Fontana: Saturday qualifying report

Papis Takes Lexus Grand American 400k Pole; Leads Top-Three CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing Sweep FONTANA, Calif. (October 30, 2004) -- For the sixth consecutive Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series race, Max Papis will start his No. 01 Lexus...

Papis Takes Lexus Grand American 400k Pole; Leads Top-Three CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing Sweep

FONTANA, Calif. (October 30, 2004) -- For the sixth consecutive Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series race, Max Papis will start his No. 01 Lexus Riley from the pole position after leading a sweep of the top-three starting positions by CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing in qualifying today for Sunday's Lexus Grand American 400k at California Speedway (SPEED Channel, Live, 4 p.m. ET).

Papis set the Daytona Prototype track record with a best lap of 1:30.962 (111.607 mph), topping Terry Borcheller's previous record of 1:32.314 (109.972 mph) from 2003. The Italian also extended the No. 01 team's 2004 season pole record by taking the team's 11th pole in 12 tries. Papis and co-driver Scott Pruett enter the race holding a three-point lead (327-324) over No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Riley car owner/driver Wayne Taylor.

"To be on pole for the 11th time in 12 races really is a testament to how hard this team has worked all year to stay on top," Papis said. "Even more important though is to have all three CompUSA cars take the top three positions. That's really something incredible. It also gives us a little breathing room for the start to have our teammates between us and our rivals. We know what a battle it is going to be out there for the race. It is going to be just so tough because so much is at stake for everyone and the No. 10 car as well as the No. 4 and the No. 2 cars are right there in the thick of things as well. This whole Rolex Series season has been so very competitive and I really feel like my joy of racing has grown even more. I just expect the race to be absolutely awesome for every driver out there, every team competing and every fan watching."

Making his Rolex Sports Car Series debut this weekend, Indy Racing League IndyCar Series regular Darren Manning put the No. 8 CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley on the outside of the front row with a best lap of 1:31.820 (110.564 mph). Manning will share the No. 8 with his IndyCar teammate, 2003 IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon, who was not at California Speedway today as he was competing in the final Crown Royal International Race of Champions (IROC) race of the season at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

"I spoke to the guys before I ran in the car, and I did a little bit of work over in Japan in similar cars to these and they're good," Manning said. "The good thing about them is they react in the right way. You make some changes and the car responds. I'm enjoying it, so I guess it's what I wanted. I am looking forward to the race. There's a lot of cars out there and a lot of speed difference in the cars. There's a lot of overtaking and a lot of strategy with a long race. I like working with Scott. That's going to be something new for us, the two drivers, so it's going to be good."

Completing the trifecta for CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing was Jimmy Morales in the No. 02 Lexus Riley. The rookie starts his final race of the season from the inside of Row 2 on the strength of a qualifying lap at 1:32.160 (111.156 mph). Morales and co-driver Luis Diaz head into the race still looking for their first career Rolex Series victory, but Morales was pleased with his team's performance in qualifying today.

"It feels gratifying, especially for our sponsors, CompUSA, Telmex and Good Guys. Right now they can see that we are working really hard. The competitive series we are in, you don't expect to be 1-2-3, especially when you are running for the championship. I think it was an extremely good effort for the Chip Ganassi crew. They are the ones that really brought us where we are. This is only the beginning. Tomorrow is the race day and we know we have tough competition coming, especially from the middle to the end of the race. This race is going to go down to the wire."

Elliott Forbes-Robinson--who will celebrate his 61st birthday tomorrow--placed the No. 4 Howard-Boss Motorsports Pontiac Crawford fourth on the starting grid with a best lap at 1:32.308 (109.982 mph). EFR and co-driver Butch Leitzinger took the overall victory in the Porsche 250 at Barber Motorsports Park three weeks ago. Taylor--who shares his No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Riley with Max Angelelli--will start fifth after clocking a best lap of 1:32.486 (109.768 mph).

MILNER TAKES SECOND GT CLASS POLE

Tom Milner is batting 1.000 when it comes to GT class qualifying as he took his second class pole position in as many tries after running a best lap of 1:37.819 (103.784 mph) in the No. 16 Prototype Technology Group BMW M3. While his teammates in the No. 21 and 22 BMWs have already won GT races this season, Milner and co-driver Kelly Collins enter tomorrow's race still looking for their maiden class triumph.

"It's great," Milner said. "That's my second qualifying time now and two poles, so I've got a good streak going here. Hopefully I can keep that up. I did nothing different, just do what I've been doing all session. The guys put me in the car to drive and now I'm on pole. It's not by much, but that's all it takes. That last little bit is all it took. At VIR (where he won his first pole) we had some problems with an oil line getting cut. Hopefully, we can just finish the race and not have any problems. I'm just looking forward to keeping my nose clean and giving it up to Kelly for the end. He'll definitely do a good job. He's a great road racer, and a lot of experience, so I'm sure he'll bring the car home."

Just as CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing swept the top-three qualifying spots in Daytona Prototype qualifying, so too did Prototype Technology Group sweep the GT class top three. Starting second will be Boris Said in the No. 22 PTG BMW M3 after a best qualifying lap of 1:37.878 (103.721 mph). Said--who shares the No. 22 with Joey Hand--will be looking to take the GT driver's championship away from his PTG teammate and former co-driver Bill Auberlen in the Lexus Grand American 400k.

Auberlen, however, holds a seven-point lead (348-341) and will start third in the No. 21 PTG BMW M3 thanks to a best qualifying lap of 1:38.092 (103.495 mph). Auberlen and co-driver Justin Marks have won the GT class in each of their past two starts. Kevin Buckler qualified the No. 67 The Racer's Group Porsche GT3 RS fourth at 1:38.577 (102.985 mph), and Emil Assentato rounded out the class top five with a best qualifying lap at 1:39.137 (102.404 mph) in the No. 33 Scuderia Ferrari of Washington Maserati Light GT.

BUNTING SPEEDS TO SGS POLE

Super Grand Sport (SGS) class co-points leader Marc Bunting got his quest for the class driver's championship off to a great start by taking the SGS pole with a best lap of 1:42.836 (98.720 mph) in the No. 38 TPC Racing Porsche GT3 Cup. Bunting and co-driver Andy Lally lead their team owner Michael Levitas by 16 points and Bunting and Lally will clinch a share of the class championship by completing a lap under green flag conditions in tomorrow's race.

"We've had a great season, obviously," Bunting said. "We've been staying consistent and it's great to finish up our last race getting a pole. We're going to try to get out there and just run a clean race and make sure we can get our minimum laps in so we can lock up a championship. We've been working all season for it, so we're hoping to wrap it up."

In the team's first race, Geoff Escalette put the No. 63 Stuttgart Performance Porsche GT3 Cup second on the SGS grid at 1:43.123 (98.446 mph). Starting third in SGS will be Andrew Alfonso in the No. 03 Grease Monkey Racing Porsche GT3 Cup with a best qualifying lap of 1:43.339 (98.240 mph), followed by his teammate Gene Sigal in the No. 04 Grease Monkey Racing Porsche GT3 Cup at 1:43.638 (97.958 mph). John Littlechild completed the class top five in the No. 37 TPC Racing Porsche GT3 Cup at 1:45.611 (96.126 mph).

-garra-

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