Watkins Glen: Friday report

Rockenfeller Leads Practice Day for Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (June 2, 2006) -- On a day that included three practice sessions but no qualifying owing to Thursday's legal action, which prevented Daytona Prototypes from...

Rockenfeller Leads Practice Day for Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (June 2, 2006) -- On a day that included three practice sessions but no qualifying owing to Thursday's legal action, which prevented Daytona Prototypes from practicing, German hotshoe Mike Rockenfeller posted the quickest lap in the final session in preparation for Saturday's Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen (SPEED, Live, 2:30 p.m.).

Rockenfeller posted a lap at 1:45.466 (116.056 mph) in the No. 23 Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team Porsche Crawford to lead both the evening session and the day overall. As the starting grid was set based on team points, Rockenfeller will start fifth for the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen in the car he is sharing with American co-driver Patrick Long. The duo is looking for its third feature race victory of the season.

"We missed a lot of practice yesterday and this our first time here with this car," Rockenfeller said. "Like usual, we are working on the setup of the car to be as good as possible in the race. The track really has every kind of turn except a first gear hairpin. The banked, high speed turns are really fun to drive. Patrick and I are up to speed on the circuit and now we are making the small adjustments to the car so we can run at the front for six hours tomorrow. If we can have a trouble free run mechanically, I am confident we can return to our winning form."

Second-quickest on the day was Ryan Dalziel in the No. 89 Playboy/Vonage/Palms Casino Pontiac Riley with a lap at 1:45.596 (115.913 mph) also in the evening session. Dalziel and his Pacific Coast Motorsports co-driver Alex Figge head into the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen on the strength of Rolex Series career-best results with a second-place run three weeks ago in the GAINSCO Grand Prix at Phoenix International Raceway. Dalziel will start 12th in Saturday's race.

"We're happy, but it was a tough day," Dalziel said. "I think that everybody had a tough day. We made the most of the conditions and we're coming off a good run at Phoenix so we've got some momentum. To be honest, we just made small changes to the car because it was quick right off the truck. We're a little disappointed that we're starting on championship points, because our car is much quicker than that, but in a six-hour race, it doesn't really matter where you start. We're stoked."

Oswaldo Negri Jr. turned in the day's third-quickest time with a lap at 1:45.711 (115.787 mph) in the No. 60 Flight Options Lexus Riley for Michael Shank Racing. Negri is returning to Rolex Series competition after missing the GAINSCO Grand Prix due to a one-race suspension for causing a multi-car accident in the qualifying race at Phoenix. Negri will co-drive the No. 60 machine with Mark Patterson, and will start eighth in the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen.

"I'm thankful that Grand-Am gave us the track time tonight to make up for what we lost yesterday," said Negri. "I have a great group of people behind me with Michael Shank Racing, and this is a good way to finish out the day today. The Flight Options car was fast right off the truck, and we have just been fine-tuning it. It's just a shame that we didn't get to qualify today, but it's a long race and we should be in great shape."

Christian Fittipaldi was fourth-quickest in the No. 39 Crown Royal Special Reserve/Cheever Racing Porsche Crawford with a lap at 1:45.868 (115.616 mph). Fittipaldi is sharing the car this weekend with owner/driver Eddie Cheever Jr. and the duo is joined by a new co-driver for the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen, 2001 Toyota Atlantic champion Hoover Orsi. Fittipaldi starts 14th in the race.

Michael McDowell rounded out the top five with a lap at 1:45.901 (115.580 mph) in the No. 19 Playboy/Uniden Racing Ford Crawford. McDowell has been rejoined by regular co-driver Memo Gidley--who missed the last three races due to injuries sustained in practice at Long Beach--and will start second on Saturday. Guy Cosmo, who filled-in for Gidley, has also been entered as a third driver for the No. 19 machine.

Daytona Prototype points co-leader Scott Pruett will start the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen from the pole position in the No. 01 CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing. Pruett is once again sharing the car with Luis Diaz, with whom he also shares the points lead, and turned in the 10th-quickest lap of the day at 1:46.377 (115.062 mph). The top-10 cars in practice turned laps within one second of the leader.

