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LONG BEACH NOTES

Allmendinger Has Easy Win

April 14, 2003|Martin Henderson | Times Staff Writer

The open-wheel racing community has great expectations of A.J. Allmendinger, the 21-year-old Hollister native who has been taken under the wing of champ car driver Paul Tracy.

In his second race in the series, Allmendinger avoided the rookie mistake he made in his debut and led from wire-to-wire, winning the Argent Mortgage Company Toyota Atlantic Race on Sunday at the 29th Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Allmendinger started from the pole and dominated the field, leading the first-year RuSport team to a 1-2 finish with teammate Aaron Justus.

"I feel I learn from [Tracy's] success," Allmendinger said of the champ car veteran who won the main race Sunday. "I pride myself on being aggressive like Paul, but also being smart when it's the right time. He's a mentor to me, and it's great having him here when I need questions answered or just need to talk to him.

"I want to be in champ car next year. If not, 2005. That's my goal. To win the championship, to always win races."

Allmendinger's rookie teammate, Justus, from Crestline, started second and finished 2.379 seconds behind.

The 1-2 finish also served notice that Dorricott Racing's domination of whatever series it competes in could challenged. Dorricott has won championships three of the last four seasons in either the defunct Indy Lights or the Atlantics.

There's a definite Dorricott influence on owner Carl Russo's RuSport team. He hired away five Dorricott crew members, including two race engineers and a data acquisition specialist.

"Today signifies many things, yet it signifies nothing -- it's a result," said Russo, who owns a telecom equipment supplier in Petaluma. "Our sights are very much long-term. We are trying to build a team in open-wheel motorsports that can compete at the very highest level.

"Having a result like this on a weekend like this in only the second race ... it concerns me that it might almost be a little bit early."

Jonathan Macri finished third, 4.1 seconds behind Allmendinger, and defending series champion Michael Valiante took fourth.

Valiante, who won the season-opening race at Monterrey, leads the series after two of 12 rounds with 33 points, five more than Justus and three more than Allmendinger and Macri.

Danica Patrick, the first woman to compete in the Atlantic series, qualified 10th, and was running in sixth place when she hit a tire wall in Turn 1 of Lap 19. She finished 14th.

*

Scott Pruett dominated most of the BFGoodrich Trans-Am Series race, but admitted he pushed his tires too hard, and that opened the door for Boris Said of Carlsbad to win at Long Beach for the first time.

"I just ran it too hard," Pruett said.

"I stepped over the edge, and had nothing left to hang on." Said, the series' defending champion, passed Pruett in Turn 8 on Lap 47 of the 51-lap race.

"I was hoping [Pruett] was using his [car] up because I know I was using mine up," Said said.

Johnny Miller passed Pruett on the final lap going into Turn 8. Paul Gentilozzi, who started 15th on the grid, finished fourth, meaning four Jaguar XKRs followed Said's Ford Mustang across the finish line.

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