VIR: GM Racing qualifying report

SunTrust Pontiac On Pole At VIR Banner Pontiac GXP.R Sent to back of GT grid Alton, Virginia., April 26, 2008 -- The SunTrust Pontiac Daytona Prototype (DP) qualified by Michael Valiante will start on pole for round four of the Grand-Am Rolex ...

SunTrust Pontiac On Pole At VIR
Banner Pontiac GXP.R Sent to back of GT grid

Alton, Virginia., April 26, 2008 -- The SunTrust Pontiac Daytona Prototype (DP) qualified by Michael Valiante will start on pole for round four of the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 to be run at Virginia International Raceway (VIR) tomorrow afternoon. The qualifying order was changed after post race inspection, sending the original pole sitting 01 Lexus Riley and the GAINSCO Pontiac 99 to the back of the grid for a rear wing violation. In addition, the front row starting Banner Pontiac of Kelly Collins was also relegated to the back row based on a ride height violation.

The SunTrust team feverishly rebuilt the front of the No. 10 Dallara following a heavy hit in Mexico City just seven days ago. Valiante had the wheel for qualifying and put down a time of 1:43.329 good for what became the pole position. Valiante is teamed with past Grand-Am champion Max Angelelli.

"I think it's a big, big accomplishment for this team because a week ago this car didn't even have four wheels on it," Valiante said. "The crew guys did a great job and the car's been great ever since we rolled it off the trailer, which was encouraging to them because they put so much time into it. Considering this car is so new and we haven't even had a full test day, it's a huge accomplishment for the SunTrust team. During the session, I actually went off once because I was pushing so hard with it being such an important race for SunTrust. I gave it everything I had trying to get everything I could out of the car. It's a great day for SunTrust. It's a great accomplishment for SunTrust to be on the pole, so I'm quite pleased."

"It's challenging (at the start) here because it's one of those tracks where you can get stranded on the outside," Valiante said on inheriting pole position. "I think being on the pole, now, changes everything. Again, a great result for the team with such a short amount of time to prepare since Mexico. Now I don't have to be worried about starting on the outside. It's great. The team deserves it after all it's been through. It's amazing. I'm happy for them."

Jon Fogarty, in the No. 99 GAINSCO Pontiac, will start from the back of the field negating their original qualifying time of 1:43.556, which would have had them starting third. Fogarty and teammate Alex Gurney are currently third in points are looking for their first win of the season.

"We put our best foot forward, but we just came up short," Fogarty said. "If I optimized everything we could have gone to the front row, but I don't think the pole was ours today. It was a real good time by the 01 guys. I was able to backup my quick times. So it is consistently a front runner, which is a good thing. We definably know where we can make the car a little bit better, so we can go back and Kyle (Brannan) and Alex and I will work toward that goal and have an even better race car for tomorrow. "In the No. 76 Krohn Racing Pontiac, Nic Jonsson will start sixth with a time of 1:45.011. Jonsson and teammate Ricardo Zonta are coming off of a podium finish in Mexico City with their new Lola.

"We have been struggling in qualifying with the new Lola," Jonsson said. "We have had a better car for the race, at least I hope that remains true for tomorrow. We are just as fast as the cars around us in the turns, but we are losing time in a straight line. The car is real stable and confident to drive. We will look forward to the race and hope for a good car like we had in Mexico City."

In the companion No. 75 Krohn Racing Lola, team owner Tracy Krohn will start from the eighth row based on his time of 1:48.406. Krohn is teamed with Eric van de Poele.

"The car was better than in practice this afternoon," Krohn said. "I didn't have as much rear grip as I would have liked. We just seem to suffer a little with our straight line speed. We have had good race cars at Homestead and Mexico City so Eric and I will look forward to the drop of the green."

The hot Pontiac team of Jim Matthews and Marc Goossens are trying to add a second win to their season. The winners from Mexico City will start tomorrow's race from the sixth row based upon Matthews time of 1:45.960.

"The car was pretty good," Matthews said. "If you're not on pole you wish you would have gone faster. The track was a little greasy from the heat, compared to earlier this afternoon. I went quicker than in practice so that is a credit to the guys. We always have a better race car. Marc and I will try and put together another win like last weekend."

Kelly Collins in the No. 07 Banner Pontiac GXP.R originally posted a time that had him starting from the front row in second position. During post qualifying inspection Grand-Am officials found the 07 too low and disallowed the time of 1:53.463. Collins will have to start from the back of the 26 car GT field tomorrow. Collins will hand over to Paul Edwards. The duo are currently the GT points leaders.

"It was nearly impossible to get a clean lap," Collins said. "There were a lot of slow cars and a few that were blocking. We found out that the sway bar had been backing out of adjustment during practice which made the car real darty. So I dialed in a few turns and the handling really came back. My tires were pretty shot by the time I was able to get a clear lap, which was my last one. The ride height violation is tough. We will put new tires on the car and rage from the back."

In the Stevenson Motorsport No. 57, Andrew Davis continued the team's excellent qualifying efforts with a second place starting position. Davis put in a time of 1:53.580. Davis shares the red, white and blue GXP.R with Robin Liddell. This is the second race of the season that the 57 has started from the front row.

"The car was good for qualifying," Davis said. "I was pushing hard to find the time. It was tough to get a gap and put in a good time. With this group you have to have a perfect lap to get on pole. We are second. We should be on the pole. I was happy with the consistency of the car. I was able to put in four consecutive 53s. We're starting from the front row which is a good thing at VIR."

Tim Lewis Jr. drove the No. 72 Autohaus GXP.R to a fifth row starting position. Lewis put in a lap of 1:54.573. Lewis and teammate Lawson Ascehbach are looking to improve on their seasons best fourth place finish in Mexico City.

"We have a solid car," Lewis said. "I had a lot of traffic and there were guys going off in front of me. I had another car nearly park ahead of me in the esses. It was tough to get a clean lap and I really didn't. We had a better car than that. I am looking forward to the race."

Leighton Reese, team owner and driver, of the No. 06 Banner Pontiac will start from row six. Reese put in a time of 1:55.218. Reese is teamed this weekend with 2006 GT champion Marc Bunting.

"The car is handling really good," Reese said. "We made huge improvements since this morning. I was two-and-a-half seconds faster than last year. Some of that time is from the tires and a lot from the chassis work we have been doing. Traffic was an issue. I tried to get a gap with Kelly early and then two cars got between us and went slower. On my best lap I had to pass two cars between turns two and three off line. So there was more in the car than a 12th place starting spot."

PR1Motorsports Patrick Barrett put up a time of 1:55.739 that will see him race to the green from the seventh row. The team is running their GXP.R in only their second Grand-Am event. Barrett is partnered with Mike Forest.

"I started the weekend off pretty good for my first Grand-Am weekend." Barrett said. "I just couldn't get a clean lap. The last three laps when my tires were ready I couldn't get a break in traffic. I have the track down 80-90%, I just need to work on maximizing the car in a few more corners."

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Nic Jönsson
Teams Krohn Racing