Mike Skeen, of Charlotte, N.C., Andy Lee, of Colorado Springs, Colo., and Michael Cooper, of Syosset, N.Y. all established Pirelli World Challenge Championships track records in qualifying for Saturday afternoon's season-opening Acura Sports Car Challenge presented by Pirelli at the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
Different marques – eight in total – were represented in the top three for the three classes. Leading the way was Skeen in the No. 2 Hawk Performance Chevrolet Corvette. Skeen scorched the 1.8-mile street/airport circuit with a lap at 1:14.700 (86.747 mph), breaking the year-old World Challenge track record of 1:15.071 (86.318 mph) set last year by Patrick Long.
It was the second pole of Skeen's career and he heads into this afternoon's race looking for his fifth World Challenge victory. Skeen also moves into the very early lead in the championship standings with 15 valuable points.
"Qualifying was super tight," Skeen said. "All the guys are right behind us within tenths. Fortunately, we got the Hawk Performance car up front, which I think is going to be crucial for this race. It's really tight and there's going to be a ton of traffic. We'll probably get a lot of yellow laps. Hopefully we can keep it out front at the start and just stay out of trouble."
Andy Pilgrim, of Marina Del Rey, Fla., will join Skeen on the front row for this evening's standing start. Pilgrim turned a best lap at 1:14.899 (88.516 mph) in the No. 8 Cadillac Racing Cadillac CTS-V Coupe to earn the position.
Lawson Aschenbach, of Darnestown, Md. qualified third in the No. 1 Privacy Star/Entrust/TruSpeed Porsche 911 GT3 at 1:14.917 (86.495 mph), followed by Johnny O'Connell, of Flowery Branch, Ga., in the No. 3 Cadillac Racing Cadillac CTS-V Coupe at 1:15.037 (86.357 mph). Alex Figge, of Denver, Colo., rounded out the top five in the No. 9 K-PAX Racing Volvo S60 at 1:15.064 (86.326 mph). The top-six GT qualifiers posted times quicker than Long's previous track record.
After leading Friday's afternoon practice session, Lee managed to once again find the speed on Saturday morning to put the No. 20 Best IT Chevrolet Camaro at the head of the GTS starting grid. Lee's lap of 1:21.598 (79.413 mph) eclipsed the previous GTS track record of 1:21.936 (79.086 mph) set last year by Eric Foss. Lee's pole-winning time came in the closing laps of the combined GTS/Touring car qualifying session.
"We had to make some tire-pressure adjustments," Lee explained. "When we first went out, we were sliding around a lot, so we came in to make some changes and we knew we had to go back out. We lost a little bit of time and had to go out at the end of the session and try to put in another flyer. We were close to pole before, so I knew if we came in and got the tires right that we'd have a good shot at pole. That's the way it kind of worked out. I've got to thank Best IT and the guy that owns my car and helped me build this car, his name is Harrison Gentry, he owns Big Boy Toy Storage, and I've got to give him a good little shout out."
Peter Cunningham, of Milwaukee, Wis., will start alongside Lee on the GTS grid in the No. 42 RealTime/Acura/HPD Acura TSX. Cunningham turned in a best time of 1:21.695 (79.319 mph). Sixteen-year-old Alec Udell, of The Woodlands, Texas, starts third in the No. 16 Kart Nation/Amsource Ford Mustang Boss 302R at 1:22.054 (78.972 mph), followed by Jack Baldwin, of Marietta, Ga., in the No. 68 Hot Wheels Porsche Cayman S at 1:22.058 (78.968 mph). Nick Esayian, of San Diego, Calif., was fifth in GTS at 1:22.185 (78.846 mph) in the No. 34 RealTime/Acura/HPD Acura TSX.
Making his first career World Challenge appearance today, Cooper got a great view for his first standing start in the series by putting the No. 03 MAZDASPEED Motorsports MAZDASPEED 3 on the Touring Car pole position. Cooper's lap of 1:25.161 (76.091 mph) topped Tristan Herbert's 2011 track record of 1:25.899 (75.437 mph).
