Scott Pruett bettered the Watkins Glen International track record by fully two seconds as he claimed a twelfth career pole position ahead of Saturday's Sahlen's Six Hours Grand-Am Rolex Series round.
Pruett ran a lap of 1min 40.744secs in the #01 TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Lexus Riley he co-drives with Memo Rojas, claiming the team's third pole of the season - with Rojas having led qualifying at Virginia International Raceway and Laguna Seca. Pruett and Rojas won six races en route to capturing the Daytona Prototype title in 2008, but are winless this season.
"Hopefully, we can start turning poles into victories," Pruett, who's pole extended his record in the Daytona Prototype class, and pulled him to within one of all-time Rolex Series leader James Weaver's 13 SRP poles, said, "I've always liked this track, and the Ganassi guys have done well here. It's nice to have the TELMEX car up front, but six hours is a long race."
Pruett will be joined on the front row by Alex Gurney, who ran a lap of 1min 41.442secs in the #99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac Riley co-driven by Jon Fogarty. The pair enter Saturday's race with an eight-point lead in the Daytona Prototype point standings, but are wary of the Ganassi threat.
"The #01 got in a really good lap," Gurney admitted, "They put a good car out there, and Scott did a real good job. It's nice for us to be on the front row. It's going to be a long, tough day tomorrow. Hopefully, we can keep it clean."
It wasn't just Pruett and Gurney who went under the previous record, as the top eleven drivers broke Max Angelelli's existing mark, set in qualifying for last year's race. Angelelli qualified third for the 2009 edition in the #10 SunTrust Ford Dallara, running a lap of 1min 41.488secs, despite the team missing most of Friday's practice due to a broken oil line.
"I felt I had to do it for the guys," Angelelli said, "There was no other option. I had to deliver - that's it."
Rounding out the top five in qualifying were the two Michael Shank Racing Ford Rileys, with Michael Valiante fourth in the #6 and Oz Negri fifth in the #60. Timo Bernhard (#12 Penske Racing Verizon Porsche Riley), Mark Wilkins (#61 AIM Autosport Ford Riley), Ricardo Zonta (#76 Krohn Racing Ford Riley), Ricky Taylor (#13 Beyer Racing Pontiac Riley) and Christophe Bouchut (#55 Supercar Life Racing BMW Riley) completed the top ten qualifiers, while Darren Law (#58 Brumos Racing Porsche Riley) also ducked under Angelelli's lap record.
Farnbacher Loles Racing swept the GT front row, with Dirk Werner capturing his first career Rolex Series Acxiom GT pole with a lap of 1min 51.007secs in the #87 Porsche GT3 co-driven by Leh Keen. Team-mate Wolf Henzler took second after running a lap of 1min 51.019secs in the #86 sister car co-driven by Eric Lux. It was Porsche's first GT pole of the season, and 75th in Rolex Series GT history.
"I found that my car was really, really good on my first lap out of the pits," 2007 Rolex Series GT champion Werner said, "On my first timed lap, my tyre pressures and temperatures were perfect. The car handled really well, and I put in a good lap. Our set-ups were very good, allowing us to take the front row. Now, we want to stay out of trouble for the first part of the race. We had an issue here last year, so we worked on getting a good qualifying time and it worked out perfectly."
Pontiacs swept the second row, with Robin Liddell third fastest in the #57 Stevenson Motorsports/Bryan Mark GXP.R ahead of Paul Edwards in the #07 Banner Racing example, while Mazdas took the next three positions. Defending Sahlen's Six Hour winner Jeff Segal was fifth fastest in the #69 SpeedSource RX-8, ahead of Dane Cameron (#30 Racers Edge) and Sylvain Tremblay (#70 SpeedSource).
Meanwhile, the Rolex 24 at Daytona-winning #67 TRG Porsche GT3 of Andy Lally, Justin Marks and RJ Valentine missed qualifying when the latter spun and was hit by a Daytona Prototype in Friday morning practice. Team owner Kevin Buckler said the team plans to repair the car in time for Saturday's race.