"It's kind of hard to say what would have happened had we ran the qualifying session, but the CompUSA team was focused on running race setups during practice" Pruett said. "With full fuel loads and changes here and there, I think it's realistic to believe we would have been in the top three either way. With that being said, I still think the biggest question mark for the race tomorrow is weather. We haven't seen a drop of rain here yet, and that could obviously change the complexion of the six hours."

LIDDELL TOPS GT SPEED CHARTS FOR SAHLEN'S SIX HOURS OF THE GLEN

Scotland's Robin Liddell turned a lap at 1:56.914 (104.692 mph) in the No. 72 NEC Porsche GT3 midway through the evening practice session at Watkins Glen International to top the Grand Touring class speed charts in preparation for Saturday's Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen.

Liddell and co-driver Wolf Henzler currently sit in a tie for third in the current GT driver standings, 17 points behind No. 65 TRG/F1 Air Pontiac GTO.R co-drivers Andy Lally and Marc Bunting (314-297). Henzler is the defending race winner in the GT class, and Liddell--driving with Andrew Davis and team owner Jim Tafel to a fourth-place GT finish in last year's six-hour race--briefly battled with now-teammate Henzler on the 3.37-mile, 11-turn circuit for the lead in the 2005 event.

"Wolf and I had a great battle for the lead last year," said Liddell, who hasn't finished lower than sixth all season with Henzler. "Our car was leading at the two-hour mark, and we were nose-to-tail out there for quite a while. Unfortunately, an incident later in the race left us having to make up ground to finish fourth. Wolf is certainly a great driver, and together, I think we have a pretty good chance here this weekend. This team has worked real hard to put together a good package, both for wet and dry conditions. Tomorrow's race is going to be full of great drivers and great race cars, and I'm looking forward to it."

The 32-year-old Scot lowered his best lap time nearly each time past the start/finish stripe during his stint in the evening session, posting a lap 0.442 seconds better than the next-best time, a 1:57.356 (104.298 mph) by Paul Edwards in the No. 64 TRG/iRise Pontiac GTO.R.

Edwards and co-driver Kelly Collins are only one point behind Liddell and Henzler in the championship chase, and are riding a six-race stretch of top-four class finishes. The run includes victories at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City, the Linder Industrial Komatsu Grand Prix of Miami at Homestead-Miami Speedway and in the GAINSCO Grand Prix at Phoenix International Raceway two races ago.

"The surface here at Watkins Glen is pretty darn smooth," said Edwards, who teamed with Jan Magnussen to claim the GT class victory in last year's CompUSA 200 at The Glen. "With its long straightaways and smooth ride, it is pretty comparable to Mexico City and VIR. We've had some pretty good success this year, and hopefully tomorrow won't be any different. The team has done a good job preparing this car all year."

Third-fastest on the day was David Murry in the No. 80 Shoes For Crews Porsche GT3 with a lap time of 1:57.475 (104.192 mph) for Synergy Racing. Murry, who finished runner-up to then-teammate Craig Stanton in the 2005 GT championship, has finished inside the class top-eight positions with co-driver Leh Keen in each of the last six races. Spencer Pumpelly was fourth-fastest in the No. 35 Turbo Performance Center Porsche GT3 with a best lap at 1:57.576 (104.103 mph), and points co-leader Andy Lally rounded out the top five in the No. 65 TRG/F1 Air Pontiac GTO.R with a lap at 1:57.752 (103.947 mph).

-garra-

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Ryan Dalziel , Paul Edwards , Jan Magnussen , Eddie Cheever , Memo Gidley , Christian Fittipaldi , Scott Pruett , David Murry , Robin Liddell , Hoover Orsi , Guy Cosmo , Kelly Collins , Luis Diaz , Andy Lally , Michael McDowell , Patrick Long , Alex Figge , Spencer Pumpelly , Andrew Davis , Craig Stanton , Oswaldo Negri Jr. , Marc Bunting , Chip Ganassi , Mike Rockenfeller , Mark Patterson , Wolf Henzler , Jim Tafel , Lehman Keen , Michael Shank
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing , HART , Michael Shank Racing