Daytona 24: Thursday qualifying report

Luhr Takes First Rolex 24 At Daytona Overall Pole Position for Porsche Since 1990 DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (January 26, 2006) -- With a best qualifying lap more than a second faster than the existing Daytona Prototype track record, Lucas Luhr placed...

Luhr Takes First Rolex 24 At Daytona Overall Pole Position for Porsche Since 1990

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (January 26, 2006) -- With a best qualifying lap more than a second faster than the existing Daytona Prototype track record, Lucas Luhr placed the No. 23 Shred-It Porsche Crawford on the pole position for the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona, which takes the green flag shortly after 12:00 Noon ET on Saturday (SPEED, Saturday, January 28 - 12:00 Noon -- 6:00 p.m. ET and 8:00 -- 11:00 p.m. ET; Sunday, January 29 -- 8:00 a.m. -- 12:30 p.m. ET).

Luhr's lap at 1:44.009 (123.220 mph) represented the first Rolex 24 At Daytona overall pole for a Porsche-powered race car since Bob Wollek earned the top starting position in 1990. The German obliterated Wayne Taylor's previous Daytona Prototype record of 1:45.425 (121.565 mph) established during qualifying for the Brumos Porsche 250 at Daytona International Speedway last June.

"The car was really good and the weather conditions could not have been better for our pole run," Luhr said. "I went out early and was with some fast cars that were behaving and was able to turn a pretty good time. A few laps later when my tires really started to come in, I was held up by a couple of guys. I had a few more tenths in the car and I really would have liked to get back into the 43s (the one-minute, 43-second range) but the pole is a good result. The team has put a lot of work into this car since they received it in November. Since my first laps in this new car, I have been really comfortable. It is easy to drive fast and the Porsche power will be very helpful with all of the traffic come Saturday. We need to focus on getting a good setup on the car so we can maximize our opportunities in traffic."

After defending Rolex 24 At Daytona overall winner Max Angelelli's qualifying time in the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley was disallowed due to a technical infraction, 2003 Indy Racing League IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon moved to the outside of the front row in his No. 02 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley. Dixon's best lap was 1:44.609 (122.513 mph) in the car he shares with 2005 IndyCar Series champion and Indy 500 winner Dan Wheldon and NASCAR standout Casey Mears.

"You know, overall I'm pleased with the car and how far we've come with it this afternoon," Dixon said. "I locked up the front tires and set us back a little so that hurt us. At the start I rolled off behind the No.10 car and was having a good time pressuring him and trying to get into his head to force a mistake. I wanted to get some room to run in the clear but he didn't bite. It's the best starting spot we've had for the Target car at the Rolex 24, so I can't complain."

Starting third will be Alex Gurney in the No. 99 GAINSCO/Blackhawk Racing Pontiac Riley following a best qualifying lap at 1:44.675 (122.436 mph). Gurney's qualifying performance was particularly heroic given the fact that he had crashed the car during the final pre-qualifying practice session, and the second-generation racer will share the No. 99 machine with 1996 Champ Car World Series champion Jimmy Vasser, Rocky Moran Jr. and car owner Bob Stallings in the twice-around-the-clock race.

"My practice crash was very disappointing," Gurney said. "In fact, I felt a little silly doing that on the first day of practice for an endurance race. I was struggling with a gearbox issue and it caught me out. The entire team did an outstanding job coming together to put the car back together, which gave me the opportunity to come back and give it another shot. I felt all I needed was one good clean lap - but that almost didn't happen, a couple good ones were ruined by traffic - or a Porsche spinning in front of me! We put the pieces together to get a good starting spot, and I think that's more important than it would appear to be for an endurance race. A lot of mayhem can happen early on, and the closer we are to the front, the better chance we have of staying out of trouble, keeping our noses clean and going the distance."

Less than 24 hours after he was named to drive the No. 78 Doran Racing Ford Doran, two-time and defending Champ Car champion Sebastien Bourdais placed the car fourth on the starting grid with a lap at 1:44.691 (122.417 mph). Bourdais' co-drivers for the Rolex 24 are BJ Zacharias and 1988 Rolex 24 At Daytona overall winner Raul Boesel.

Rounding out the top five on the starting grid was Oswaldo Negri Jr. in the No. 60 Flight Options Lexus Riley for Michael Shank Racing. Negri's best lap was a 1:44.771 (122.436 mph) in the machine he shares with regular co-driver Mark Patterson and Champ Car aces A.J. Allmendinger and Justin Wilson.

For the second consecutive year, Germany's Wolf Henzler earned the GT class pole position for the Rolex 24 At Daytona. Henzler clocked a best lap at 1:53.336 (113.080 mph) in the No. 72 NEC/Rembrandt Charms Porsche GT3 for Tafel Racing that he will co-drive in the race with Robin Liddell, Johannes van Overbeek and Graham Rahal. Henzler enters the race having earned GT class victories in each of his previous two Rolex Series starts.

"I must say, the whole team did a great job considering my pole and my teammate Andrew Davis qualified second," Henzler said. "It feels very good, but it does not mean I will win the race. I have a good car and good co-drivers, so I am very happy about that."

The Tafel Racing team swept the GT front row, as Davis posted a best lap at 1:53.461 (112.955 mph) in the No. 74 NEC Rembrandt Charms Porsche GT3. Davis will co-drive in the race with Eric Lux, Charles Espenlaub, Mike Cawley and team owner Jim Tafel. The No. 72 and No. 74 machines are the only GT cars with locked-in starting positions, with a second round of qualifying for positions 31 and lower slated for Friday.


In a news conference at Daytona International Speedway today, Porsche Motorsport North America President Uwe Brettel joined Grand American Road Racing Association President Roger Edmondson to announce that, for the first time, Porsche-powered Daytona Prototype drivers will be eligible for the prestigious Porsche Cup.

