Saturday, August 12, 2006

AJ Allmendinger Continues To Run At The Front In Denver

AJ Allmendinger - Photo credit: Lesley Ann Miller, USA LAT Photographic - Copyright © 2006 Champ Car World Series, LLC.

Ya' don't say ... hey, AJ, you're at it again!

First session qualifying in Denver added to the historic rise of AJ Allmendinger in this year's drive toward the CCWS championship.

It was only a few weeks ago when AJ, with little or no points, was fired by RuSPORT and picked up as a teammate to Paul Tracy at Forsythe Racing. Since then, Allmendinger has piled up points in bunches to come within 45 points of the two-time CCWS champion, Sebastien Bourdais.

Yesterday, AJ gained another point, by besting Bourdais by .049 seconds (.079 mph). By being fast on the first day, AJ guarantees himself a spot on the front row (again) for Sunday's race through the streets of Denver.

Excerpts from Champ Car World Series -

CCWS - Friday, August 11, 2006

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.
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.
The final grid for Sunday's Champ Car World Series event will be set by final qualifying in a session that gets underway at 2 p.m. Mountain time [today].
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Practice 3 UPDATE:

Sebastien Bourdais nabs quickest time away from Paul Tracy by .283 seconds. AJ brushes the wall and will require a fix to the front suspension arms. One more practice and then qualifying begins.

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