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Hand, Auberlen lead New Jersey practice.


The Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team led the opening day of official practice for the Grand-Am Rolex Series' debut at New Jersey Motorsports Park, with Bill Auberlen and Joey Hand both running at the front of the field.

Hand set the fastest time in Friday morning's session on the 2.25-mile Thunderbolt Raceway circuit, taking the #23 Porsche Riley to a lap of 1min 11.520secs, while Auberlen led the afternoon, despite running around a second slower than his co-driver. Hand is expected to qualify the car on Saturday afternoon in preparation for Sunday's Supercar Life 250.

"This track really superseded my expectations," Hand said, "Driving my car is a lot more fun than I expected, and the Ruby Tuesday team really worked hard and did a great job preparing for this race. For the first time with our new Riley, we're actually running strong coming right off the trailer."

Hand and Auberlen finished second in the second race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway, but the team's best finish since then was the fourth it took in the Crown Royal 200 at Watkins Glen International as it switched to an upgraded Crawford chassis before moving to the Riley.

"This is my kind of track," Auberlen admitted, "The flow is good, and I like the really, really fast turns. We've been P1 in every session, and that is where this team belongs. They work as hard as anyone in the paddock - sometimes harder."

Second fastest was Ricardo Zonta, who ran a lap of 1min 11.795secs in the #76 Krohn Racing Pontiac Lola.

"This track is very slippery and very challenging," said the Brazilian, who finished fifth with Nic Jonsson in the two most recent Rolex Series races, "Finding the right place for overtaking GT cars can be very difficult, but we've found the right direction to balance the car. There are still some issues where we can improve, but I think we can get a good position tomorrow."

Third fastest across the two sessions was Marc Goossens' #91 Riley-Matthews Motorsports Pontiac Riley, while Alex Gurney and Darren Law rounded out the top five with the #99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac Riley and #58 Brumos Racing Porsche Riley respectively.

Points leader Memo Rojas, meanwhile, practiced in the #3 Southard Motorsports Lexus Riley while his regular TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing team worked back in Indianapolis to prepare a back-up car to replace the primary #01 machine destroyed in a testing accident by veteran Scott Pruett on Thursday. Pruett was cleared to drive on Friday, but sat out the opening sessions.

"Those few laps really helped," said Rojas, who shared the #3 with Shane Lewis and Bill Lester, "It would be really tough to race here without knowing the track. The car was familiar, and I got to learn the braking references and how to get around here."



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New-look Ruby Tuesday Crawford-Porsche makes debut at Watkins Glen
Max Angelelli / Jordan Taylor. GRAND-AM Championship Weekend Presented by BMW at Lime Rock Park. 2013 Grand AM Rolex Sports Car Series
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Rolex Series action [Pic credit: Grand-Am]
Alex Popow and Sebastian Bourdais, drivers of the #2 Ford Riley, celebrate in Victory Lane after wininng the Grand-AM Rolex Sports Car Series Inaugural Brickyard Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 27, 2012, in Indianapolis, Ind. (Photo Credit: Tyler Barrick/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Alex Popow and Sebastien Bourdais, drivers of the #2 Soloson Ford Riley, celebrate after winning the Grand-AM Rolex Sports Car Series inaugural Brickyard Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 27, 2012, in Indianapolis, Ind. (Photo Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Alex Gurney/Jon Fogarty - GAINSCO Bob Stallings Racing Riley-Pontiac   [pic credit: Grand-Am]
Henri Richard/Rene Villeneuve - Polizei 144 TRG Porsche GT3   [pic credit: Grand-Am]
Romain Dumas/Timo Bernhard - Verizon Wireless Team Penske Riley-Porsche   [pic credit: Grand-Am]
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Scott Pruett/Memo Rojas - TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing Riley-Lexus   [pic credit: Grand-Am]
Michael Valiante/Joh Pew - Michael Shank Racing Riley-Ford   [pic credit: Grand-Am]
Oswaldo Negri/Mark Patterson - Michael Shank Racing Riley-Ford   [pic credit: Grand-Am]
Ricardo Zonta/Nic Jonsson - Krohn Racing Lola-Ford   [pic credit: Grand-Am]
Scott Pruett/Memo Rojas - TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing Riley-Lexus   [pic credit: Grand-Am]
Max Angelelli/Brian Frisselle - SunTrust Racing Dallara-Ford  [pic credit: Grand-Am]

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