As the temperatures warmed up dramatically from opening practice, so did Memo Rojas. The driver of the No. 01 TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Lexus Riley ran a lap of 1:19.874 (100.869 mph) Saturday afternoon to capture the pole position for Sunday's Verizon Wireless Festival of Speed presented by SPEEDCOM at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
Round 4 of the 2009 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 is set to take the green flag at 1 p.m. PT. The race will be televised live on SPEED (4 p.m. ET).
Rojas became the first multiple Daytona Prototype pole position winner in 2009 with his third career pole. In his only other qualifying effort this season, he won the pole at Virginia International Raceway. His co-driver and defending Daytona Prototype co-champion, Scott Pruett, qualified the car for the other two events.
The Acxiom GT class also saw its first two-time pole winner of the season, with Nick Ham putting the No. 70 Castrol Syntec/Mazda Mazda RX-8 out front with a lap of 1:27.251 (92.340 mph).
"We were really struggling yesterday, and our car was out of the window of where we wanted it to be," Rojas said. "We took really strong decisions with the setup to begin this morning, and it worked. My hat's off to this team. Even though we struggled yesterday, we didn't panic, and we took the right direction pretty quick. Then we won the pole."
Rojas said that yesterday's cooler temperatures played a role in the team's struggle. While it was 57 degrees Friday afternoon, it warmed up to 85 degrees for qualifying.
"Actually, it was the cold temperatures that messed us up yesterday," Rojas said. "We didn't have the tire pressures set up for that kind of weather. We were lost with that. Now that it warmed up, we took the right direction and the car was great."
Brian Frisselle ran a lap of 1:20.254 (100.391 mph), to put the No. 10 SunTrust Ford Dallara co-driven by Max Angelelli on the outside of the front row.
"The SunTrust car was awesome out there today, it was very consistent," Frisselle said. "I ran three laps that were similar to my qualifying time -- that points out we should have a pretty good race pace. The car has given me a great car that we can win the race with tomorrow."
Starting in row two will be Jon Fogarty in the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Pontiac Riley co-driven by Alex Gurney, 1:20.349 (100.272 mph); and Mark Wilkins in the No. 61 AIM Autosport Ford Riley co-driven by Burt Frisselle, 1:20.469 (100.123 mph).
"It's a tough field out there," Wilkins said. "We have to work harder and harder to bring our "A" game to every event.
Rounding out the top 10 starters are Romain Dumas in the Penske Racing No. 12 Verizon Wireless Porsche Riley, Nic Jonsson in the No. 76 Krohn Racing Ford Lola, Mark Patterson in the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley, Ricky Taylor in the Beyer Racing No. 13 Lennox/Brach's Pontiac Riley, John Pew in the No. 6 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley, and Darren Law in the No. 58 Brumos Porsche Riley.
Ham Gives SpeedSource Mazda RX-8 Third Pole of 2009
Ham won his second pole of the season, while the No. 70 Castrol Syntec/Mazda Mazda RX-8 captured its third pole of the campaign. Co-driver Sylvain Tremblay was fastest in qualifying for the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona.
"This is our home track, so I feel like I had to put it on pole," Ham said. "Dave Haskell, our engineer, and our team did a great job. They've worked hard all weekend fine-tuning this car. We came here pretty fast off the truck, and now we've got a great car for the race. We've got a lot of confidence right now that we can win it for Mazda and Castrol."
It was Ham's eighth career pole position, tying him for sixth in all-time GT poles with Cort Wagner and Joao Barbosa.
Leh Keen, winner of the most recent GT round at New Jersey Motorsports Park, will start second in the No. 87 Farnbacher Loles Racing Porsche GT3, running a lap of 1:27.531 (92.045 mph). The team changed its plans following that victory, keeping Dirk Werner in the car for this event since the team is three points out of the point lead.
"Dirk would have been running another race this weekend, but we wanted to go with the championship," Keen said. "We hope to continue the success we've been having lately and keep our momentum going. Our last race was great, now we're front row, so Dirk and I plan to keep this going. We're extremely happy right now."
Bryce Miller qualified third in the No. 30 Marquis Jet/IPC RX-8 co-driven by Dane Cameron, and will be joined on the second row by Andrew Davis, who joins Robin Liddell in Stevenson Motorsports' No. 57 Bryan Mark Financial Pontiac GXP.R.
Rounding out the top 10 starters are Thomas Merrill, Eric Lux, Kelly Collins, Emil Assentato, Justin Marks and Ted Ballou.