Grand AM » 20 September 2008
Zonta takes first Grand Am pole.
Ricardo Zonta secured pole position for the final round of the Grand Am Rolex Series season at Miller Motorsport Park, leaving it late in the session to take pole at the wheel of the #76 Krohn Racing Pontiac Lola.
Zonta ran a Miller Motorsports Park track record lap of 2min 35.664secs in drying conditions on the mammoth 4.486-mile, 23-turn circuit, earning his first career pole - and the first for the Lola - in qualifying for the SunRichGourmet.com 1000 presented by The Grand and Little America Hotels.
"My last lap was perfect - no mistakes - and the car was really good," Zonta, who will co-drive with Nic Jonsson, said. "We had a perfect car for that moment. This is a long track to do a lap without making a mistake. You have to be very focused here. It helps to have a very good car, and the team has improved a lot since the race at Barber in July.
"Talking about the team, it feels like a family. I feel very close to everyone on the team. Winning the pole, it's very positive for us because we've worked so hard and came so close all season. We had many problems this season, but to win the pole for the last race is big break for us. What's most important is tomorrow, not only qualifying. But we're a lot happier now than before. The beginning of qualifying was very, very slippery because it was beginning to rain. In two corners under very heavy breaking, it was very slippery. But every lap it was getting better and better, so my last lap was perfect - no mistakes and the car was really good. We had a perfect car for that moment."
Zonta's last lap knocked Scott Pruett off the pole. Pruett and co-driver Memo Rojas need to each run 30 minutes in the #01 TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Lexus Riley to share the 2008 Daytona Prototype championship. Pruett help the top spot up until the final moments of qualifying with a lap of 2min 35.819secs.
"We made some improvements on the car from our test day yesterday and we really just focused on fine tuning the car for the race tomorrow,” Pruett reflected. “We were sitting P1 until the #76 bumped us out on the last lap. We're starting on the front row, it will be a long race and I'm looking forward to closing up the championship here."
David Donohue will start third in the #58 Brumos Racing Porsche Riley he co-drives with Darren Law and Buddy Rice while Max Angelelli in the #10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Riley co-driven by Michael Valiante took fourth. Donohue and Valiante end the season tied atop the 2008 leaders with three poles apiece. Fastest in practice, Joey Hand ran a lap of 2min 36.131secs in the #23 Ruby Tuesday Porsche Riley co-driven by Bill Auberlen to start fifth. Rounding out the top-ten qualifiers were Antonio Garcia, Alex Gurney, Ian James, Mark Wilkins and Matt Plumb.
While Daytona Prototype qualifying was run in mixed drizzle and drying conditions, steady rain fell through much of the GT qualifying session, only to let off in the closing minutes. Leh Keen took advantage of the changing conditions to capture his first GT pole in the final seconds, running a lap of 2min 52.252secs in the #86 Farnbacher Loles Racing Porsche GT3 co-driven by Eric Lux. He knocked team-mate Wolf Henzler off the pole, with Henzler running a lap of 2min 52.724secs in the #87 Porsche GT3 co-driven by Bryce Miller and Dirk Werner.
“It was dry and then it started raining on the out-lap,” Keen said. “I thought, 'Oh, no!' because then the first car out would have the best opportunity. So it was raining and it was a mess and everybody was going slow. Then right at the end, it started drying up and Frank [Resciniti, team manager and 86 strategist] got on the radio and said, 'It's last lap!' There was a dry line forming everywhere except where it had been raining really bad, but I figured since a lap is so long here, by the time I did a whole lap, it would probably be dry. So I braked 100 feet later in turn one and just kinda crossed my fingers and went for it.
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