(Monterey, Calif.) November 18, 2001 - Barber-CART Karting Scholarship winner Tommy Contino emerged from ninth and used a last lap pass to snatch victory away from polesitter and fellow Barber-CART Karting Scholarship winner A.J. Allmendinger, ...
(Monterey, Calif.) November 18, 2001 - Barber-CART Karting Scholarship winner Tommy Contino emerged from ninth and used a last lap pass to snatch victory away from polesitter and fellow Barber-CART Karting Scholarship winner A.J. Allmendinger, marking the second time in two days that a racer had taken his maiden win in Formula Dodge National Championship presented by RACER magazine competition. Allmendinger, who led 16 of 17 laps, leaves Monterey having collected 37 of a possible 42 points and puts a dent in championship leader Julio Campos' points advantage. Fourth place starter Tophie Stewart picked up a position to finish third, rounding out an all-California podium.
The race was not without controversy. Contino benefited from a mechanical situation in which the supertrap to his #14 car fell off, reducing back pressure and handing a performance edge to his R/T 2000 on lap 5. From then on, his car was unstoppable. Through no fault of his own, his car outperformed the field for the balance of laps, handing Contino a sweet, but arguably tainted victory. Formula Dodge National Championship rules do not address such a situation so the win stands, despite murmurs and grumbling among a few competitors.
Just following the green flag, Justin Blower left the door open heading into turn 1. Juan Manuel Polar went for the gap but couldn't make it stick and spun. The spin started a chain reaction that affected close-following Burt Frisselle, Robbie Montinola and Landon Yee, all of whom came together. The contact put Polar, Montinola and Yee out of action. Frisselle was able to continue but had lost several spots and resumed at the back of the field.
Meanwhile, Allmendinger motored from the point. He looked like the lock for consecutive wins, having collected his first win in Round 10. Justin Blower defended second over the first 8 laps until he was passed by Stewart. Stewart held second until Contino broke out near the front on lap 15. Oakland native Leonardo Maia slotted into and held fourth to finish in front of Dan Di Leo. The Canadian had sat in third early but was uncharacteristically off later in the race and had to settle for fifth. It was clear the Californian's owned this track.
There were several good races in the contest, most notably, Campos and Scott Presti, who diced throughout for seventh; Grant Maiman and Barber-CART Scholarship winner James Gue battled for the duration, occasionally mixing it up with fellow Barber-CART Scholarship winner Ben Moore III and Hirotoshi Takeuchi. Takeuchi impressed many by advancing from 19th to finish in the top-10, earning him most progressive driver distinction.
Contino was excited to nab his first win but kept the victory in perspective.
"I know I had an advantage," said Contino. "I feel bad about it. But I'm also thrilled with the win. I still had to go out and run a strong race. Hopefully the strong result will help me secure some sponsorship for next year. But with this win under my belt, I can say I'm really looking forward to Daytona."
So are we all. Fittingly, the championship comes down to final rounds 12 and 13 at Daytona International Speedway's 24 Hour road course on Dec 1-2.