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Pruett's prototype clocks 1:46.928

2/4/2005

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Scott Pruett managed only one fast
lap Thursday, and it was good enough to put his Lexus-Riley Daytona
Prototype on the pole for this weekend's Rolex 24 at Daytona
International Speedway.
"You're dealing with close to 30 prototypes out there this
year. That's nearly double last year and you have to find an open
space to run in," Pruett said. "It's a new element and good for
the sport to have so many prototypes, but it means you're trying to
find that one lap where you can really lay one down."
Pruett, who was co-champion of the prototype series in 2004 with
Italy's Max Papis, did just that, with time running out in the
qualifying session. He turned a fast lap of 1 minute,
46.928 seconds moments before the checkered flag.
Pruett averaged 119.856 mph on the 3.56-mile road course that
uses about three-fourths of the 2½-mile NASCAR oval and also winds
through the infield of the famed Daytona track.
That was just a bit slower than the 1:45.783 (121.154 mph)
Pruett ran while winning the Daytona pole last year in the debut of
the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus. He went on to finish 10th in
the race.
"Quite frankly, I think this is the toughest race in the world
to win," said Pruett, who will co-drive with Daytona rookies Luis
Diaz of Mexico and Australian-born Ryan Briscoe. "I know Chip has
brought three very strong teams here to try to add this race to all
the accomplishments he has in racing. It would be great to win it
again."
The three-time Trans-Am champion and race winner in both Champ
Car and IROC, now has five poles in 13 Rolex Grand Am Series races.
Pruett, part of the winning team here in 1994 and a five-time
class champion at Daytona, barely beat a Pontiac Riley driven by
Max Angelelli of Italy for this latest pole. Angelelli, the veteran
endurance racer who will share the cockpit with Wayne Taylor and
Emmanuel Collard, turned a lap of 1:46.945 (119.837).
"Before qualifying, I was very sure I would win the pole,"
Angelelli said with a shrug. "Scott just had a little better lap
at the end. But it's a very long race and anything can happen."
Last season, overall, the Ganassi team won 11 poles in 12 events
and finished the season with seven in a row.
Papis, now co-driving a Pontiac Riley with German's Jorg
Bergmeister and Oliver Gavin of England, was third at 1:47.260
(119.590), followed by the other two Ganassi entries. Stefan
Johansson, who will share a Lexus Riley with NASCAR's Jamie
McMurray and Cort Wagner, was fourth at 1:47.260 (119.485), while
New Zealander Scott Dixon was next at 1:47.480 (119.241) in the
Lexus Riley. He will co-drive with fellow IRL star Darren Manning
of England and NASCAR's Casey Mears.
NASCAR will be well represented in the race that starts at noon
on Saturday, with former champions Tony Stewart, Bobby Labonte and
Terry Labonte and last year's Nextel Cup runner-up Jimmie Johnson
all part of teams that qualified in the top 10.
Reigning Champ Car World Series champion Sebastien Bourdais of
France, who will co-drive with 80-year-old actor-racer Paul Newman,
former Champ Car champion Cristiano da Matta of Brazil and car
owner Michael Brockman, qualified a Ford Crawford prototype 13th on
Thursday.
Kurt Busch, the Nextel Cup champion, was not even at the track
Thursday, but the Ford Multimatic prototype he will share with
fellow NASCAR stars Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle was qualified 16th
by Canadian sports car ace Scott Maxwell.
The race, which used to be known as the Daytona 24-Hours,
remains America's most prestigious sports car endurance event.
This year, it will include only two classes, the prototypes and
the generally less powerful GT cars. For the start of the
twice-around-the-clock event, the protypes will start ahead of the
GT entries, regardless of qualifying position.