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Rain, wrecks limit final-round action

7/16/2005

EDMONTON, Alberta -- A.J. Allmendinger was fastest again on
Saturday, much to Paul Tracy's regret.

Heavy rain for much of the day virtually insured that
Allmendinger's fast lap that led Friday's provisional qualifying
would hold up for his first Champ Car World Series pole. And a
quick lap on a still-wet racetrack by Allmendinger denied fan
favorite Tracy, from Toronto, a spot alongside the youngster on the
front row for the inaugural Grand Prix of Edmonton.

Instead, it will be Allmendinger's RuSPORT teammate Justin
Wilson, coming off his first career victory a week ago in Toronto,
who will start from the outside of the front row in Sunday's race.

That's the way it was after Friday's opening round of time
trials and, thanks to a combination of a track with pools of water
remaining in some spots and two crashes that halted action for more
than 12 of the 35 minutes in final qualifying, that's the way it
stayed.

Champ Car rules dictate that the fast driver in each of the
qualifying sessions is guaranteed a spot on the front row. So
Tracy, a former series champion, could have vaulted past Wilson by
leading Saturday's session, even though his speed would have been
slower than anything posted on Friday.

"I didn't know A.J. was going to be so quick. We were trying to
be fastest to jump into second, but we waited too long," the
disappointed Tracy said. "We went out a lap or so behind A.J. He
finished his quick lap and I came around and it went red. Then we
went out again and there was another red flag and that was it."

After qualifying Friday at 56.628 seconds, a speed of 121.150
mph, Allmendinger's fast lap that led Saturday's session was just
1:01.070, 116.036. But it was good enough, with Tracy next at
1:01.529, 115.438.

Even with the rain and cool temperatures, more than 66,000
spectators turned out Saturday and the grandstands were mostly full
when qualifying began. But none of the drivers left the pits for
nearly 13 minutes after the session began.

"I feel bad that the people who came out in bad weather had to
sit there and watch nothing going on for that long, but we only get
35 minutes and 15 laps and everybody knew that the track was going
to be quicker at the end of the session," Allmendinger said. "At
the time I did my [fast] lap, I didn't know it was going to be any
big deal. I just wanted to get a good start."

Allmendinger, who has two second-place finishes this season,
will be looking for his first career victory in Sunday's 188-lap
race on the 1.973-mile, 14-turn temporary road circuit at City
Center Airport near downtown Edmonton.

"This has been the best weekend so far on my side of the team,
having the car handle well from the first session on," the
23-year-old American said. "We've had a bad problem this year of
struggling throughout the first couple of days, starting midpack,
then we have a good race car.

"I hope tomorrow is our day. But I believe anybody that's
watched these races this year knows there's also a lot of luck, a
lot of timing between pit stops, yellows and stuff that go into it.
I won't think about winning the race until 20, 25 (laps) to go and
see where we're at at that point."

It was another frustrating day for series points leader
Sebastien Bourdais, who crashed during qualifying on Friday and
failed to improve Saturday on his 10th-place starting position. He
was fourth fastest Saturday despite getting in only three laps.

"My mistake in qualifying really hurt us," said Bourdais, who
goes into the race leading Tracy in the point standings, 150-135.
"We were hoping to improve our starting position today but could
not really stretch our legs.

"If we could have set fast time in the session, we could have
moved up to a second place start, but we weren't able to give it
much of a shot because of all the red flags."

Bourdais, who has not won a race since the season-opener in Long
Beach, Calif., knows he has his work cut out for him on Sunday.

"Realistically," the reigning series champion said, "it will
be difficult to pass in the race. We are going to have to be very
patient and work very hard to move to the front and collect some
good points."