Birmingham: GM Racing qualifying report

SunTrust Pontiac On Pole At Barber Banner Racing Pontiac GXP.R to start second in GT Leads, Ala., July 19, 2008 -- The SunTrust Pontiac Daytona Prototype (DP) will start from the pole for tomorrow's running of the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car...

SunTrust Pontiac On Pole At Barber
Banner Racing Pontiac GXP.R to start second in GT

Leads, Ala., July 19, 2008 -- The SunTrust Pontiac Daytona Prototype (DP) will start from the pole for tomorrow's running of the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16. The Banner Racing Pontiac GXP.R of Kelly Collins and Paul Edwards will start from the second position in GT.

Banner Racing's Collins and Edwards lead GT points Collins and Edwards defending Barber GT race winners Stevenson Motorsports' Davis and Liddell closing in on top GT points positions Borcheller in Autohaus Pontiac for rest of schedule Pontiac leading GT manufacturer battle GAISNCO Pontiac drivers Gurney and Fogarty top Pontiac DP team in second Gurney and Fogarty defending Barber DP winners

The heat is proving to be a factor for all of the teams this weekend. With temperatures averaging in the mid-90s it is playing havoc with the track and the cars. With times declining in the afternoon heat the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Dallara driven by Michael Valiante took the pole for tomorrow's race with a time of 1:20.521. Valiante is joined in the 10 with co-driver Max Angelelli. The 2005 series champions are trying to make a late season run at the points standings. They have had a difficult season to date which has included on the track contact as well as a hauler fire which destroyed their first Dallara.

"Like I've said all year, the crew have done such a phenomenal job to provide me and Max a great car," Valiante said. "It's a big event for SunTrust and I was able to go quickly right away due to the car handling so well today. We've been working really hard all weekend long to continue to improve the car, and we hit it just right in qualifying. My laps were pretty clear, I didn't hit any traffic. Maybe there was a tenth or two left, but other than that I was really pleased in qualifying. You know, this year's been so tough for the whole SunTrust team that I'm just keeping my head down and pushing as hard as I can every session. We've just got to keep doing what we've been doing and hopefully we'll have a trouble-free race tomorrow and come away with a win if everything goes well. I think, always in the race, you have to take a calmer approach than you do in qualifying because qualifying is always an all-out attack to try to get the quickest lap time. Here, from what I've found, traffic is unbelievable with the GT cars. It's like they don't even see you. It's going to be a huge challenge just getting by them all race long. That's going to be the most important thing in my opinion."

The No. 76 Krohn Racing Pontiac Lola qualified by Ricardo Zonta will start third. Zonta put in a time of 1:21.257 and will share the second row with the No. 99. Zonta shares the wheel of the green 76 with Nic Jonsson.

"The qualifying result for us was the best this year," Jonsson said. "The track is well suited to our high downforce car. We were no slower than second in the previous practice sessions and Ricardo did a nice job in qualifying. We will need to have a setup on the car that is easy to drive and takes care of the tires. We are racing for another podium position and I hope for the top step of the podium."

Starting fourth in DP will be the GAINSCO Pontiac of Jon Fogarty and Alex Gurney. Fogarty posted a time of 1:21.257 and is the third Pontiac in the front two rows. The duo are currently second in points are hungry to defend their 2007 DP series championship.

"Our biggest issue is that we came off the trailer chasing the set-up," Fogarty said. "We've made improvements and I think we know the direction, but unfortunately this is the one weekend that we don't have a warm up to continue down that path. We are going to go off what we learned, make some adjustments for the race and hopefully it will be enough. We have a good race strategy and having a drivable car will help. There's a lot of racing left to go."

The Cheever Racing Pontiac Coyote of Tom Kimber-Smith and Antonio Garcia qualified eighth with a time of 1:21.825. Kimber-Smith put in the time in the black and gold Crown Royal Cask No. 16 car and will start from the fourth row.

"We had a real good day yesterday," Kimber-Smith said. "We had a good setup on the car right off of the truck. We tried some different things in the morning practice today and we just went the wrong way. We put the setup back under the car from yesterday and made some improvement. I think we may have had a low 21 in the car for qualifying. Antonio and I will have to manage our tires for the race as it will be very hot out there."

Jim Matthews qualified the No. 91 Riley-Matthews Pontiac in 16th. Matthews put in a time of 1:23.785. The team was running on old tires so they can have three fresh sets for the race. Matthews will turn over to teammate Marc Goossens.

"We went out on used tires in qualifying," Matthews said. "We wanted to have three sets for the race as tires will be a premium tomorrow. I think I got all of the speed out of the car on the tires that we had on the car. The track is real busy with the GT traffic. The straights are really just transitions between the turns."

In the second Krohn Racing entry, Tracy Krohn qualified the No. 75 in 18th with a time of 1:24.569. Krohn is teamed with Belgian sportscar legend Eric van de Poele.

"This (Barber) is a good track," Krohn said." "The Lola cars are getting better. There's a good bit of downforce on them. If we can go fast in a straight line for a long time, we have a better chance of succeeding right now. I think we kind of went back to basics for set-up and it seems to be working. We're pleased the 76 car is starting from the third position, especially on this track because it is hard to pass here. We continue to be encouraged because the car keeps improving."

In GT Kelly Collins will start the Banner Racing Pontiac GXP.R No. 07 from the outside front row in second. Collins drove to a time of 1:28.226. Collins and teammate Paul Edwards are the current GT class points leaders.

"We had no radio communication in qualifying," Collins said. "The guys called me in and said I needed about two-tenths for the pole. I went back out and had a good lap going until I caught a slower car in turn 10 and that was it. My fastest lap was my first and then the tires just really go off. The Banner GXP.R is working well and we will have a good car for the race."

The Stevenson Motorsports Pontiac was qualified by Andrew Davis and will go away from the grid in fourth. Davis posted a time of 1:28.971 which will have him starting directly behind the 07. Davis and teammate Robin Liddell are currently third in the GT points standings.

"We struggled for grip in qualifying," Davis said. "The team has been working hard on the setup all day and we just missed the mark a little. We are in the front two rows at the start so that is pretty good from where we were this morning. It will be a hot and low grip track for the race. We will need to keep the tires under the car and have our usual race magic to have a good finish tomorrow."

Tim Lewis Jr. qualified the No. 72 Autohaus Pontiac in seventh with a time of 1:29.468. Lewis shares the red and black GXP.R with Terry Borcheller.

"We are fighting with a lack of front grip," Lewis said. "We made a change late in the qualifying session and that really helped, but by then my tires will a little worn. With new tires I would have been further up the grid. We want to have a consistent car over the stint that is relatively easy on the tires."

The No. 06 Banner Racing Pontiac will come to the green flag from the fifth row. Leighton Reese qualified the yellow and black GXP.R in 11th with a time of 1:30.262. Reese is sharing the seat with Marc Bunting.

"I was expecting to be faster this afternoon," Reese said. "The times were off from what everyone ran this morning. We have a decent car and I will be driving to keep it up front and then hand off to Marc and he can run to the podium. We have the car setup to be very competitive for the final stint. We also have air conditioning, which is our ace in the hole."

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Ricardo Zonta , Alex Gurney , Paul Edwards , Antonio Garcia , Jon Fogarty , Marc Goossens , Eric van de Poele , Michael Valiante , Kelly Collins , Leighton Reese , Max Angelelli , Jim Matthews , Andrew Davis , Marc Bunting , Tom Kimber-Smith , Tracy Krohn , Tim Lewis
Teams Krohn Racing , Stevenson Motorsports