Grand-Am Rolex Series Opening Practice

Goossens Leads Thursday’s Grand-Am Rolex Series Opening Practice for Session at Infineon Raceway

Belgian driver posts a lap of 1:26.995 as No. 91 Pontiac Riley team looks to get back on track

Marc Goossens was fastest in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 Daytona Prototype opening practice for the Armed Forces Grand-Am 250 Thursday at Infineon Raceway, running a lap of 1:26.995 (102.213 mph) in the No. 91 Riley-Matthews Motorsports Pontiac Riley.

And the Belgian hopes that initial speed will translate into a strong qualifying run Friday, with the 15-minute qualifying session beginning at 4:30 p.m. Round 13 of the 250-mile (102-lap) or two-hour and 45-minute race will take the green flag at 3:21 p.m. PT Saturday. The race, showcasing the Rolex Series Daytona Prototype class, will be televised on SPEED at 3 p.m. Sunday.

Goossens and co-driver Jim Matthews won earlier in the season at Mexico City - one which was part of five consecutive top-10 finishes that boosted them to second in the team point standings - but they have only one top-10 finish in the last six races.

"Unfortunately, we don't get any points for leading practice, so we hope to be there on Saturday afternoon," said Goossens after the two-hour session. "We know we're strong, but in the last couple of races we haven't have luck on our side. We had a good session. The car wasn't that good at the beginning, but we worked on it and put ourselves on top of the time sheets."

Michael Valiante also had a strong showing, running a lap of 1:27.180 (101.996 mph) in the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Dallara that has yet to win a race this season. Valiante set his car's fastest lap only five circuits into a 43-lap session. The SunTrust team has started from the pole three times this year - twice by Valiante and once by Max Angelelli - and the team's best finish was third in the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen.

"The car is good, and the team has done a great job to give us a great car right out of the box," Valiante said. "Now we can use the precious track time to learn more about the car. We haven't won this year, but everyone seems to lose the fact that we came out with a brand-new car. We've shown that we're fast enough to win, but it's a brand new car and we haven't been to any of these tracks with it before. I think we're ready to win."

Third, with a lap of 1:27.374 (101.769 mph), was Scott Pruett of nearby Auburn, Calif., in the No. 01 TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Pontiac Riley. He and Memo Rojas have won six races this season and hold a 49-point lead in the championship standings, but are coming off their worst outing of the campaign - 13th in the Crown Royal 200 at Watkins Glen International.

"Every time we get a setback, that helps us focus and put everything together," Rojas said. "We always work hard, but a setback helps us to refocus. Hopefully, it will help us here, as well."

Nic Jonsson was fourth in the No. 76 Krohn Racing Pontiac Lola at 1:27.521 (101.521 mph), followed by Bill Auberlen in the No. 23 Ruby Tuesday Porsche Riley at 1:27.613 (101.492 mph).

Bill Lester in the No. 3 Southard Motorsports Lexus Riley and Mark Patterson in the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley were involved in separate off-track incidents near the end of the session but hope to return to action after repairs to their respective machines. Practice for the Daytona Prototypes resumes Friday at 9:15 a.m. There will be a final 30-minute practice session at 10:45 a.m. Saturday.

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