PILGRIM, WHITIS WIN GRAND-AM CONTINENTAL TIRE SPORTS CAR CHALLENGE POLES FOR FRIDAY'S FRESH FROM FLORIDA 200 Two-and-a-half hour race scheduled to start at 1:45 p.m. ET DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 28, 2010) - Andy Pilgrim...
PILGRIM, WHITIS WIN GRAND-AM CONTINENTAL TIRE SPORTS CAR CHALLENGE POLES FOR FRIDAY'S FRESH FROM FLORIDA 200
Two-and-a-half hour race scheduled to start at 1:45 p.m. ET
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 28, 2010) - Andy Pilgrim was scheduled to go to
Brazil on vacation this upcoming weekend. But his plans fell through and the Fall-Line Motorsports team asked the three-time Rolex 24 At Daytona class winner to co-drive with team owner Mark Boden in Friday's Fresh From Florida 200 at Daytona International Speedway.
Fast forward to Thursday. Pilgrim strapped into the No. 46 BMW M3 in place of scheduled rookie driver Brian Kubinski, and promptly won the pole position for the 2010 GRAND-AM Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge season opener in the Grand Sport (GS) class. His time of 1:59.636 (107.125 mph) bested the No. 15 Multimatic Motorsports Ford Boss 302R of Frankie Montecalvo, 1:59.660 (107.103 mph), and put him the top starting spot in his first career series race. Montecalvo will drive with Gunnar Jeannette.
In the Street Tuner (ST) class, Derek Whitis set the fastest qualifying time in the No. 25 Aventura Technologies/PFC Mazda MX-5 he shares with Tom Long. His time of 2:08.736 (99.553 mph) was a tick off of Andrew Aquilante's season-old record of 2:08.694.
Pilgrim briefly drove a BMW M3 E92. In fact, his only prior engagement in the car came during a test session last month with team member Jim Bell, whom Pilgrim drove for in a Daytona Prototype in 2004.
"I got a phone call about five days ago and was asked 'What I was doing?'" Pilgrim said. "They asked if I could come in and I said yes, and it's great to be here."
Having competed in 16 Rolex 24s, Pilgrim said he was happy to return to the 3.56-mile, 12-turn track, a place he said he knows well.
"I love this race," he said after getting out of the car. "I love this track. It's great to be back and I'm looking forward to running."
Aside from Pilgrim's BMW M3, Mustangs dominated the top five. Following Montecalvo's No. 15 were Andrew Caddell in the No. 59 Mustang Challenge Ford Mustang GT at 2:00.068 (106.740 mph), Jack Roush Jr. in the No. 61 Roush Performance Products Ford Mustang GT at 2:00.192 (106.629 mph) and Bob Michaelian in the No. 52 bizrate.com Ford Mustang GT at 2:00.837 (106.060 mph). Reigning class champion Ken Wilden is teaming with Caddell with the expectation of notching the car's 18th consecutive top-10 finish.
The defending race winners, this year in different cars, will see their cars roll off from the fifth row. Matt Bell moved to Stevenson Motorsports and will start ninth in the No. 6 Stevenson Automotive Group/Sunoco Chevrolet Camaro, while Bill Auberlen will climb into the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M3 to replace co-driver Paul Dalla Lana, who qualified 10th.
Whitis earned his first career pole, starting in the same place he finished the 2009 season - at the front. Whitis, who teamed with Long in winning the season finale at Virginia International Raceway last season, was enthused with his team's efforts, especially after it prepped four cars - two MX-5s and two MAZDASPEED3s.
"It's just a great opportunity to come out and represent Mazda and be on the front row," Whitis said. "We've shot for this before, and the guys at Freedom did an awesome job. The biggest thing we do outside of the car is do our best to thank the men and women who serve our country.
"Winning is nice; it certainly beats the heck out of losing," Whitis continued. "Anytime we can drive a Mazda and drive it up front and keep them happy is good. This is one for the team, and we're going to do our best and represent all of the people that got us here."
Following Whitis is veteran David Thilenius, who joins 2009 team champion Compass360 Racing fulltime for the first time. Thilenius set a time of 2:09.205 (99.191 mph) in the No. 74 HPD/Skunk2 Honda Civic Si.
Third was series debutant David White in the No. 80 Performance Friction/RAYS Engineering BMW 328i at 2:09.759 (98.768 mph), followed by Randy Pobst in the No. 49 Irish Mike's Racing Volkswagen Jetta GLI at 2:09.864 (98.688 mph) and Jameson Riley in the No. 66 Riley Mazda/DCC Mazda RX-8 at 2:10.161 (98.463 mph).
The two-and-a-half hour Fresh From Florida 200 will begin at 1:45 p.m. ET Friday. A 45-minute warm-up session begins at 10 a.m.