ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Scott Pruett won the Jaguar Pole for Sunday's Trans-Am Series for the BFGoodrich Tires Cup race, part of the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Saturday.
Pruett, driving the No. 7 Jaguar R Performance Jaguar XKR, lapped the 1.806-mile 14-turn temporary combined street and airport course in 1:14.545 minutes at an average speed of 85.961 miles per hour to record his 21st career pole.
Pruett's teammate and car owner, Paul Gentilozzi (No. 3 Jaguar R Performance Jaguar XKR), was second fastest at 85.944 mph, ahead of fellow Rocketsports Racing driver Johnny Miller, who ripped off a 85.222-mph effort on the final lap of his qualifying session.
Boris Said qualified fourth in the No. 33 Menard's Ford Mustang, but will be forced to start at the back of the grid due to a rules infraction found in post-qualifying technical inspection. Said's teammate, Paul Menard, will start next to Said.
Stu Hayner (No. 2 Trenton Forging Chevrolet Corvette) was elevated to fourth as a result of the penalty, while Tomy Drissi (No. 5 Phone Booth The Movie Jaguar XKR) will start fifth Sunday.
Pruett became the first winner of the Jaguar Pole Award, a performance-based initiative that rewards drivers who win the pole at each of the Trans-Am Series' 11 events this season. Pruett, who won his most recent pole during his last full Trans-Am season in 1994, received a key, which, at the culmination of the season, he will use to attempt to open the door to a 2004 Jaguar XK8. If the key opens the vehicle, Pruett will win a one-year lease on the car.
"It was good that Jaguar is continuing on with the tradition they've already put in place," said Pruett, who won the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in 1987 and is the only defending winner in the field. "It's easy for a driver when you have a good car. I was finding my way during that first (practice) session, kind of like a good old rusty nail, but yesterday afternoon we started feeling more confident. Hopefully we can keep that roll going.
"It's fun to be back, especially with Jaguar. My heritage goes back a long time with them, back to the early 1990s with Tom Walkinshaw. It's good to be back."
Pruett further credited spec tire supplier BFGoodrich for his fast lap. "I have to couple the car with what BFGoodrich has done with the radial," said Pruett. "The last time I ran here was on bias-ply tires from a different manufacturer. I have to believe that has a lot to do with the pole."
Gentilozzi said having his team around him at the start of the race will bode well when the green flag waves.
"This is a team," said Gentilozzi, who recently announced he would help develop Jaguar's new AJ-V8 four-valve fuel injected engine. "Each driver's objective is to win, but respect each other. When you're one, two and three, you just try to get through the first turn and settle into a rhythm. The race isn't won until the last lap. I'm sure it's going to be a good race."
Miller, who brushed the wall during Friday practice, slowly built up speed during the session, culminating in his last-lap charge.
"We were going in so many different directions with the car," said Miller. "We made some radical changes. They worked. I had to make a few laps to make sure I was confident. We hit the wall yesterday and had to put on a lot of spare parts last night. I kind of snuck up on it. I think we're on to something and we're getting closer. As a team we worked together, and that showed."
The Trans-Am Series race is scheduled to start at 4 p.m. Sunday, following the Champ Car World Series. The race will be aired on a same-day tape-delayed basis on SPEED Channel at 5:30 p.m.
-scca pro racing/trans am-