Puerto Rico: Qualifying notes

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - Although he only turned two timed laps, Scott Pruett made the best of his short time at the Isla Grande Airport circuit Saturday by winning the pole for Sunday's Puerto Rico Grand Prix, Round 11 and the season finale for...

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - Although he only turned two timed laps, Scott Pruett made the best of his short time at the Isla Grande Airport circuit Saturday by winning the pole for Sunday's Puerto Rico Grand Prix, Round 11 and the season finale for the 2003 Motorock Trans-Am Tour for the BFGoodrich Tires Cup championship. Pruett, driver of the No. 7 Motorock/Jaguar R Performance XKR, recovered from an early stuck throttle, took one warm-up lap late in the session, then turned in a 1:05.471-minute lap at 87.978 miles per hour to nab his ninth pole this season.

Rookies Bobby Sak (No. 10 Revolution Motorsports Chevrolet Corvette) and Jorge Diaz, Jr. (No. 8 Don Q Rum Jaguar XKR), timed second and third, respectively. Michael Lewis (No. 12 Westward Tools Available at Grainger Jaguar XKR) and Randy Ruhlman (No. 49 Preformed Line Products/COYOTE Closures Chevrolet Corvette) completed the top five.

Pruett's 29th career pole gave him sole possession of second on the all-time Trans-Am fast qualifiers list. Pruett came into this race tied with team owner Paul Gentilozzi.

"The throttle stuck in turn nine," said Pruett of his early off. "I was glad to have had the forethought to get my foot underneath the pedal to get it stopped. The throttle was stuck pretty hard. We only really got two flying laps out there. It went better than I expected. My hat is off to the Rocketsports team and Jaguar."

Pruett also gave Jaguar's new four-valve, overhead-cam, fuel-injected AJ-V8 its first pole. Pruett is running the new stock-block engine for the first time in race trip this weekend.

"It's been a challenging weekend," said Pruett. "Yesterday we cracked an oil pan. You have to realize all of the work that goes into these engines. Many of the parts are hand fabricated, and the oil pan was one of those parts. We had to change engines, and couldn't get out in the second practice yesterday. But everyone dug in deep, and we put the Jaguar on the pole, and gave the AJ-V8 engine its first pole.

"It's actually very special to win the pole with the new engine," said Pruett. "It's also special to win it in Puerto Rico. I was trying to get out of the pit area and there were so many people there, I couldn't move and that's great. Some events, we don't have that many spectators. This is going to be one heck of a show.

Sak held his place in the rookie battle with his one bonus point. Diaz merely needs to finish 17th or better to clinch the rookie title here.

"All I know is I have to go out there and win," said Sak. "That's what I'm going to do. I thought I had the pole out there, but then Scott blistered one out there. The car was really good until the cool-down lap, when something in the suspension broke, but it's fixable. The Corvette was great and the CRD engine was super fast."

"I was hoping to be sitting in the center seat, but I'll take third place," said Diaz. "We're (Diaz and Sak) sitting on both sides of the old guy. We thought we had a little bit of an advantage on Scott, but we didn't. We're trying to win the Rookie of the Year Championship, and Bobby didn't gain any ground, so that's good."

The Puerto Rico Grand Prix, Round 11 and the season finale for the Motorock Trans-Am Tour for the BFGoodrich Tires Cup, is scheduled to start at 2 p.m. Atlantic Time tomorrow. It will air LIVE on SPEED Channel at 1 p.m. EST.

-ta-

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Series TRANSAM