"Especially over the last 12 months, Porsche and Grand American have been working very well together in order to get our engine into more Daytona Prototypes," Brettel said. "As you can see out there, we're now in three different chassis, we'll be in four chassis from Miami on. We give the recognition to Grand American, they do a great job. Looking at our Porsche Cup winners from 1970 to 2005, lots of the winners of the Porsche Cup have also won at Daytona. Obviously, there's a great link."

The year-end award, which honors the world's best "privateer" Porsche driver, has been annually presented since 1970. Recent Rolex Series drivers to have earned the honor include current TRG owner Kevin Buckler (2002), No. 83 Farnbacher Loles/Orbit Racing Porsche GT3 driver Mike Fitzgerald (2000) and two-time Rolex Series GT champion Cort Wagner (1999), among a list of sports car racing legends such as Bob Wollek, John Fitzpatrick and Klaus Ludwig. Previously, for drivers to be eligible for the Porsche Cup, their car's chassis and engine needed to be manufactured by Porsche.

"Porsche has been the mainstay of our GT category since 2000, our first season," Edmondson said. "When we came out with the Daytona Prototypes, the first car that we announced was the Brumos Porsche-powered Prototype. Porsche has been involved with the Daytona Prototype since the beginning, but moving now to where we are included in the standings for Porsche owners and Porsche competitors all around the world is a major step for us, and for Porsche. We consider that a real stamp of approval for Grand American, and we're grateful to Porsche for all of their support. We're looking forward to a terrific season."


Playboy Racing today unveiled a multi-partner, multi-car deal for the 2006-2008 Rolex Series and Grand-Am Cup Series in a news conference. The six-car effort will include sponsorship of three Daytona Prototypes and three Grand-Am Cup Series Grand Sport (GS) machines.

Playboy has partnered with Uniden Electronics, The Palms Resort & Casino and Vonage to sponsor the No. 19 Playboy/Uniden/Palms Ford Crawford Daytona Prototype to be co-driven in the Rolex 24 At Daytona by Memo Gidley, Michael McDowell and IndyCar driver Alex Barron with Finlay Motorsports and the No. 89 Playboy/Vonage/Palms Pontiac Riley shared by Ryan Dalziel, Alex Figge, Jon Fogarty and David Empringham in the Rolex 24 for Pacific Coast Motorsports. The No. 53 Playboy Pontiac Riley will debut in Round 2 at Mexico City and will be driven by Tommy Constantine, who is the CEO of TCR, Playboy Racing's agency of record, and a driver to be named.

In the Grand-Am Cup Series, Constantine and Mike Borkowski will share the No. 35 Playboy Nissan 350Z, with Blake Rosser and David Murry sharing the No. 33 Playboy Nissan 350Z, with both cars operating from the Unitech Racing stable. Rob Finlay and Michael McDowell will co-drive the No. 15 Playboy/Palms Ford Mustang GT for Finlay Motorsports.

"Obviously, this is a big deal for all of us," Constantine said. "We've packaged deals to these sponsors where they're not only a sponsor on a car but also participating in the hospitality and entertainment platforms that we're providing and also different direct marketing opportunities."


As part of a unique race car unveiling on the famed Daytona International Speedway frontstretch, No. 2 Callaway Golf Pontiac Crawford co-drivers Rusty Wallace, Danica Patrick, Allan McNish and Jan Lammers were provided with the rare opportunity to use the grass between the tri-oval and pit lane as the "fairway" for a chipping competition by Daytona International Speedway President Robin Braig.

While McNish earned a GT1 class victory in the 1998 Rolex 24 At Daytona and Lammers is a two-time overall winner (1988 and 1990), both Wallace and Patrick will be making their first appearances in the twice-around-the-clock classic this weekend.

"I'm really excited about this series," said Wallace, the 1989 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup champion. "I really think this series is growing to be the number one road racing series in the world, I honestly think that. You look around the garage area and see all the talent lined up. These guys are really good. They are fabulous drivers, and I've learned a lot. One of the biggest things I am excited about is having Callaway Golf on the side of the car. The car looks fabulous. It reminds me of the old Batmobile when I look at it. It's got some wicked looking lines on it. It looks great. The next big perk is the teammates we've got. They are fabulous and they have proved themselves on and off the track."

"It's such a historic race," added Patrick, who earned IRL IndyCar Series and Indy 500 Rookie of the Year honors in 2005. "There is so much history, just like the Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500. It's one of those races that everybody knows about. It's really great for us drivers, because it's in such an off-season that we can test and race. That opportunity to be there in January is fortunate for people like myself and a lot of others whose seasons haven't started yet. I think it's a fun race and something different. We'll see how my night vision is."


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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Jan Lammers , Rusty Wallace , Alex Gurney , Ryan Dalziel , Justin Wilson , Allan McNish , Casey Mears , Jimmy Vasser , Raul Boesel , Scott Dixon , Jon Fogarty , David Murry , Graham Rahal , Rocky Moran Jr. , Alex Barron , Dan Wheldon , Kevin Buckler , Klaus Ludwig , Michael McDowell , David Empringham , Sébastien Bourdais , Max Angelelli , Johannes van Overbeek , John Fitzpatrick , Alex Figge , Charles Espenlaub , Andrew Davis , Mike Borkowski , Oswaldo Negri Jr. , Chip Ganassi , Blake Rosser , Mark Patterson , Wolf Henzler , Jim Tafel , Bob Wollek , Eric Lux , Rob Finlay , Bob Stallings , Michael Shank , Tommy Constantine , Danica Patrick , Cort Wagner
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing , Doran Racing , Michael Shank Racing