Long and German co-driver Mike Rockenfeller come into the weekend with a five-point championship advantage over No. 76 Krohn Racing Ford Riley pilot Jorg Bergmeister (164-159). The No. 23 Alex Job Racing/Emory Motorsports team was victorious in the VIR 400 two weeks ago at Virginia International Raceway and has finished on the Daytona Prototype podium in each of the four events it has contested this season.
“The car is really good here, the Crawford really transitions well in the turns and is very predictable under braking, which is what you want at Laguna Seca," said Long. “We focused on race setup as we have the qualifying race tomorrow. I will be driving in that race, so I was paying particular attention to the way people were behaving in traffic and in the passing zones. We will go as fast as we can tomorrow morning as that is the session that sets the grid for the qualifying race and see what happens once the green drops in the afternoon."
Despite missing Round 2 at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City, Long and Rockenfeller followed their third-place finish in the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona with the overall victory in the Linder Industrial Grand Prix of Miami and a runner-up finish in the Crown Royal Grand American Challenge of Long Beach. Rockenfeller also finished second in the VIR 400 qualifying race.
The No. 19 Playboy/Uniden/Palms Ford Crawford was the second-quickest Daytona Prototype on the day, as Michael McDowell logged a lap at 1:24.560 (95.279 mph) towards the end of the afternoon session. McDowell won the first-ever Daytona Prototype qualifying race two weeks ago at VIR, and the 21-year-old will again share the No. 19 car with Guy Cosmo this weekend, who is filling in for injured driver Memo Gidley.
“I wish I would have gone three-hundredths faster, and we would have been faster," McDowell said. “The car didn’t start off great, but it seemed to get better every lap. We just need to keep making it better and hope that the Porsche doesn’t go any faster."
Scott Pruett was third quickest on the day, posting a lap time of 1:24.719 (95.100 mph) in the No. 01 CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley. The California native—who co-pilots the No. 01 machine with Mexican Luis Diaz—has never lost a Rolex Series race in the Golden State. Pruett and Diaz are the defending race winners at Laguna Seca and also were victorious at Long Beach two races ago. Additionally, Pruett has two Rolex Series wins at California Speedway (with Diaz in 2005 and with Max Papis in 2004). Diaz and Pruett are currently tied for fourth in the Daytona Prototype championship standings with 150 points.
Fourth fastest of the day was defending Daytona Prototype co-champion Max Angelelli in the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley with a lap time of 1:24.860 (94.942 mph). The SunTrust team posted its best finish of the season in the VIR 400, as Angelelli and co-driver Wayne Taylor finished second behind Rockenfeller and Long. Angelelli is sharing the driving duties this weekend with Denmark’s Jan Magnussen.
Colin Braun was fifth-quickest Friday with a lap time of 1:24.984 (94.804 mph) in the morning session. Braun and co-driver Bergmeister haven’t finished lower than seventh in any race they’ve shared the No. 76 Ford this season. Braun is currently ninth in the standings with 136 points as he missed Round 3 at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Bergmeister finished eighth with Papis).
In the GT class, Andy Lally was fastest of the day with a lap time of 1:33.049 (85.587 mph) during the morning session in the No. 65 TRG/F1 Air Pontiac GTO.R. Lally and co-driver Marc Bunting come into the weekend as the class points leaders after winning two weeks ago in the VIR 400, holding a five-point edge over Robin Liddell and Wolf Henzler (151-146).
“We were searching for the elusive front grip which seems to worry everybody at Laguna," Lally said. “We’ve been working hard to find a setup that suits the track. At the end of the session, we ran a light fuel load and sticker tires and we pushed really hard to see what it could do. I’m really proud of the guys for doing such a great job."
David Empringham was second-fastest in the No. 98 Pacific Coast Motorsports Pontiac GTO.R with a lap time of 1:33.188 (86.457 mph). The No. 98 machine is making its Rolex Series debut this weekend in the Road & Track 250, and Empringham—the 2005 Grand-Am Cup Series GS champion—is co-driving with Ross Thompson.
“We struggled a lot yesterday," Empringham said. “We went testing and the track we went to led us quite a ways from the setup (Pontiac GTO.R builder) Pratt & Miller gave us. We went back to Pratt & Miller’s setup and we’re in the ballpark. We’re quite pleased. Pratt & Miller have been extremely helpful. It feels great today, but yesterday was not too good. It just shows that Pacific Coast has the ability to put together a good car."
Liddell was third-quickest Friday with a lap time of 1:33.325 (86.331 mph) in the No. 72 NEC Porsche GT3 for Tafel Racing. Vic Rice was fourth-fastest in the No. 57 Stevenson Automotive Chevrolet Corvette with a lap time of 1:33.396 (86.265 mph), followed by Kelly Collins in the No. 64 TRG Pontiac GTO.R, logging a lap at 1:33.418 (86.245 mph).