While Jon Fogarty won his fourth consecutive pole position and series-tying 13th career overall pole Friday in Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 Friday, the Daytona Prototype point leader viewed the session as a test for Saturday's Utah 250.
Fogarty and Alex Gurney, co-drivers of Bob Stallings Racing's No. 99 GAINSCO Pontiac Riley, enter Saturday's penultimate round of the 2009 campaign with a five-point cushion over Memo Rojas and Scott Pruett, drivers of Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates' No. 01 TELMEX Lexus Riley, and Brian Frisselle and Max Angelelli, drivers of the No. 10 SunTrust Ford Dallara (274-269).
Rojas and Frisselle both qualified for the second row for the two-hour, 45-minute event (SPEED live, 5:30 p.m. ET).
Fogarty was pressured for the pole throughout the 15-minute session by Timo Bernhard, who co-drives the Penske Racing No. 12 Verizon Wireless Porsche Riley with Romains Dumas. Fogarty ran a lap of 2:35.737 (103.698 mph) to snare his fifth pole in six races.
"We worked on getting our car more raceable rather than setting it up for qualifying," Fogarty said. "We had a very dominant car this morning, but knew that in the heat of the day conditions would change, and we tried to have the car drive good in these conditions. We expect these conditions to be similar to tomorrow's race, so we were treating qualifying more as a test session for tomorrow's race."
Bernhard clocked in second fastest, 2:36.560 (103.153 mph). While Penske Racing has yet to win in Rolex Series competition, Miller has produced first-time winners in all three prior Grand-Am races at the 4.486-mile circuit.
"I think the race pace will be closer to our time, so they will not run away from us," Bernhard said.
Rojas and Frisselle ran at close quarters throughout qualifying. Rojas ran 2:36.675 (103.077 mph) to edge Frisselle for third.
"It was really frustrating, because I caught Memo during my stint," Frisselle said. "I tried to move the gap back to get away from him, but he brought himself back to me and I was in his dirty air for my last lap - which is the fastest lap. I thought that was a cheap shot move."
Rojas, who has been battling bronchitis all week, did not think he was blocking.
"He did a cool down lap, and I did a cool down lap afterwards," Rojas said. "I left a gap enough - about three car lengths behind me - so I never blocked him, because he never got that close. The lap after that was my quickest lap, so I don't understand why he felt I blocked him. We weren't that close anyway. I was happy because we improved from practice, when we struggled a bit. I've been sick all week, and I didn't feel good this morning, so it was good for me to come back and get a good qualifying effort."
Mark Wilkins qualified fifth in the No. 61 AIM Autosport Ford Riley shared by Burt Frisselle, and will be joined in the third row by David Donohue, who drives the No. 58 Brumos Porsche Riley with Darren Law. Mike Forest, Mark Patterson, Rob Finlay and JC France rounded out the top 10.
Ham Edges Foster By Seven Thousandths For GT Pole
Nick Ham ran a lap of 2:50.052 (94.969 mph) to end Leh Keen's three-race Acxiom GT pole streak - shattering Keen's year-old track record in the process. Ham also denied Dempsey Racing its first Rolex Series pole, with Joe Foster second with a lap of 2:50.059 (94.969 mph).
"It was a good team effort, because we weren't happy after our first practice session," said Ham, who captured his fourth pole of the season and 10th of his career (good enough for a three-way tie for third all-time in GT) in the No. 70 Castrol Syntec Mazda RX-8, co-driven by Rolex 24 pole winner Sylvain Tremblay. "Fortunately, our engineers David Haskell and Marcus Shin made the car perfect, and it was just beautiful. We needed this, because we've been in a slump for the last couple of races. But please tell Patrick Dempsey I'm sorry we kept his team from their first pole."
Foster will co-drive the No. 40 Dempsey Racing Mazda RX-8 with Charles Espenlaub, who is subbing for Dempsey, who has an acting commitment.
Andrew Davis qualified third in the No. 57 BryanMark Financial/Stevenson Automotive Pontiac GXP.R, and will be joined by Keen on the second row. Keen and Dirk Werner, in the No. 87 Farnbacher Loles Racing Porsche GT3, can eliminate their championship rivals by finishing ahead of Kelly Collins, who qualified fifth in the No. 07 Team Drinkin' Mate Pontiac GXP.R. Keen and Werner enter the race with a 35-point lead over Collins, with only the Grand Prix of Miami on Oct. 10 at Homestead-Miami Speedway remaining on the 2009 schedule.
"The balance wasn't there for qualifying, so we'll have to work on the car," Keen said. "I'm a little disappointed after winning so many poles in a row, I wanted another one. But being on the second row tomorrow should be pretty good, because the race is what matters."