of KONI Sports Car Challenge's Fresh From Florida 200 at Daytona
Martin, Aquilante score first career KONI poles with record times on Thursday.
Dean Martin made sure the Ford Mustang's practice speeds were no fluke Thursday afternoon. Tthe Brookville, Mich., driver took the pole for Friday's Fresh From Florida 200 at Daytona International Speedway - the opening event on the Grand-Am KONI Sports Car Challenge schedule - in record time.
However, a pair of BMW M3s and a Porsche 997 broke the Mustang's recent dominance of the top five speeds, with Jeff Segal and Matthew Bell qualifying second and third in two BMW M3s. Duncan Ende put a Porsche 997 in fifth.
Meanwhile, Andrew Aquilante's three-day visit to the 3.56-mile track earlier this month paid off, as the Chester Springs, Pa., driver earned his first career KONI Street Tuner (ST) pole. He will share the front row with David Thilenius, who drove a Honda.
Martin, who scored his first career KONI Grand Sport (GS) pole position Thursday, set a time of 1:59.555 (107.198 mph), the first driver ever in KONI competition to break the one-lap, two-minute mark in qualifying. The No. 59 Ford Mustang GT was quickest earlier this month in January Test Days practice.
Martin said he likes his chances for Friday's three-hour race. He has only qualified a car four times - including in Thursday's session - and came away with two victories. His co-driver, Ken Wilden, has competed with the Rehagen Racing team five times and finished on the podium four times. Together, the duo won together in 2007 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in the GS class.
Segal, the 2007 KONI GS co-champion with Jep Thornton driving for Automatic Racing, was not originally scheduled to race with the team this season but he and Thornton struck a deal to race at Daytona earlier in the week. The pair finished third a year ago in points, and after two straight seasons in the No. 09 machine, the two will pilot the No. 91 BMW M3. Segal's time was 2:00.169 (106.650 mph).
The No. 91 BMW M3 wasn't the only car to break up the Mustang's dominance of speed. GS rookie Bell qualified third in the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M3 at 2:00.553 (106.310 mph), and he will drive with Bill Auberlen on Friday. Fourth in qualifying was Jack Roush Jr. - who ran fulltime last year at Martin - at 2:00.651 (106.224 mph) in the No. 61 Horsepower Ranch ROUSH/Valvoline Ford Mustang GT he shares with Hugh Plumb.
Ende rounded out the top five, taking the No. 39 TRG TheDigiTrust Group/Adam's Polishes Porsche 997 to a time of 2:00.935 (105.974 mph). He shares the car with Spencer Pumpelly.
Aquilante also paced a practice session earlier in the month at Daytona in the No. 111 Subaru Road Racing Team Subaru Legacy, and with Kristian Skavnes, will go for their first victory together. Aquilante set a time of 2:08.694 (99.585 mph), besting the previous record of 2:08.870.
Not far behind Aquilante was David Thilenius in the No. 27 Bill Fenton Motorsports Honda Civic Si, who drove the car to a time of 2:09.086 (99.283 mph). Thilenius will drive with rookie Bret Spaude.
Another rookie, Josh Hurley, was third in the No. 171 APR Motorsport APR/BBS Volkswagen GTI he shares with Ian Baas, clocking in at 2:09.363 (99.070 mph). Compass360 Racing took fourth and fifth, with Christian Miller taking fourth in the No. 74 Compass360 Racing Honda Civic Si he shares with Randy Pobst. Miller's time was 2:09.398 (99.043 mph). Fifth was Peter Schwartzott, who turned a time of 2:09.500 (98.965 mph) in the No. 75 Compass360 Racing Honda Civic Si he co-pilots with Bo Roach.
The Fresh From Florida 200, which will last three hours, will begin at 1:45 p.m. Defending winners Craig Stanton (GS) and Glenn Bocchino (ST) will return to compete in the race for BGB Motorsports and Kinetic Motorsports, both in the GS class.
POST-QUALIFYING DRIVER NOTES
This is only the third time in his career Martin has qualified a car. The first time he ever qualified was at Daytona in 2003, when he won the GS II race... While Ford Mustangs didn't dominate the top five in qualifying, they did earn six of the top 10 positions. In ST, the top dogs were the Honda Civic Sis, taking five of the top 10 spots ... Thilenius's Bill Fenton Motorsports team owns two class victories at Daytona; only HART has more (three)... Freedom Autosport driver Rhett O'Doski was involved in a practice accident when he lost control of his No. 146 Mazda MX-5 in the kink and hit the guardrail. He was transported to the infield medical center and then taken to Halifax Medical Center in Daytona Beach, Fla., where he received X-rays and was later released... Sixty-five cars took times, including 34 in GS and 31 in ST.
POST-PRACTICE DRIVER QUOTES
DEAN MARTIN (No. 59 Rehagen Racing Ford Mustang GT): "Getting the pole here in Daytona was our first goal, and of course winning the race tomorrow is our ultimate goal. Our lap out there today was magic. The way our Mustang handled today and performed was just perfect. We've worked really hard during the off-season and we want to show everybody that we're the best and I think our team can carry today's success over into tomorrow's race.
"A Mustang should definitely win and be on the podium tomorrow. I'll be honest; I was surprised that we went as fast as we did. I never expected to go that fast. We had been fighting the car all day and it wasn't so good, but I told the team not to mess with anything and to see what happens. I figured if I ran a two-minute flat lap, we'd be okay. So when I came by the timing light and it came up as a 1:59.60, I just went, ‘Oh my gosh, I'm just going to come in right now.' I was so excited and just really happy for our team."
JEFF SEGAL (No. 91 Automatic Racing BMW M3): "It's going really well. I didn't have the KONI deal until the last minute. Jep Thornton, my co-driver for the last few years, said "Hey, lets do it. We'll just do one race and have a little bit of fun. We came out. We haven't practiced much at all - we weren't at the test days - so I think being on the front row isn't a bad start."
ANDREW AQUILANTE (No. 111 Subaru Road Racing Team Subaru Legacy): "It was pretty good. The Subaru Spec B 2.5 liter was running really good. I was just trying to eek out a pole behind another car coming through the tri-oval and got a pretty good draft off of him and put together a good lap."
DAVID THILENIUS (No. 27 Bill Fenton Motorsports Honda Civic Si): "I'm not sure we're as fast as we qualified but the car is real stable. I think we'll have a good race pace for tomorrow."