For Michael Shank Racing In Qualifying For 53rd Rolex 24 At Daytona
Braun Wins Second Straight PC Pole At Daytona For CORE autosport
Buoyed by a strong performance in pre-season testing, Ozz Negri laid down a fast lap early in Thursday’s qualifying for the 53rd Rolex 24 At Daytona. He then kept improving as repeated challengers fell short, allowing him to claim his second career TOTAL Pole Award for Saturday’s season-opening race on the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship schedule.
Negri, driving a brand-new No. 60 Tire Kingdom Service Centers Honda HPD Ligier fielded by Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian, led the Prototype field with a lap of 1:39.194 (129.201 mph). Negri also paced qualifying in 2008, and then won the 50th Rolex 24 for Michael Shank Racing in 2012. He will be joined by returning co-drivers John Pew and AJ Allmendinger, along with team newcomer Matt McMurry.
“The combination with the Ligier chassis and the Honda engine has been incredible,” Negri said. “I knew it was going to be close. We knew we had a shot at the pole after the Roar Before the Rolex 24 test two weeks ago, so we worked real hard. We improved in the areas where we needed to, and it showed. We got faster and faster through practice and then in qualifying. The pole position is for bragging rights for the Rolex 24, but the real deal is the top step on Sunday.”
The top nine qualifiers were separated by 1.136 seconds, with the second position changing hands several times late in the 15-minute session while Negri provided an elusive target. Scott Dixon claimed the outside front row position, running a lap of 1:39.302 (129.061 mph) in the No. 02 Target Ford EcoBoost/Riley. He will co-drive with fellow Indianapolis 500 winner Tony Kanaan and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series regulars Jamie McMurray and Kyle Larson in the car fielded by Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates.
Looking to make history as the first six-time overall winner of the Rolex 24, Scott Pruett qualified third by turning a lap of 1:39.309 (129.052 mph) in Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 01 Ford EcoBoost/Riley he shares with Joey Hand, Charlie Kimball and Sage Karam.
Defending Rolex 24 winner Joao Barbosa will start fourth in Action Express Racing‘s No. 5 Mustang Sampling Corvette DP, running 1:39.568 (128.716 mph) in the car co-driven by Christian Fittipaldi and Sebastien Bourdais. Fifth was the revolutionary No. 0 Claro/TracFone DeltaWing DWC13, qualified by Andy Meyrick with a lap of 1:39.625 (128.642 mph).
Mowlem Captures PC Pole With Last-Lap Charge
Told he was running in the second position as he was about to begin his final lap in the Prototype Challenge (PC) session, Johnny Mowlem put his head down and ran a lap of 1:42.318 (125.257 mph). That was good enough to take the TOTAL Pole Award in the No. 16 BAR1 Motorsports ORECA FLM09 he co-drives with Tom Papadopoulos, Tomy Drissi, Brian Alder and Martin Plowman.
“On my last lap, I left nothing on the table,” said Mowlem, winning his first TUDOR Championship pole and third of his career in North America. “John Travis – my engineer – said ‘Keep pushing, keep pushing.’ So I took the 21-year-old attitude I used to have and threw caution to the wind. On that last lap I got it really hooked coming out of the first horseshoe, and I felt it could be a real good lap. Through the bus stop, I turned in, braked really late and got on the throttle. I held it flat and hoped it would hook up on the exit. It did, and I got pole.”
Colin Braun, the 2014 Rolex 24 PC pole winner, briefly unseated Mowlem from the top spot near the end of the topsy-turvy session. He had to settle for second after setting a best lap of 1:42.498 (125.037 mph) in the No. 54 Composite Resources/Flex Box ORECA FLM09 fielded by CORE autosport. Braun will return with the winning PC lineup from last year’s Rolex 24, joining Jon Bennett, James Gue and Mark Wilkins.
Tom Kimber-Smith qualified third in PC, running 1:42.829 (124.634 mph) in the No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Cuttwood/Spyder Orafol ORECA FLM09 co-driven by Michael Guasch, Andrew Palmer and Andrew Novich.
More than 15 hours of live FOX Sports coverage will be available to viewers in the United States beginning with a two-hour FOX broadcast network beginning at 2 p.m. ET on Saturday. It is the second-consecutive year that the Rolex 24 telecast has opened on the broadcast channel, which is available in approximately 115 million homes in the United States.