ALEXANDER HOT IN BARBER DODGE CLEVELAND PRACTICE CLEVELAND, Ohio (June 25) - Iradj Alexander of Giubiasco, Switzerland got a little help from his friends Friday afternoon. It paid off with a chart-topic practice time for the Barber Dodge Pro ...
ALEXANDER HOT IN BARBER DODGE CLEVELAND PRACTICE
CLEVELAND, Ohio (June 25) - Iradj Alexander of Giubiasco, Switzerland got a little help from his friends Friday afternoon. It paid off with a chart-topic practice time for the Barber Dodge Pro Series race at the Medic Drug Cleveland Grand Prix.
Alexander blitzed the 2.106-mile, 10-turn Burke Lakefront Airport circuit in 1:15.468 averaging 100.461 mph to edge out Todd Snyder of Sheffield, Mass. (1:15.799/100.022 mph) and Nilton Rossoni of Curitiba, Brazil (1:15.883/99.912 mph).
"I like it because I'm here with my friend (PPG-Dayton Indy Lights driver) Phillip Peter and an engineer who was with me in the French Formula 3 championship last year," Alexander said. "Alone I make too many mistakes, so we're trying to work together. It's the first time that I've driven at an airport and it's not so easy because there's a lot of ways to take turns. But I like it because I think it's one track where you have to really push."
The air was hot and sticky, with when the Pro Series drivers took the track late in the afternoon on the temporary circuit which borders Lake Erie. The wide runways comprising the twisting layout made an interesting contrast for the 24 drivers, who are more accustomed to the narrow confines of permanent road courses. But the track got rave reviews from the drivers. Rossoni, who won the Cleveland pole in 1998, figures the course still owes him.
"I was thinking about that during the session - that I have to do good this year and get the win because last year was a shame. I had the fastest car by far and on the first lap had an incident," Rossoni said. "I'm planning to get the pole again and go for the win."
Townsend Bell of Costa Mesa, Calif. posted the fourth best time (1:15.955/99.817 mph) and was followed by defending series champion Jeff Simmons of East Granby, Conn. Simmons (1:16.040/99.705 mph) is coming off a win at Portland International Raceway last weekend. All of the drivers agreed with Snyder, who maintains that additional speed would be necessary to claim the pole Saturday.
"I think it's not good enough," Snyder said. "I've still got to go faster."
Hand Cramps: Several of the Pro Series drivers signed over 500 autographs Friday morning at the McDonald's Kids Party held in downtown Cleveland. R.B. Stiewing, Peter Boss, Rodrigo Bernardes, Tim Bergmeister, Matt Plumb, Snyder and series newcomer Kip Gulseth all participated in the event at which the drivers received a rousing reception from the appreciative young crowd. The drivers then joined members of the NFL Cleveland Browns as guests of honor for the annual kickoff parade through the downtown area.
Points leader Rocky Moran Jr. and Simmons both entertained throngs of youngsters in appearances in the track hospitality areas.
Sidelined: Rookie of the Year candidate Michael Valiante of Vancouver, B.C. was sidelined for the race by his doctors, who did not to clear him for air travel after he suffered a slight concussion in a wreck at Portland last weekend. Valiante expects to return for Round 6 at Road America in July.
Debut: Gulseth of Manitowoc, Wisc. will make his first start of the 1999 season Sunday. Gulseth was a 1998 Rio Big Scholarship shootout invitee and competed in the Skip Barber Formula Dodge Midwestern Race Series.
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