Pruett Scores First-Ever Rolex Series Pole at Miller Motorsports Park for Discount Tire Sunchaser

Pruett Scores First-Ever Rolex Series Pole at Miller Motorsports Park for Discount Tire Sunchaser

02.09.2006: Pruett Scores First-Ever Rolex Series Pole at Miller Motorsports Park for Discount Tire Sunchaser

In the first-ever Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve qualifying session at Miller Motorsports Park, 2004 Daytona Prototype co-champion Scott Pruett drove the No. 01 CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley to the pole position for Saturday's 2006 season-ending Discount Tire Sunchaser (SPEED, Live, Part 1 - 2:00 p.m. ET, Part 2 - 8:30 p.m. ET).

Pruett toured the 4.486-mile, 24-turn circuit in 2:37.998 (102.214 mph) during Friday's 15-minute qualifying session to put himself and co-drivers Luis Diaz and 2003 Indy Racing League IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon in the catbird seat for the nine-hour extravaganza. Pruett and Diaz head into the race 18 points behind leader Jörg Bergmeister in the Daytona Prototype driver standings, but the No. 01 team and Lexus hold slim leads in the Daytona Prototype team and engine manufacturer championship standings, respectively.

"I'm happy with the lap, but the car started to push a bit after we set the fast time, so we still have a little work to do in the warm-up session tomorrow," Pruett said. "We're continuing to do everything in our power to control our own destiny in the championship chase. I think the CompUSA car will be good for the race, and having Scott Dixon join us this weekend is an added bonus. Our goal remains to clinch the team and manufacturer titles for Chip Ganassi Racing and Lexus. We have a car that can do it, but anything can happen in a nine-hour race."

Pruett was joined on the front row by Mike Rockenfeller in the No. 23 Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team Porsche Crawford with a lap at 2:38.137 (102.124 mph). Rockenfeller, who won two races earlier this season with co-driver Patrick Long, will be joined for the Discount Tire Sunchaser by two new co-drivers, 2003 Daytona Prototype champion Terry Borcheller and German driver Ralf Kelleners. Long will not compete due to other commitments.

"I did a solid lap, but not a great one," said Rockenfeller. "On my second fast lap, which could have been a pole run, a car went off and brought rocks onto the track. I had to change up my line and that really cost me. I am not sure a perfect lap is possible around this long track. A front row starting position is good, especially with how long the laps are around here. Terry and Ralf and are getting up to speed quickly and the guys really have the car prepared well. We will need to stay on the lead lap and in touch of leaders."

Alex Gurney will start third in the No. 99 GAINSCO/Blackhawk Racing Pontiac Riley with a lap at 2:38.253 (102.049 mph). Gurney and co-driver Jon Fogarty have led several laps this season, especially in the last two races, but the duo is still searching for its first Rolex Series victory. They will be aided in their efforts by 1996 Champ Car champion Jimmy Vasser, who has joined the team as a third driver for the Discount Tire Sunchaser.

"We're pretty happy to be starting up front," Gurney said. "I got a couple good clean laps and the GAINSCO car felt very comfortable out there. We made a few changes from yesterday and it seemed to help balance the car out. That said, pace doesn't really matter here at all. It's a nine-hour race and the key is to just run clean, not hit anyone and don't break anything for about eight hours. Then we can get down to racing. Our goal is to be in the top five with an hour to go. That will be the time to uncork what we've got."

Oswaldo Negri Jr. will start fourth in the No. 60 Flight Options/Net App Lexus Riley for Michael Shank Racing. Negri's best lap during the session was a 2:38.521 (101.877 mph), and he will once again co-drive with Mark Patterson. Negri and Patterson are still searching for their first race victory in Rolex Series competition.

Defending Daytona Prototype co-champion Max Angelelli qualified fifth aboard the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley following a best qualifying lap at 2:38.543 (101.863 mph). Angelelli is co-driving the No. 10 machine with his 2005 co-champion and car owner Wayne Taylor, as well as Champ Car standout Ryan Hunter-Reay. Angelelli enters the Discount Tire Sunchaser 23 points in arrears of Bergmeister and four behind Pruett and Diaz. The No. 10 team is also four points behind the No. 01 operation in the team championship.

Bergmeister qualified sixth in the No. 76 Krohn Racing Ford Riley with a lap at 2:39.196 (101.445 mph). The German's co-drivers will be 17-year-old Colin Braun and Swedish racer Nic Jönsson. In addition to their efforts to preserve Bergmeister's driver championship, the No. 76 trio will be trying to make up a seven-point deficit to the No. 01 in the team championship.


German hotshoe Wolf Henzler kept the pressure on in the battle for the GT championship by putting the No. 72 NEC Porsche GT3 on the class pole position for the Discount Tire Sunchaser. Henzler clocked a best lap at 2:55.190 (92.183 mph) in the machine he is sharing with regular co-driver Robin Liddell as well as his Tafel Racing teammate Andrew Davis. Henzler and Liddell currently trail Marc Bunting and Andy Lally in the GT driver standings by eight points.

"We had a really good run, and the team seems to have found a good setup for the car," Henzler said. "On the first lap, the track was really dirty and dusty, and I slid around a lot for my first lap. It was really hard for me and I was worried it was a problem with the car, but the team told me it was the track. The team has just done a great job. The No. 65 Pontiac team is in a better position for the championship because they are eight points ahead. We're just going to try to win the race and see what happens."

Lally starts alongside his championship nemesis on the front row following a best lap at 2:55.886 (91.819 mph) in the No. 65 TRG/F1 Air Pontiac GTO.R. Lally and regular co-driver Bunting--who won the 2004 Rolex Series Super Grand Sport (SGS) driver title and finished second in the GT championship last year--are sharing the No. 65 machine with Spencer Pumpelly this weekend. The No. 65 team leads the No. 72 organization by the same eight-point margin.

"I had a good lap going until a former co-driver didn't provide the proper racing etiquette and blocked me," Lally said. "I may not have had a shot at the pole, but I could have gotten a lot closer. We are starting right next the (No.) 72 car which is our pursuer in the championship, so the fans can't ask for anything more than to have the top two cars in the series starting next to each other on the grid for the start. We will need to run a fast clean race and not get caught up in anyone's poor judgment."

Paul Edwards qualified third in the No. 64 TRG/iRise Pontiac GTO.R with a lap at 2:56.315 (91.595 mph). Edwards and co-driver Kelly Collins are looking for their fourth GT feature win of the season and have been joined by Kris Wilson as a third driver for this weekend.

"On my first clean lap, I overcooked it a little in Turn 3," Edwards said. "On my second lap I got blocked and then had a push in the car. I could have probably planned my session a little better, but I really didn't have anything for the pole today. We have a good race car and we will need to try and motor into the lead. The night time is going to be wild. The DPs come up on you and you don't which one is which, because most guys you run with all season and you know what they are going to do. There are some new drivers out there, so we will have to be alert."

Multiple-time Trans-Am and IMSA champion Tommy Kendall made it a sweep of positions two through four for the Pontiac GTO.R by posting a lap at 2:56.657 (91.418 mph) in the No. 05 Java One Coffee/Motul/enVista Pontiac GTO.R for Sigalsport. Kendall's co-drivers are Peter MacLeod and Gene Sigal. Ian James rounded out the top five in the No. 74 Rembrandt Charms Porsche GT3 with a lap at 2:56.767 (91.361 mph). James will co-drive with Eric Lux and Tafel Racing owner Jim Tafel.

- Grandam -


02.09.2006 / MaP

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