GRANDAM - Long Takes Pole for EMCO Gears Classic at Mid-Ohio as Top-Three Qualifiers Fail Tech

GRANDAM - Long Takes Pole for EMCO Gears Classic at Mid-Ohio as Top-Three Qualifiers Fail Tech

24.06.2006: GRANDAM - Long Takes Pole for EMCO Gears Classic at Mid-Ohio as Top-Three Qualifiers Fail Tech

Patrick Long will start from the pole position for Saturday night's Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve EMCO Gears Classic presented by KeyBank (SPEED, 3:00 p.m. ET, June 25) as the original top-three qualifiers all failed post-qualifying technical inspection at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The Riley chassis of original polesitter Colin Braun, second-place qualifier Luis Diaz and third-place qualifier Mario Haberfeld were all discovered to be too wide, forcing them to be moved to the rear of the grid. Braun will now start 25th in the No. 76 Krohn Racing Ford Riley, followed by Diaz, who starts 26th in the No. 01 CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley, and Haberfeld in 27th driving the No. 12 Lowe's Fernandez Racing Pontiac Riley. CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing and Lowe's Fernandez Racing were also fined $1,000 each, while Krohn Racing was fined $2,000 as this was the team's second offense.

As a result, Long qualified on the overall pole position for the second time in his Rolex Series career with a best lap of 1:20.625 (100.822 mph) in the No. 23 Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team Porsche Crawford. Long's previous pole came by winning the qualifying race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, but co-driver Mike Rockenfeller started the Road & Track 250 featured event. Long and Rockenfeller are looking for their third feature race victory of the season and their first since taking the VIR 400 in April.

"When the pole position falls into your lap, you have to take it and give the Ruby Tuesday team credit for putting a quality car on the track," Long said. "I had some shifting issues with the car during qualifying and when you are running it right on the edge going for pole and hundredths of a second, it can cost you. At the beginning of the session, I was able to come right out on the track and post a good time. As the session wore on, the top of the time sheet was crowded with the cars that tested here, but we put in a respectable time and we will have a good car for the race."

Long is joined on the front row by Jon Fogarty in the No. 99 GAINSCO/Blackhawk Racing Pontiac Riley. Fogarty logged a best lap at 1:20.773 (100.638 mph), giving the GAINSCO team its second-consecutive front-row starting position at Mid-Ohio, as Alex Gurney started last year's race from the pole position. Fogarty and Gurney are still seeking their first Rolex Series victories, but have finished second in two of their past three starts.

"We think it's a little bit of poetic justice because we thought the GAINSCO Pontiac was capable of being a second-place car all along," Fogarty said. "While we never like to see other guys disqualified, it's a testament to our crew that they had the attention to detail to make sure our car makes it through tech inspection, so a big thanks to them. Second is a better starting position for sure and it's going to make it less of a hectic race, not having to deal with those other cars in front of us at the start of the race. The No. 23 car is a quick car so they'll be tough for sure but I think the No. 99 is going to be really consistent over the stint. The No. 23 team has had some issues this weekend, so I think they're pushing really hard to get that time out of the car. I think we'll have a comfortable car that will let me and Alex put the pressure on and beat them in the race. This team is due a win, it's been too long in coming and hopefully we'll be able to make the most of this tomorrow."

Christian Fittipaldi starts third in the No. 39 Crown Royal Special Reserve/Cheever Racing Porsche Crawford with a lap at 1:20.907 (100.471 mph). Fittipaldi is once again co-driving the No. 39 machine with fellow Brazilian Hoover Orsi, and the duo is looking for its first win together. Fittipaldi owns two career Rolex Series overall victories.

Memo Gidley will start fourth in the No. 19 Playboy/Uniden Racing Ford Crawford he shares with co-driver Michael McDowell following a best qualifying lap of 1:21.021 (100.330 mph). Brian Frisselle rounds out the top five with a lap at 1:21.227 (100.075 mph) in the No. 8 GlycoMax Porsche Doran for Synergy Racing. Frisselle's co-driver is his brother, Burt Frisselle. Excluding the cars that were disqualified, the top-seven qualifiers posted best laps within one second of Long's best time.


American hotshoe Joey Hand posted a best qualifying time of 1:28.071 (92.298 mph) in the No. 21 Matt Connolly Motorsports BMW M3 to secure the GT class pole position for Saturday's EMCO Gears Classic.

Hand came to Mid-Ohio to replace Boris Said in the No. 97 Under Armour BMW M3 for Turner Motorsport in Sunday's Grand-Am Cup Series race, but was approached by co-driver Chris Gleason about the opportunity to compete in Saturday's Rolex Series event. The factory BMW driver quickly showed his speed by securing his first career Rolex Series pole.

"This car was so fast right out of the box," said Hand, who is making only his second Rolex Series start of the season. "I just want to thank Chris for putting this deal together and Matt Connolly for preparing great race cars. We made a few changes after yesterday's test session, and it just shows how good this team really is. The goal tomorrow is to keep it in front for as long as I can, and hand the car off to Chris with a chance at a real good finish."

Hand's only other start of the season came three weeks ago in the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen, where he finished 18th in the GT class with co-drivers Matthew Alhadeff and Bill Auberlen in the No. 05 Sigalsport BMW M3.

Wolf Henzler was second-fastest in the No. 72 NEC Porsche GT3 for Tafel Racing, a lap time of 1:28.520 (91.830 mph). Henzler and co-driver Robin Liddell came into the weekend in a tie for third in the current GT driver standings, 10 points in arrears of No. 65 TRG/F1 Air Pontiac GTO.R co-drivers Andy Lally and Marc Bunting (342-332).

"I think qualifying is not the most important thing," said Henzler. "At one of the last races, we qualified first and finished third behind the Pontiacs. The race is really long and anything can happen. I pushed very hard in qualifying and about lost the car. I was really going as fast as I could in the car. The (earlier) rain made it more difficult, because it comes and washes away the rubber. It was very slippery and hard to find a good setup, because the track changes every lap. It seems like we found a good setup."

Henzler's Tafel Racing teammate, Andrew Davis, qualified third in the No. 73 NEC Porsche GT3 with a lap time of 1:28.661 (91.684 mph). Davis and co-driver Jim Tafel are currently tied for ninth in the point standings. Leighton Reese was fourth-fastest in the No. 06 Banner Engineering Corvette after a lap at 1:29.121 (91.211 mph), while Bunting rounded out the top five in the No. 65 machine with a lap at 1:29.145 (91.186 mph).

- Grandam -


24.06.2006 / MaP

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