"It's a great way to start in the MAZDASPEED3 with MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development," Cooper said. "The guys have been working really hard. They've been working 20- or 22-hour days for quite some time now. We've got the car engineered really well. Jim Bell is our engineer and he's kick ass, and the car is solid."
Despite an apparent problem that cut his qualifying session short, Herbert, of Reston, Va., still managed to score a front-row starting spot. His lap of 1:26.133 (75.232 mph) in the No. 33 Brimtek/GermanAutoParts.com Volkswagen GTI landed him second on the Touring Car grid.
Patrick Seguin, of Clarence Creek, Ontario, Canada, qualified third in class at 1:26.177 (75.194 mph) in the No. 80 Theberge Homes/capsparts.com Volkswagen Golf GTI, followed by Todd Lamb, of Atlanta, Ga., in the No. 71 National Karting News/HPD Honda Civic Si at 1:26.209 (75.166 mph). Robb Holland, of Denver, Colo, will start fifth at 1:26.370 (75.026 mph) in the No. 70 StopTech/Honda/HPD Honda Civic Si.
The first race of the Acura Sports Car Challenge presented by Pirelli doubleheader rolls off from a standing start at 6:00 p.m. ET this evening. A live online broadcast will be available at www.world-challengeTV.com and the race will be televised on NBC Sports Network on April 8 at 4:30 p.m. ET.
For more information, please visit www.world-challenge.com.
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ST PETERSBURG, Fla. - Results from practice session #2 for Friday's Pirelli World Challenge Championships Round 1 race, part of the Acura Sports Car Challenge presented by Pirelli at the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, with position, class, car number in parentheses, driver, hometown, car, fastest lap time, and speed in miles per hour.
