Scott Pruett’s drive for a record-tying fifth overall victory in the Rolex 24 At Daytona could not have a better start. The five-time Daytona Prototype champion in the Rolex Sports Car Series won the TOTAL Pole Award on Thursday as the fastest qualifier for the opening race of the 2013 season.
Pruett, in the No. 01 TELMEX/Target Chip Ganassi Racing BMW/Riley, earned the pole with a lap of 1:40.553 (127.455 mph). It was his third career Rolex 24 pole – the first since 2005 – and 15th of his Rolex Series career. A victory this weekend would move Pruett into a tie with Hurley Haywood for the most overall wins in the Rolex 24.
Scott Dixon made it a Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates sweep of the front row with a lap of 1:40.646 (127.337 mph) in the No. 02 Target/TELMEX BMW/Riley while Dane Cameron made it a BMW/Riley sweep of the top three positions with a lap of 1:41.213 in the No. 42 Team Sahlen entry.
“I’ve been very fortunate to have as many chances as I have had,” Pruett said. “If it’s meant to be, then it will be. Short of contact, we can run these cars really hard. We’ve shown over the last three years that we can run an aggressive, sprint pace. We have to be careful about getting caught up in someone else’s mistakes. It will be an epic race, for sure. I drive through the gates here and still get goosebumps.”
Nick Tandy led a sweep of the top three spots in GT qualifying with a lap of 1:47.631 (119.074 mph) in the No. 32 Konrad Motorsport/Orbit Porsche GT3. The reigning Porsche Cup winner was 0.197 seconds clear of Andy Lally – last year’s GT race-winner – in Magnus Racing’s No. 44 Porsche GT3.
Tandy dismissed the notion that qualifying on pole position means nothing in a 24-hour race.
“I learned this last year when we didn’t have a particularly good qualifying effort that you’re always chasing the race,” he said. “You’re more likely to get caught up in accidents. You get caught by the DP leaders more quickly. This way, you can relax for an hour or two and not overstress the car or tires. It lets you get off to a nice, relaxed – if you can call it relaxed – start of the race.”
Sean Edwards qualified third for MOMO/NGT Motorsport in the No. 32 Porsche GT3 at 1:48.007 (118.659 mph).
Shane Lewis is in the record books as the first pole winner in GX. He set a time of 1:54.606 (111.827 mph) in Napleton Racing’s No. 16 Porsche Cayman. The class was announced in November, and Lewis credited the Napleton crew’s work to build a new car from the ground up in a matter of weeks.
“The pole position here wasn’t for me or anyone else except the hard hours that these guys put in to get this car ready,” he said. “The GX cars handle extremely well in the infield, and it’s not like we are running very slow. We have to be mindful of the DP and GT cars, and their capabilities. It’s a good class and I think will add a lot to the race.”
Ryan Eversley qualified second at 1:58.221 (108.407 mph) in the No. 38 BGB Motorsports Porsche Cayman. Andrew Carbonell was third for Freedom Autosport/SpeedSource in its No. 25 Mazda 6 at 2:00.740 (106.145 mph).
The 51st Rolex 24 at Daytona is set for 3:30 p.m. ET on Saturday. SPEED’s live coverage begins at 3 p.m.