VIR: Saturday qualifying report

Papis Breaks Track Record En Route to VIR 400 presented by SunTrust Pole Position DANVILLE, Va. (October 2, 2004) -- No. 01 CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley driver Max Papis set a Virginia International Raceway track record with a best...

Papis Breaks Track Record En Route to VIR 400 presented by SunTrust Pole Position

DANVILLE, Va. (October 2, 2004) -- No. 01 CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley driver Max Papis set a Virginia International Raceway track record with a best lap at 1:45.447 (111.639 mph) on his way to the pole position for Sunday's VIR 400 presented by SunTrust (SPEED Channel, Live, 12:00 Noon ET).

It is the fourth-consecutive race that Papis will start from the pole position, the last two of which came based on championship points as a result of qualifying cancellations due to weather. Overall, Papis and co-driver Scott Pruett have gotten the pole in nine out of 10 Rolex Sports Car Series races, tying Dyson Racing Team's 2001 record of poles in a single season between co-drivers Butch Leitzinger and James Weaver. After finishing 10th in the Miami 250 two weeks ago, Papis feels that he and the CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing team have served noticed that they remain the team to beat after today's pole-winning effort.

"We start from now," Papis said. "Miami was a hiccup and unfortunately it cost us a lot (in the points race). It made the championship more interesting, but we are fighters. We are going to prove that in the next three races. We want to win this championship badly for Lexus, for Chip Ganassi, and you saw that today in qualifying.

"Today was mainly a great team effort. We came over here with one focus, and that was getting a very fast race car with a race pace. We didn't focus much on qualifying, and still qualifying was awesome. It's an attitude. Here at Lexus and CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing we are all here for one goal, winning. It's always a psychological advantage to start on the pole position, and I'm glad all the field knows where we stand."

One of the greatest beneficiaries of the No. 01's struggles in Miami was No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Riley owner/driver Wayne Taylor. The South African trailed Papis and Pruett in the Daytona Prototype driver standings by 19 points heading into the Miami 250, but moved to within eight points of the lead (265-257) following a second-place performance in Miami by him and co-driver Max Angelelli.

As he had done in each of the previous three races, Taylor will once again share the front row with Papis in the VIR 400 presented by SunTrust. He starts second after a best qualifying lap of 1:46.210 (110.837 mph).

"We wanted to get out first so we'd be ahead of the traffic," Taylor said. "Being the first car out today meant we were the first to hit the oil spots left from the previous qualifying classes, so I'm afraid I was not that effective. The front row is a good place to start, but it only counts at the checkered flag."

Driving the No. 6 Michael Shank Racing Lexus Doran, Brazilian Oswaldo Negri Jr. equaled his team's best qualifying performance of the season with a third-place effort today. His 1:46.701 (110.327 mph) lap was enough for him to match the No. 6's best starting position which previously came in February's Grand Prix of Miami and the Food City 250 at Phoenix International Raceway in April.

"To be honest, I was hoping for more," Negri said. "I knew we had more in the car. I was very unlucky with traffic. I had to back off on two laps. I just think we could have been on the front row. It was an awesome effort by the team. We are here racing, and that's fantastic. We really struggled to keep going in the championship. I'm just happy that we are here."

Christian Fittipaldi will start fourth in the No. 54 Kodak EasyShare Bell Motorsports Pontiac Doran on the strength of a best qualifying lap at 1:46.807 (110.217 mph). Rounding out the top five on the grid was Darren Law in the No. 58 Red Bull-Brumos Racing Porsche Fabcar at 1:46.958 (110.062 mph). It was the best qualifying performance for the No. 58 since co-driver David Donohue was second on the grid for the Paul Revere 250 presented by Brumos Porsche in July.

MILNER TAKES GT POLE

In his first-ever Rolex Sports Car Series appearance, 18-year-old Tom Milner--son of Prototype Technology Group president and CEO Tom Milner--put the No. 16 PTG BMW M3 on the GT class pole position for the VIR 400 presented by SunTrust thanks to a best lap at 1:54.821 (102.525 mph).

"I followed (PTG teammates) Bill (Auberlen) and Boris (Said) for the first two laps of the session to watch their lines," Milner said. "I am feeling more comfortable in the M3 and am getting better at left-foot braking. I tried my best and everything went well, but this is unbelievable."

In addition to this being Milner's first-ever Rolex Series appearance, it will also be the first race for the No. 16 BMW M3. Starting second in class will be Portugal's Joao Barbosa in the No. 33 Scuderia Ferrari of Washington Maserati Light GT following a best lap of 1:54.934 (102.424 mph). GT points leader Auberlen will start third after a best qualifying lap of 1:54.961 (102.400 mph), while Miami 250 GT winner Kevin Buckler starts fourth on the GT grid with a qualifying lap at 1:56.759 (100.823 mph). Charles Espenlaub rounds out the top five in the No. 23 Horizon Motorsports Pontiac GTO with a best lap of 1:56.823 (100.768 mph).

Boris Said--who enters Sunday's race trailing Auberlen by one point in the GT driver standings--originally had Prototype Technology Group's No. 22 BMW M3 second on the class grid. However, a post-qualifying inspection revealed that the car's rear wing was too high, relegating Said to the rear of the GT grid for the race.

LEVITAS HEATS BACK UP IN SGS; TAKES TOP SPOT IN CLASS

TPC Racing owner and No. 36 TPC Racing Porsche GT3 Cup co-driver Michael Levitas is keeping the heat on his SGS championship-leading teammates Marc Bunting and Andy Lally in the No. 38 TPC Racing Porsche GT3 Cup, as he placed the No. 36 on the Super Grand Sport (SGS) class pole position with a best lap of 2:00.358 (97.808 mph).

Levitas and co-driver Randy Pobst--who started the season with four straight top-two class finishes before enduring a summer swoon of three finishes of eighth place or lower--may be in the midst of another upturn in their fortunes. They took the class victory in the Miami 250 two weeks ago, allowing Levitas to draw to within 16 points of Bunting and Lally (278-262), and today's pole was the first for the No. 36 car since the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen in June.

"Pobst and Levitas are back," Levitas said. "We have been back and actually we never left. We are coming off a win (at Miami) but we are not going to let that go to our heads. We are just going to take these last few races one at a time and do what we know we can do. We came up with a good setup at the last minute and it worked great. Randy (Pobst) and I talked about this early in the weekend, kind of forgot about it and then he said let's try it and it worked. We have a great car."

Bunting will start second in the No. 38 with a best qualifying lap of 2:00.690 (97.539 mph), followed by Cory Friedman in the No. 14 Autometrics Motorsports Porsche GT3 Cup at 2:00.997 (97.292 mph). Wayne Nonnamaker placed the No. 42 ORISON-Planet Earth Motorsports Porsche GT3 Cup fourth on the SGS grid at 2:01.384 (96.981 mph) and Gene Sigal fills out the top five in the No. 04 Grease Monkey Racing Porsche GT3 Cup at 2:01.959 (96.524 mph).

-garra-

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Butch Leitzinger , James Weaver , Boris Said , Max Papis , Christian Fittipaldi , Scott Pruett , Wayne Taylor , Randy Pobst , Kevin Buckler , Andy Lally , David Donohue , Max Angelelli , Joao Barbosa , Charles Espenlaub , Cory Friedman , Marc Bunting , Chip Ganassi , Gene Sigal , Michael Shank
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing , Autometrics Motorsports , Dyson Racing , Michael Shank Racing