Michael Shank Racing Red Hot In Rolex24 Qualifying At Daytona

Daytona Beach, FL ? The Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley driven by Oswaldo Negri Jr. blazed to the pole position for Saturday?s Rolex24 at Daytona with a record qualifying speed of 127.151 miles per hour Thursday afternoon. His lap time eclipsed Alex Gurney?s one-year old mark of 123.856 mph.

Negri?s co-drivers for the 46th running of the lengthy 24-hour race are Champ Car standouts Graham Rahal and Justin Wilson along with sports-car veteran Mark Patterson.

?This is a great way to start our relationship with Ford,? Negri said. ?The pole gives us bragging rights and I am glad we are in the front of the pack. Starting up front keeps you out of trouble, but it is only 1/10th of what we need to do to win the race.?

The top-20 Daytona Prototype qualifiers broke the track record and the drivers attributed the increased speeds to the newly introduced Pirelli tires. Regarding the new tires, Negri added, ?The Pirelli tires are a huge plus for us, and they suit my driving style very well.?

A.J. Allmendinger steered a second Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley to the outside of the front row with a speed of 127.140 mph. ?I love driving race cars and I love driving for Michael Shank, as he?s a pure racer,? Allmendinger stated. ?We are here to win the race and to have fun.?

Third fastest was the Bob Stallings/Riley-Mathews Pontiac Riley driven by Marc Goosens. His speed was 126.840 mph. ?It is very hard to improve these cars but we have worked to do so,? Goosens said. ?The new bodywork from Riley is much better than the old bodywork. Although we had handling issues, our whole package is pretty strong.?

His co-drivers are open-wheel ace Ryan Hunter-Reay, owner Jim Mathews and veteran sports car driver Johnny O?Connell.

Max Angelelli and teammates Wayne and Ricky Taylor along with Michael Valiante grabbed the fourth starting spot in the SunTrust Racing Pontiac Riley. Their speed was 126.689 mph.

The fifth fastest qualifier was a Ford Riley driven by Mark Wilkens, Colin Braun, Brian Frisselle and Andrew Ranger with the Lexus Riley of Scott Pruett, Juan Montoya, Dario Franchitti and Memo Rojas sixth fastest.

Completing the top-10 qualifiers were the Brumos Porsche Riley, a SAMAX Pontiac Riley, the Sigalsport BMW Riley and another Lexus Riley. The latter entry is driven by IndyCar stars Scott Dixon and Dan Wheldon, Indy Pro Series champion Alex Lloyd and Salvador Doran.

The top-30 qualifiers are locked into the race on speed with the remainder of the starting positions to be decided during Friday?s practice sessions.

Twenty-five Daytona Prototypes will be in the starting field and they will be joined by 27 GT entries.

Topping the GT class qualifiers was the Speed Source Mazda RX-8 driven by Sylvain Trembley, Nick Ham, David Haskell and Raphael Matos. Trembley, the qualifying driver, attained a speed of 115.712 mph.

?We have been working a while to get here,? Trembley said. ?The mystique of Daytona is that everything is thrown at you and you can?t have a soft spot in your program. Winning the pole is a huge achievement and you can?t have one misstep to get the pole.?

A Ferrari F430 qualified second fastest at 115.592 mph and a TRG Porsche GT3 Cup entry grabbed third fastest at 115.517 mph.

Ten GT entries exceeded Patrick Huisman?s year-old record of 114.633 mph.

Rolex Series practice continues on Friday with the Rolex24 schedule to take the green flag at 1:30 p.m. ET on Saturday afternoon.

The Koni Challenge Fresh from Florida 200 will be run Friday afternoon.

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