1. GT, (46) Justin Marks, Davidson, N.C., Porsche 911 GT3, 1:16.921, 84.242.
2. GT, (2) Mike Skeen, Charlotte, N.C., Chevrolet Corvette Z06, 1:17.385, 83.737.
3. GT, (14) James Sofronas, Newport Beach, Calif., Porsche 911 GT3, 1:17.385, 83.737.
4. GT, (4) Dino Crescentini, Manhattan Beach, Calif., Porsche 911 GT3, 1:17.565, 83.542.
5. GT, (3) Johnny O'Connell, Flowery Branch, Ga., Cadillac CTS-V Coupe, 1:17.659, 83.441.
6. GT, (1) Lawson Aschenbach, Darnestown, Md., Porsche 911 GT3, 1:18.103, 82.967.
7. GT, (8) Andy Pilgrim, Marina Del Rey, Fla., Cadillac CTS-V Coupe, 1:18.203, 82.861.
8. GT, (85) Steve Ott, Houston, Texas, Porsche 911 GT3, 1:18.750, 82.285.
9. GT, (77) David Welch, Bothell, Wash., Ferrari F430 GT, 1:20.050, 80.949.
10. GT, (47) Tomy Drissi, Hollywood, Calif., Porsche 911 GT3, 1:20.224, 80.773.
11. GT, (11) Tony Gaples, Lincolnshire, Ill., Chevrolet Corvette, 1:20.257, 80.740.
12. GT, (6) Randy Pobst, Gainesville, Ga., Volvo S60 AWD, 1:20.673, 80.324.
13. GT, (9) Alex Figge, Denver, Colo., Volvo S60 AWD, 1:21.155, 79.847.
14. GT, (99) Jeff Courtney, Milwaukee, Wis., 1:22.352, 78.686.
15. GT, (12) Jason Daskalos, Albuquerque, N.M., Nissan GTR, 1:23.226, 77.860.
16. GTS, (20) Andy Lee, Colorado Springs, Colo., Chevrolet Camaro, 1:22.780, 78.279.
17. GTS, (68) Jack Baldwin, Marietta, Ga., Porsche Cayman S, 1:22.989, 78.082.
18. GTS, (50) Justin Bell, Los Angeles, Calif., Ford Mustang Boss 302S, 1:23.213, 77.872.
19. GTS, (34) Nick Esayian, San Diego, Calif., Acura TSX, 1:23.544, 77.564.
20. GTS, (42) Peter Cunningham, Milwaukee, Wis., Acura TSX, 1:23.615, 77.498.
21. GTS, (16) Alec Udell, The Woodlands, Texas, Ford Mustang Boss 302 R, 1:23.790, 77.336.
22. GTS, (55) Richard Golinello, Oldsmar, Fla., Ford Mustang FR500S, 1:24.057, 77.090.
23. GTS, (19) Jason von Kluge, Ann Arbor, Mich., Ford Mustang Boss 302S, 1:24.951, 76.279.
24. GTS, (37) Karl Poeltl, Knoxville, Tenn., Porsche 996, 1:25.383, 75.893.
25. GTS, (23) Roger Miller, Salt Lake City, Utah, Ford Mustang Boss 302S, 1:25.832, 75.496.
26. GTS, (26) Alfonso Perri, Brooklyn, N.Y., Ford Mustang Boss 302S, 1:25.932, 75.408.
27. GTS, (96) Brad Adams, New Orleans, La., Ford Mustang Boss 302S, 1:26.095, 75.265.
28. GTS, (07) Brian Kleeman, Towson, Md., Nissan 370 Z, 1:26.188, 75.184.
29. GTS, (36) Michael Galati, Olmstead Falls, Ohio, Kia Optima 2000cc, 1:26.896, 74.571.
30. GTS, (95) Bill Ziegler, Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., Mitsubishi EVO, 1:27.269, 74.253.
31. GTS, (39) Todd Napieralski, Chelsea, Mich., Chevrolet Camaro, 1:27.292, 74.233.
32. GTS, (38) Colin Braun, Charlotte, N.C., Kia Optima, 1:27.730, 73.863.
33. GTS, (51) Ric Bushey, Virginia Beach, Va., Nissan 370 Z, 1:29.276, 72.583.
34. GTS, (29) Harry Curtin, Buffalo, N.Y., Chevrolet Camaro, 1:30.311, 71.752.
35. GTS, (52) Greg Shaffer, Harrisonburg, Va., Nissan 370 Z, 1:32.162, 70.311.
36. TC, (71) Todd Lamb, Atlanta, Ga., Honda Civic Si, 1:27.628, 73.949.
37. TC, (03) Michael Cooper, Syosset, N.Y., Mazda 3, 1:27.950, 73.678.
38. TC, (70) Rob Holland, Denver, Calif., Honda Civic Si, 1:27.967, 73.664.
39. TC, (80) Patrick Seguin, Clarence Creek, Ontario, VW Golf GTI, 1:28.157, 73.505.
40. TC, (81) Anthony Rapone, Thornhill, Ontario, Honda Civic Si, 1:28.194, 73.474.
41. TC, (67) Shea Holbrook, Groveland, Fla., Honda Civic Si, 1:28.614, 73.126.
42. TC, (72) Ryan Winchester, Mason City, Iowa, Honda Civic Si, 1:29.235, 72.617.
43. TC, (69) Gustavo Michelsen, Peru, Honda Civic Si, 1:29.276, 72.583.
44. TC, (33) Tristan Herbert, Reston, Va., Volkswagen GTI, 1:30.327, 71.739.
45. TC, (64) Carl Hober, Cape May, N.J., Honda Civic 2.0, 1:30.653, 71.481.
46. TC, (63) Roberto Ricciardelli, Venezuela, VW Jetta GLI, 1:38.110, 66.048.
47. TC, (53) Mel Shaw, Voorhees, N.J., VW GLI, 1:39.477, 65.140.
48. TC, (65) Enzo Ricciardelli, Venezuela, VW Jetta GLI, no time.
49. TC, (66) Augusto Ricciardelli, Venezuela, VW GTI, no time.
50. TC, (88) Aaron Povoledo, Toronto, Ontario, VW Jetta GLI, no time.