Allmendinger leads 2nd day of Rolex testing
AJ Allmendinger turned the fastest lap on the second day of Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 January Test Days, besting a field of 21 Daytona Prototypes at Daytona International Speedway preparing for the 46th running of the Rolex 24 At Daytona.
Allmendinger's time of 1:41.555 (126.198 mph) around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile infield road course at the famed superspeedway in the No. 6 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley was just off the weekend's top spot set by Scott Pruett's circuit of 1:41.232 (126.600 mph). Pruett turned his lap on Friday in the No. 01 TELMEX/Target Chip Ganassi with Felix Sabates Racing Lexus Riley. The NASCAR Sprint Cup pilot will trade his Red Bull Racing machine for a Daytona Prototype in the Rolex 24, co-driving the twice-around-the-clock race with Rolex Series regulars Ian James, John Pew and Burt Frisselle.
"I'm happy with the car; we've really improved it compared to the last two times I was here," said Allmendinger, who will run the Rolex 24 with Michael Shank Racing for the third time in as many seasons. "I got a little bit of tow on that lap, which was one of the only clean ones I've had all weekend. We have good speed with this car so far but we know we need to get faster."
Pruett was quick again today, turning the second-fastest lap in a time of 1:41.576 (126.172 mph). Pruett, who won the 2007 Rolex 24 with Juan Pablo Montoya and Salvador Duran, will be joined in his title defense by season-long co-driver Memo Rojas and NASCAR stars Montoya and Dario Franchitti.
Both of those lap times were among the 17 Daytona Prototypes on the new Pirelli P-Zero tires who bettered the 2007 Rolex 24 pole time, set by Alex Gurney at 1:43.475.
Colin Braun, who is scheduled to run the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series for Roush Fenway Racing after two full seasons in a Daytona Prototype, turned the third-quickest lap of the day in the afternoon session. The 19-year-old piloted the No. 61 AIM Autosport Exchange Traded Gold Ford Riley around the "World Center of Racing" in a time of 1:41.582 (126.162 mph). Braun will be joined in the race by Rolex Series regulars Brian Frisselle and Mark Wilkins and NASCAR Canadian Tires Series champion Andrew Ranger.
The three fastest times of the day were turned in the two-hour, 30 minute midday session.
Helio Castroneves was quickest in the one hour, 45-minute morning session. The IndyCar star turned a best lap of 1:41.758 (125.946 mph) in the No. 9 Penske-Taylor Racing Toshiba Pontiac Riley.
The No. 30 Racers Edge Motorsports Mazda RX-8 driven by Robert Thorne, Ken Dobson, Bob Michaelian and Jim Michaelian topped the 40 car GT field in Saturday's practice session with a time of 1:50.617 (115.859 mph). The run by the Racers Edge group was the first GT car of the weekend to drop into the 1:50s, besting the 2007 Rolex 24 pole time of 1:51.800.
Blackforest Motorsports ripped the second fastest time of the day in the first session under the lights at Daytona International Speedway. The cool evening air agreed with the trio of Tom Nastasi, David Empringham and Jean-Francois Dumoulin, who turned a lap of 1:51.139 (115.315 mph) in the No. 15 USG Sheetrock Mustang Cobra GT. The Blackforest Motorsports team will be joined by Boris Said for the Rolex 24.
Jan Heylen, sharing the No. 80 Synergy Racing EMC Mechanical Porsche GT3 with Mark Greenberg, Damien Faulkner and Lance Arnold, was third quickest on the day with a time of 1:51.223 (115.228 mph). The Champ Car star will make his first Rolex 24 appearance this season.
While the three quickest GT class times fell in the midday and night sessions, Richard Westbrook piloted his No. 66 TRG Mitchell Rubber/Marquis Jet Porsche GT3 to their quickest time in the morning session. Westbrook, teaming with Andy Lally, Ted Ballou and Bryce Miller, turned a lap of 1:51.270 (115.179 mph).