Crown Royal Grand American Challenge of Long Beach, the first-ever street race for the Rolex Sports Car Series. Diaz lapped the tight 1.97-mile, 11- turn street circuit in 1:19.891, averaging 88.681 mph. Diaz and his co- driver, Scott Pruett,...
Crown Royal Grand American Challenge of Long Beach, the first-ever street race for the Rolex Sports Car Series. Diaz lapped the tight 1.97-mile, 11- turn street circuit in 1:19.891, averaging 88.681 mph. Diaz and his co- driver, Scott Pruett, have finished on the podium in the last two races, winning in Mexico City and finishing third in Homestead. They currently trail series points' leader Jorg Bergmeister by five points in the championship standings. Both have prior experience at Long Beach, Diaz in the Toyota Atlantic Series and Pruett in Trans Am and Champ Car.
"It was just a matter of getting a clear lap," said Diaz. "For me I think it's important to start up front and stay out of trouble in Turn 1. I know that tomorrow is going to be a tough race. We will discuss our strategy just before the race, but we came here thinking about one thing - the championship. We want to have good points tomorrow. We know that it's going to be a tough race with all of the traffic. I think it's going to be a strategy race tomorrow. But we want to score points for the championship."
Fresh off his first series win two weeks ago in Homestead, Porsche factory driver Patrick Long was second fastest in the No. 23 Alex Job Racing/Emory Motorsports Porsche Crawford. Long recorded the fastest time in the first qualifying session, but was nipped by Diaz in the second. "We had the pole in the first qualifying session, but I knew that the No. 01 car was going to be a definite factor," said Long, who will share his Crawford with fellow factory driver Mike Rockenfeller.
"And I was surprised how competitive the No. 10 car was at the end, and also (Memo) Gidley and a few of the others. It was pretty steep in our session, and like Luis said it was all about getting a clear lap. It is my first time at this track and it was something to think about when I was out practicing this morning. Fortunately, I was able to a get a clear lap. I'm pretty happy with the lap time. The race is going to be a different subject. I think there's going to be a lot of strategy and hopefully not too many yellows so we can get some good laps in."
Long and Patrick will carry an extra 75 pounds this weekend due a rules change affecting all Porsche powered cars. Yet Long was only .011 seconds slower than Diaz in qualifying.
Danish sports car ace Jan Magnussen, racing in place of Wayne Taylor at SunTrust Racing, was third quickest in the No. 10 Pontiac Riley. Magnussen and his teammate, Max Angelelli, split time in the car during this morning's one and only practice session but the qualifying chores fell to the Dane as Angelelli was preparing to race in the IROC race in Texas, where he finished sixth. Angelelli is scheduled to return to Long Beach around 2 a.m. Saturday morning.
Michael McDowell qualified fourth in the No. 19 Playboy/Uniden Racing Ford Crawford, followed by Mario Haberfeld in the Fernandez Racing Pontiac Riley.
Rounding out the top-10 were the No. 4 Howard Boss Motorsports Pontiac Crawford, No. 3 Southard Motorsports BMW Riley, No. 99 Gainsco/Blackhawk Racing Pontiac Riley, No. 39 Cheever Racing Porsche Crawford, and No. 89 Pacific Coast Motorsports Pontiac Riley. Rolex Series points' leader Bergmeister will start 13th in the Krohn Racing Ford Riley he will share with Tracy Krohn. Bergmeister currently has a four-point lead over Christian Fittipaldi in the series points' standings.
Saturday's race will take the green flag at 4 p.m. PT and be broadcast tape delayed on the Speed Channel starting at 9 p.m. ET.