Luhr, Henzler win Daytona 24 poles

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Luhr, Henzler win Daytona 24 poles

Lucas Luhr smashed the Daytona Prototype track record by more than a second Thursday at the Daytona International Speedway, capturing the pole for the 44th Rolex 24 at Daytona with a lap of 1:44.009 in the No. 23 Alex Job Racing/Emory...

Lucas Luhr smashed the Daytona Prototype track record by more than a second Thursday at the Daytona International Speedway, capturing the pole for the 44th Rolex 24 at Daytona with a lap of 1:44.009 in the No. 23 Alex Job Racing/Emory Motorsports Porsche Crawford. Luhr, an experienced Porsche factory driver with six previous starts in the Rolex Sports Car Series' headlining division, qualified .386 seconds faster than SunTrust Racing's Max Angelelli, last year's co-series champion.

Lucas Luhr, pole sitter for #23 Alex Job Racing.
Photo by Rainier Ehrhardt.
"I have had plenty of pole positions in my career already, but most of those were class wise and not overall," said Luhr, who has a wealth of experience in various GT classes. "So it's a big one for me to be on pole overall for such a big race. It's also big for my team because we've worked so hard to put this new package together. I think today was a little bit of payback time.

"The lap was okay. I had two cars in front me fighting a little bit, so I lost a little bit of time there. But a pole is a pole. I think it's also good for the race. For the first couple of hours you are in the lead and you can set your own pace. You don't have to focus on the cars in front of you as well as the cars behind you."

Luhr and his teammates, fellow Porsche factory drivers Mike Rockenfeller and Patrick Long, have been quick in pre-season testing. But their brand- new Porsche Crawford has been plagued with a lot of small problems, which the team has been working hard to fix. "After testing we had a lot of questions. I was really disappointed because we had so many problems. We couldn't run for five straight laps. The car was really quick. But when we tried to improve the car, we couldn't drive it because we had so many problems. You never know in a 24-hour race, but I think we have a chance of finishing the race."

#10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Riley: Wayne Taylor, Max Angelelli, Emmanuel Collard, Ryan Briscoe.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.
Second place qualifier Angelelli is also pleased to be starting from the front row. "Obviously I'm very happy to start the race on the front row," said Angelelli, who will share his Pontiac Riley with Wayne Taylor, Ryan Briscoe, and Emmanuel Collard. "I think I had a good qualifying session and I really pushed hard, especially in the last five laps when Bill Riley was telling me to push harder to avoid ending up in the back. I just kept pushing and pushing and finally got a good lap together. And it was my best. I don't think I could have done any better than that."

And while Luhr thinks he has a chance of finishing the race, Angelelli wants to win - for the second consecutive year. "I have an enormous desire to win again and I will give everything I have to make that happen. I will push from Lap 1 to the last lap of the race. There is no question for me. We are going to push, try to avoid contact, and be fast and consistent."

Rounding out the top-five were the No. 02 Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley, the Gainsco/Blackhawk Racing Pontiac Riley, and the Doran Racing Ford Doran. Significantly, the other Ganassi entry and the No. 04 Howard-Boss Motorsports Pontiac Crawford, both perennial front runners, qualified outside of the top-10.

Last year's pole sitter and winner, Wolf Hentzler, led a Porsche sweep of the top-three qualifying positions in the GT class, with a lap of 1:53.336 in the Tafel Racing Porsche GT 3 Cup. Miraculously, Hentzler has two GT class wins in two Rolex Sports Car Series starts. Despite strong showings in pre-season testing, Kevin Buckler's Pontiac GTO.R's qualified 7th and 13th in class.

#72 Tafel Racing Porsche GT3 Cup: Wolf Henzler, Robin Liddell, Johannes van Overbeek, Graham Rahal.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.
Only the top 30 cars qualified for the Rolex 24 grid. The rest of the field will qualify tomorrow.

The Rolex 24 will take the green flag Saturday at 12 p.m. and will be broadcast on the Speed Channel.

Notes

Playboy Enterprises will sponsor three Daytona Prototypes and three Grand- Am Cup entries in the Rolex Sports Car Series for the next three years. Uniden Electronics, The Palms Resort & Casino Las Vegas, and Vonage will also appear on some of the cars. The lead car in the six-car stable will be the No. 19 Finlay Motorsports Ford Crawford of Memo Gidley and Michael McDowell.

CitiFinancial has formed a partnership with "Grey's Anatomy" star Patrick Dempsey. Dempsey and his Hyper Sport team will compete in the Grand-Am Cup Series, with the actor marking at least two starts in the team's Ford Mustang FR500C.

A large contingent of open-wheel and Nascar drivers are contesting this year's Rolex 24, including Dan Wheldon, Danica Patrick, Dario Franchitti, Paul Tracy, Sebastian Bourdais, Scott Dixon, Rusty Wallace, Tony Stewart, Justin Wilson, A.J. Allmendinger, and Patrick Carpentier.

Editor's Note:

Grand American Road Racing Association announce that the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Riley failed post-qualifying inspection due to a front splitter that was too wide. Angelelli will have to re-qualify tomorrow.

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