ELKHART LAKE, Wis. (June 19, 2010) - SCCA Pro Racing Trans-Am Series points leader Tony Ave might be in the midst of a busy day in front of a huge crowd at Road America, but it certainly didn't slow him down in qualifying.
Ave, of Maiden, N.C., set a new Trans-Am Series qualifying record his first flying lap of the 30-minute qualifying session and set another one on his only other lap in the session to take the pole at 116.521 mph (2:05.066) in the No. 4 Tony Ave Racing/Pro Motor Engines Chevrolet Corvette. Ave's lap bested his own previous Trans-Am qualifying record of 115.674 mph (2:05.981) set last year. It was Ave's third pole in four races this season and the eighth of his Trans-Am career.
He will go in search of his second consecutive victory in tomorrow's Trans-Am race, which will be his second race of the weekend at Road America. Ave is also racing in the inaugural NASCAR Nationwide Series Bucyrus 200 presented by Menards on Saturday afternoon. He currently leads the championship by 24 points, 357-333, over Tomy Drissi.
"It's been a good weekend," Ave said. "I made a mistake in qualifying for the Nationwide car, so we're 10th instead of fourth or fifth. That'll be a long race for us. We're glad to be on the pole with this car. I love racing at Road America anyway, and this field that we've got is great. It's awesome to put the Trans-Am Series in front of this huge crowd, so it's a great weekend for us."
Starting alongside Ave -- as he also did in his 2010 Trans-Am debut two weeks ago at Miller Motorsports Park -- is rookie Mike Skeen, of Charlotte, N.C. Skeen piloted the No. 81 Baker Manufacturing/Next Table Chevrolet Corvette from Agee Racing to a best lap at 116.016 mph (2:05.610). He heads into Sunday's race looking to build upon a fourth-place race result at Miller.
"We're excited to be here this weekend, and we've got a great field here with these Trans-Am cars," said Ave. "It's a huge crowd, and it's been a lot of fun already this weekend. Honestly, I'm kind of disappointed in second place. We went out there to run for the pole and we just found ourselves in bad track position. I caught traffic and we just missed it. Tony did an awesome lap and we didn't have a lap for him. We didn't want to abuse the tires, so we'll take second place, save it for the race, and see what we can do. We've got a good car here for the race. We know we have to save something through the race so that we've got something left at the end."
Defending series champion Drissi, of Hollywood, Calif.; will start third on Sunday in his No. 5 Knight and Day Jaguar XKR. Drissi posted a best lap at 115.534 mph (2:06.134) and will be looking for his third podium result of the season in the race. He won the season opener at New Jersey Motorsports Park and finished second to Drissi in Round 3 at Miller.
"You have to give room to everyone on the track and I gave a big, big opening but I came up to someone right when the tire was perfect on my fast lap," said Drissi. "I don't know if it would have been enough for Tony, but I thought we could have gone a little faster. The fans are just incredible here. These are Wisconsin fans, I've talked to people who have driven from all over to see this weekend, and it's really, really cool.
"Our plan for tomorrow is just to go for 100 miles and see how it ends up. I'm not going to wait for anybody, if I get the opportunity. I'd rather set the pace than follow, but Ave is going to be tough, Skeen is going well, and RJ [Lopez] is right behind us. It's going to be tough."
Lopez, of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, put his No. 6 Disco 106/ECR Engines/Goodyear Chevrolet Corvette fourth on the starting grid with a best lap at 114.965 mph (2:06.758). Lopez is the only driver in the series to have finished on the podium in every race thus far this season and he is hoping to continue that streak on Sunday. He is currently third in the point standings, just one point behind Drissi.
Cliff Ebben, of Appleton, Wis., rounded out the top five on the starting grid with a best lap at 114.132 mph (2:07.812) in the No. 36 McMahon Group/Stumpf Ford/Lamers Racing Ford Mustang. Ebben is making his 2010 Trans-Am Series debut but he is the defending Trans-Am race winner at Road America and will be looking to make it two in a row this weekend.