Mark Wilkins saved his best 'til last at New Jersey Motorsports Park by storming to pole position for the Supercar Life 250, the penultimate of 14 rounds on the 2008 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series calendar.

Wilkins tamed the 2.25-mile, twelve-turn Thunderbolt Raceway layout with a lap time of 1m11.761s (112.875mph) late on in the 15-minute session, and that time would prove good enough to capture his second pole position of the season, following his top spot from Daytona last month. Co-driver Brian Frisselle did likewise at Watkins Glen International earlier this month.

"It's going to be very difficult," stressed Wilkins, despite his dominance behind the wheel of the #61 Ford Riley. "There's no question about that. It's a very narrow track, so there are not a lot of opportunities to get by.

"It's going to be very critical to set up the passes early, to get good runs out of the corners and ultimately ensure that you're in the right gear and that you're looking well down the track so you can set up your passes. This is going to be a very difficult place to pass, and it's going to be about staying out of trouble and not getting involved in an incident with the GT cars.

"The first half of the track is very fast, and then it's tight in the last section. That's a very critical section; you need to get a good run straightaway, because one of the key passing zones is into turn one. It's imperative that really you get the car to work well out of turn ten, which is the left-hander before coming down the long front straight.

"You have to be good in the high-speed too, because that's were you can make up some time and hopefully get a gap over some of these guys. This track likes to have some wing. Over the course of the testing our car responded better with more downforce."

Just under three tenths of a second and 0.4mph slower over the lap was three-time 2008 pole-winner Michael Valiante, who triumphed in the most recent Rolex Series event, the Armed Forces 250 at Infineon Raceway last weekend.

"The car kept getting better," remarked Valiante, who will share the front row of the grid with Wilkins in the #10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Dallara. "We kept going quicker and quicker. On both of my fastest laps I was passing cars, so it's great that we're starting on the front row, but I definitely think we had a pole car because I didn't get the most out of it, catching traffic.

"The car was really consistent like it was in qualifying at Sonoma. I think we have a really good race car again, but it really would have been nice to have been on the pole again.

"I think it's going to be a tough race; I don't think it's going to come down to speed at all. It's going to come down to more about who's got the most reliable car here, and about getting through traffic cleanly because it's unbelievable how tough it is to pass here. That's what it's going to come down to."

A mere five hundredths further in arrears was Joey Hand in the #23 Alex Job Racing Ruby Tuesday Porsche Riley, with Jon Fogarty due to start alongside in the #99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac Riley he shares with Alex Gurney.

Fogarty and Gurney enter the penultimate round of the 2008 Daytona Prototype championship trailing Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas by 42 points in the standings. Pruett destroyed the primary #01 TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Lexus Riley in a horrific testing accident on Thursday, shearing the back half of the car away from the cockpit.

While the former CART star was evaluated and released from a nearby hospital, the team flew to Indianapolis to prepare the back-up car - an original-style Riley that the team drove to victory in the 2008 Rolex 24 At Daytona and which had since been converted to a show car. The rebuilt Riley was expected to be back at the New Jersey circuit late on Saturday afternoon, and should be ready for Sunday's final practice session at 8am.

Nic Jonsson qualified fifth in the #76 Krohn Racing Pontiac Lola co-driven by Ricardo Zonta, whilst Marc-Antoine Camirand, David Donohue, Antonio Garcia and Mark Patterson rounded out the top ten.

In the GT class meanwhile, Bryan Sellers responded to New Jersey Motorsports Park principal RJ Valentine's desire to see his car up towards the front for the circuit's inaugural event, by pacing the session behind the wheel of the #68 TRG Porsche GT3.

Whilst Valentine usually qualifies the car, Sellers was this time entrusted with the task and duly delivered, taking the second pole of his Grand-Am career more than three years on from his first, achieved on his series debut at Homestead-Miami Speedway all the way back in March 2005

"This weekend is a little bit different," he explained. "RJ (Valentine) is a private investor in the track, he's taking a lot of ownership in everything that's happening this weekend and he really wanted to shine in front of his home crowd and all of his business partners and sponsors and people that help out on the car's set-up in qualifying.

"RJ really wanted to have his car sit up front in qualifying. Fortunately, the crew did everything they needed to do to get me a good car for qualifying. We were fortunate enough to come through with the pole."

Two tenths of a second adrift of the pole-sitter is the first of four Pontiacs, headed up by Andrew Davis right at the end of the session in the #57 Stevenson Motorsports Stevenson Automotive/BryanMark Financial Pontiac GXP.R.

"Well, I certainly did make it more exciting than I had planned on," Davis quipped after coming up just short in his bid to gain his first pole of the current campaign. "I wasn't able to maximise the lap early on when the tyres were at their best.

"I was happy with the Pirelli tyre all the way through the run. I was able to get a good run in there just one lap from the end. I was hoping to have a better one after it, but I had some traffic and I made a mistake on another lap - it would have been quick.

"It's really good for the Stevenson Motorsports crew - it's very exciting. We've been working really hard, making a lot of changes the whole week. Bryan [Sellers] and I are good friends. It's the second time actually; last [time he got] pole I think I was second on the grid, too."

Points co-leader Kelly Collins qualified his #07 Banner Racing Banner Engineering Pontiac GXP.R third, and will be joined on the second row by Patrick Barrett in the #32 PR1 Motorsports Miracle Sealants/Konika Minolta Pontiac GXP.R. Rounding out the top five in GT qualifying was Ryan Phinny in the #21 Matt Connolly Motorsports Pontiac GTO.R.

Collins and Paul Edwards lead Nick Ham and Sylvain Tremblay by a scant six points with two races remaining, with Davis and Robin Liddell 16 points behind the pace-setters. Ham qualified sixth in the #70 SpeedSource Castrol Mazda RX-8, with the 112-lap race due to cover 250 miles with a two-hour, 45-minute time limit.



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