into the second slot with a time of 60.763 seconds (98.172 mph) on his sixth lap.

Allmendinger answered Bourdais' challenge by lowering his top time to 60.714 seconds (98.251 mph), but it turned out to be a gain just for gain's sake as Bourdais would be unable to post a lap quick enough to top either of Allmendinger's top two times. Bourdais made three more laps to try to unseat the American star, before calling it a day with three minutes left on the clock.

The final battle on the day was for the final spot on the qualifying podium as Wilson saw his third-place berth wrested away from him by Team Australia's Alex Tagliani (#15 Aussie Vineyards Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) with two minutes left in the session. Tagliani carded a quick time of 60.988 seconds (97.809 mph) to drop Wilson back to fourth, but Wilson had one more shot to fire. The Brit, who is second in the championship points, ran his best lap of the day in trying to reclaim third, but came up a scant .003 seconds short and would end his day in the fourth position.

Two-time Denver winner Bruno Junqueira (#2 Hole In The Wall Camps Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) rounded out the top five, overcoming a turbocharger problem that knocked him out of the morning's practice to post a best time of 61.141 seconds (97.565 mph). Will Power (#5 Aussie Vineyards Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone) was the top-finishing rookie on the day, scoring the eighth spot despite a penalty for running too many laps, putting up a best time of 61.626 seconds.

The final grid for Sunday's Champ Car World Series event will be set by final qualifying tomorrow in a session that gets underway at 2 p.m. Mountain time. Fans can see highlights from the first two rounds of qualifying for the Bridgestone Pole Position on SPEED tomorrow night, in a 30-minute show that airs at 9 p.m. Eastern Time.

-credit: ccws

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Justin Wilson , Bruno Junqueira , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Sébastien Bourdais , Jan Heylen , Will Power