GRAHAM RAHAL LEADS AMERICAN SWEEP IN OPENING-ROUND ATLANTIC QUALIFYING
 
 

SAN JOSE, California (July 28, 2006) – Talented teenager Graham Rahal led an all-American sweep of the top three positions Friday in the opening-round of qualifying for Sunday’s Canary Foundation Grand Prix of San Jose.

Former Champ Car champion Bobby Rahal’s 17-year-old son blistered a time of 56.105 (92.591 mph) on his 27th and final lap of Friday’s 30-minute qualifying session. The impressive mark established a new Atlantic track record at the smoother and faster 1.443-mile temporary street circuit in downtown San Jose. It was also more than two-tenths-of-a-second quicker than any other Atlantic lap clocked on Friday.

The effort marked the third time this season that Rahal has led the first round of qualifying and it secured a front-row starting spot in Sunday’s race for the remarkable Mi-Jack Conquest Racing rookie. The bonus point earned for winning the provisional pole now gives Rahal a 164-point total in the Atlantic Championship standings as he now trails series leader Simon Pagenaud by just 23 points, remaining third in the title chase.

For the first time this season, American drivers occupied the top three spots in the qualifying order at San Jose. The American contingent, consisting of 12 entries in the 24-car field this weekend, started out the day strong. Grabbing the top four spots in the morning practice on Friday, the domestic racers came out firing. Led by Rahal’s effort, The U.S. crew backed it up in qualifying.

Local driver Jonathan Bomarito of nearby Monterey, California, topped the morning practice and he emerged with the second-fastest qualifying lap as well. The PR1 Motorsports series sophomore checked in with a time of 56.322 (92.234 mph) on his final lap of the session.

Completing the American sweep was Polestar Racing Group rookie Alan Sciuto. Last season, Sciuto made his Atlantic debut at San Jose and earned an impressive fourth-place finish. The Orange, California native began this weekend by carding the third-quickest lap of 56.337 (92.209 mph), representing the first time this season that he’s qualified among the top three. The strong session also offered redemption for Sciuto, who made hard contact with the Turn 6 tires late in the morning practice, but emerged unscathed.

Germany’s Andreas Wirth, who finished fifth at San Jose last season, owned the fourth-fastest lap in qualifying with a 56.369 (92.157 mph). Wirth entered the weekend second in the series standings, just 18 points in back of Pagenaud.

Wirth’s 16-year-old Forsythe Championship Racing teammate Richard Philippe ran among the top three for most of qualifying before settling in fifth in the final rundown with a top lap of 56.434 (92.051 mph). Slotting sixth in the qualifying order was Brazilian Raphael Matos of Sierra Sierra Enterprises. Looking to bounce back from last weekend’s heartbreak when he hit the wall while leading the race in Edmonton, Matos posted a fast time on Friday of 56.497 (91.948 mph).

It’s been rare this season to see Pagenaud struggle to find the right setup on Friday as the French rookie has earned a series-high four provisional poles in ’06. After a tough morning practice, the Team Australia racer finished seventh in qualifying with mark of 56.578 (91.817 mph).