Memo Rojas and Alex Tagliani officially christened the new Kansas Speedway road course Friday evening, capturing the respective Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series DP and GT class TOTAL Pole Awards for Saturday's SFP Grand Prix.
Rojas won his first pole of the season with a lap of 1 minute, 9.883 seconds (122.090mph) in the No. 01 Telcel/TELMEX BMW/Riley co-driven by fellow reigning DP champion Scott Pruett. IZOD IndyCar Series regular Tagliani, subbing for Max Papis, put the No. 61 R.Ferri/AIM Motorsports Ferrari 458 co-driven by Jeff Segal on the GT pole with a lap of 1:14.956 (113.827mph).
The SFP Grand Prix begins at 8 p.m. ET and aire live on FOX Sports 2, The race will be repeated Sunday on FOX Sports 1 at 4 p.m. ET.
“Our car rolled off the truck really quick, and typically, that means you spend the rest of the weekend fine tuning it,” said Rojas after winning his ninth career pole. “We were one of the few teams that did not test here, and we were worried about our chances. But the team did a great job preparing the car. Now, we're ready for a tough and exciting race.”
Gustavo Yacaman took the outside of the DP front row with a last lap of 1:09.950 (121.973 mph) in the No. 6 Aero/Tuvacol Ford/Riley co-driven by Justin Wilson. The second row will be shared by Action Express Racing teammates Christian Fittipaldi (with Joao Barbosa) in the No. 5 Corvette DP and Burt Frisselle (with his brother Brian Frisselle) in the No. 9 Corvette DP.
DP point leaders Alex Popow and Ryan Dalziel will start eighth in the No. 2 Soloson BMW/Riley.
Tagliani – the 2011 Indianapolis 500 pole winner – said he “came in to this team and this car at a really good time. Jeff is helping me a lot with learning the car and the data. My goal this weekend was to come in, support the team and give Jeff a good position so we could try to win. You can't do it on your own.”
It was the second pole in two weekends for Tagliani, who went on to finish fifth in a NASCAR Canadian Tire Series race at Trois-Rivieres last weekend near his home in Montreal. He is racing at Kansas because Papis is competing in the NASCAR Nationwide Series event at Mid-Ohio.
“Running the heavier NASCAR stock car really helped me, because coming to the Ferrari was like coming to an IndyCar. I really enjoy this car, and it really suits my style. Coming directly from IndyCar to GT is not as easy as it might look.”
It was also Tagliani's first race in a Ferrari – the realization of a life-long dream.
“It's awesome for an Italian to be able to put on a red suit and drive in a red car,” he said. “I hope to get to do this many, many more times.”
Segal and Papis won the Brickyard Grand Prix's GT title at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in July, while Papis won the GT pole for Detroit Belle Isle in June.
“He's the real deal,” Segal said of Tagliani. “He's been on the pole for the Indy 500. You can't do that if you can't drive.”
Leh Keen was second in GT, in the No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 458 co-driven by Alessandro Balzan, 1:15.262 (113.36 mph), followed by Emil Assentato in the No. 69 AIM Autosport Team FXDD co-driven by Anthony Lazzaro.
Tom Long took his fifth pole of the season in the GX class, running 1:21.644 (104.50 mph) in the No. 70 Mazdaspeed/Castrol Edge Mazda 6 co-driven by Sylvain Tremblay.
Buford Captures Sixth Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge Pole, Mark Pombo Rules ST
Jade Buford waited until his final lap – and a tow from a competitor – to capture his sixth Grand Sport pole of the season Friday night, running a lap of 1 minute, 20.858 seconds in the No. 55 Multimatic Motorsport Aston Martin Vantage co-driven by Scott Maxwell.
“We hit the setup, but I didn't think we had enough for the pole,” Buford said. “Winning it came as a surprise, and I've got to thank Lawson Aschenbach for that. I was able to catch his draft on that last lap. I don't think I could have broken 21 (1:21.00) flat on my own.”
Bryan Heitkotter was seeking his second pole in two races co-driving the No. 14 Doran Racing Nissan 370Z, but was bumped near the end of the 15-minute session. Heitkotter will start from the outside of the front row after a lap of 1:20.873 (105.499mph). Point lead Nick Longhi will start third in the No. 13 Rum Bum Racing Porsche 997 co-driven by Matt Plumb.
Mark Pombo scored his second career Street Tuner pole with a lap of 1:27.702 (97.284mph), in the No. 30 i-MOTO Mazda Speed 3, edging teammate Derek Jones' No. 32 Mazda, who was clocked at 1:27.913 (97.050 mph). It was Pombo's second career pole but first since being injured in a practice accident at Road America in 2012.
Pombo gave credit to teammate Jayson Clunie, driver of the No. 31 Mazda, who qualified fourth behind Chad Gilsinger in the No. 93 HART Honda Civic Si.
“The pole was all Jayson, and he deserves all the credit,” said Pombo, who co-drives with his brother Mat Pombo. “Jayson was fastest in practice and was running up front in qualifying cutting through the air. Derek and I just caught his draft and got our time. He sacrificed himself for us."
The Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge event takes the green flag at 3 p.m. CT Saturday.