Phoenix: Thursday GT qualifying, DP practice report

Edwards Scores First-Ever Rolex Series GT Pole for Pontiac GTO.R at Phoenix PHOENIX (September 8, 2005) -- On a night where the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series GT class took a turn in the spotlight, Paul Edwards put the new Pontiac GTO.R...

Edwards Scores First-Ever Rolex Series GT Pole for Pontiac GTO.R at Phoenix

PHOENIX (September 8, 2005) -- On a night where the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series GT class took a turn in the spotlight, Paul Edwards put the new Pontiac GTO.R on the pole position for the first time and will roll off the grid from the inside of the front row in Friday's Phoenix GT 250 at Phoenix International Raceway (SPEED Channel, Friday, September 9, 12:00 midnight ET ).

Edwards turned in a best qualifying lap at 1:02.506 (86.968 mph) in the No. 64 TRG Pontiac GTO.R to score his first career Rolex Series class pole position. Edwards and co-driver Jan Magnussen will be looking to take their second GT victory of the season under the lights at PIR.

"This is awesome," Edwards said. "It's been a long road for the GTO to get up on the pole position. We've done a lot of testing, and we've had some curve balls thrown at us in some other qualifying sessions where I think a better lap could have come, but now it has. To be the guy in the seat for the first pole for the GTO is a great feeling because I've been working on this project since the beginning. Pontiac has put up a huge effort. Jan got the first win and I got the first pole. I think the car will be good tomorrow."

Starting alongside Edwards on the front row will be Joey Hand in the No. 16 F1 Air BMW M3. Hand clocked a best lap at 1:02.642 (86.779 mph) and will be shooting for his fifth GT-class victory of the season. After co-driving with Justin Marks for the past several races, Hand will be paired with Ian James in Friday's Phoenix GT 250.

"This is the first time I've qualified a car in a long time," Hand said. "It was a little tricky with my buddy Justin (Marks) in a different car. He's good at qualifying, so I was looking to up him. If I upped him, I thought we'd be one-two, but the No. 64 Pontiac is quick. BMWs are good on low, tight tracks like this. We have a good race setup on them. It's all about longevity. It's only a two and three-quarter hour race, but these cars are getting hot and the drivers are getting hot. We'll see what happens. PTG put together a good team."

Hand led the way for BMW Team PTG, which saw three of its cars qualify inside the top-five positions. Marks will start third in the No. 22 BMW Financial Services BMW M3 on the strength of a lap at 1:02.771 (86.601 mph). Marks is paired once again with two-time Rolex Series GT champion Bill Auberlen.

Starting fourth will be Patrick Long in the No. 26 New Century Mortgage Porsche GT3 Cup for AASCO Motorsports. Long turned a best lap at 1:02.830 (86.519 mph) in the car he shares with Pat Flanagan, making it three different manufacturers within the top-four positions.

Tom Milner rounded out the top five on the starting grid with a lap at 1:02.868 (86.467 mph) in the No. 21 BMW Financial Services BMW M3. Milner and co-driver Kelly Collins head into the Phoenix GT 250 looking for their second consecutive win after taking the class win in the EMCO Gears Classic at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

SPEED Channel will televise the Phoenix GT 250 on a tape delay beginning at 12:00 Midnight ET on Friday, September 9.

NEGRI JR. HEADS DAYTONA PROTOTYPE FIELD AFTER THURSDAY PRACTICES

Oswaldo Negri Jr., powering the No. 6 Mears Motor Coach/Graydon Elliott Capital Pontiac Riley, recorded a Daytona Prototype-best 57.302-second lap (94.866 mph) in the second of two practice sessions at Phoenix International Raceway Thursday night. Negri is standing in for regular driver Paul Mears Jr. in the Phoenix 250 (SPEED Channel, 4:00 p.m. ET, Sunday, September 11).

"The car feels pretty strong and it of course feels good to end the day on top," said Negri Jr. "We made some improvements after the first session, and I have been trying to get used to the car because it's different from what I have been driving. I am just excited about getting the chance to be driving with Mike (Borkowski) and to work with Mike Shank and his guys this weekend. Hopefully I can contribute to the effort and we can keep improving tomorrow and get a good spot on the grid to be in a good position for the race."

The two 45-minute sessions saw only five cars record laps below 58 seconds. Daytona Prototype points co-leader Max Angelelli powered his No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley to a second-best lap of 57.602 seconds (94.372 mph). Alex Gurney, who has started from the pole position in two of the last three races (the Porsche 250 at Barber Motorsports Park and the EMCO Gears Classic at Mid-Ohio), was third at 57.793 (94.060 mph) in his No. 99 GAINSCO/Blackhawk Racing Pontiac Riley.

"I'm really happy with the set-up (of the car)," said Angelelli. "We worked on different aspects in each session. I hope it will be a clean race."

Butch Leitzinger, who teamed-up with Elliott-Forbes Robinson to win the EMCO Gears Classic one race ago, ran a fourth-best 57.816 seconds (94.022 mph) in his No. 4 The Boss Snowplow Pontiac Crawford for Howard-Boss Motorsports. Phoenix-native Michael McDowell drove the No. 19 Make A Wish/Air Force Reserve/Commercial Defeasance BMW Riley machine to a 57.980 (57.980 mph) for Finlay Motorsports.

Qualifying for the Phoenix 250 -- Round 11 of the 14-race Daytona Prototype schedule -- will commence at 6:45 p.m. PT Friday evening. The 15-minute qualifying session will succeed the qualifying session for the Luke Air Force Base 200--the Grand-Am Cup Series Grand Sport (GS) class race--and finish in time for the start of the Rolex Series Phoenix GT 250, which takes the green flag at 7:30 p.m. The qualifying session will be the last time the Daytona Prototypes take to the 11-turn, 1.51-mile circuit before Saturday night's race.

The green flag will wave for the Phoenix 250 at 7:00 p.m. PT, Saturday, September 10. The race, a 250.66-mile trek, scheduled to run 166 laps, has a two-hour and 45-minute time limit. SPEED Channel will televise the Phoenix 250 at 4:00 p.m. ET on Sunday, September 11.

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Alex Gurney , Paul Edwards , Jan Magnussen , Butch Leitzinger , Bill Auberlen , Joey Hand , Kelly Collins , Ian James , Michael McDowell , Max Angelelli , Patrick Long , Justin Marks , Paul Mears Jr. , Oswaldo Negri Jr.