After a disastrous season, which has seen only a single podium finish, Richard Westbrook brought a bit of sunshine to the Spirit of Daytona squad Saturday, by claiming pole for Sunday’s Continental Tire Sports Car Festival.
The GM driver, normally tasked with watching his co-driver Ricky Taylor qualify, reeled off a best time of 1:21.557 in the Coyote-chassied Daytona Prototype.
He edged out the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP of Max Angelelli by a mere 0.021 seconds to give SDR its first pole of the season.
“I wish I could say this pole will put a smile on everyone’s face on the team but we’ve had such a bad season by our standards,” Westbrook said. “It’s unfortunately going to take more than that.
“We have two races left and we need two strong victories. It’s been a really tough year so hopefully we can finish strong and have some momentum heading into the winter.”
The Troy Flis-led squad head into tomorrow’s two-hour and 45-minute race as defending winners, in a race that saw Westbrook also qualify the No. 90 machine.
Could that be what the team needs to help turn their luck around?
“There’s no real story behind [the qualifying] change,” Westbrook said. “It was just something the team wanted to do to freshen things up. I think maybe seeing the 10 car work for them at Kansas made the decision that much easier.”
Angelelli and co-driver Jordan Taylor, whose strategy shakeup at Kansas was rewarded with a victory and the DP points lead, will line up second, ahead of the No. 42 Team Sahlen’s BMW-Riley of Dane Cameron in third.
Dario Franchitti, making a cameo appearance in the second Chip Ganassi Racing Riley-BMW, and the No. 5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP of Christian Fittipaldi, completed the top-five overall and in DP.
The top-13 in DP were separated by less than 1.5 seconds in qualifying, owing to the competitive nature of the category.
Stevenson Motorsports will start from the pole in GT, following a quick lap by John Edwards.
Edwards reeled off a best time of 1:27.529 in his No. 57 Camaro GT.R to claim his third class pole of the season and the fourth for the Mike Johnson-led squad.
He edged out the No. 31 Marsh Racing Corvette of Boris Said by 0.099 seconds.
“I think we have a really good car, one of the best cars we’ve had all year on new tires,” Edwards said. “But I think this weekend in GT everyone seems to be struggling with a big difference in time at the end of the stint versus the beginning.
“We’ve never seen track temperatures this high here in the past couple of years, so it’s really hard on the tires. I think the key is going to be trying to keep the car underneath us and keep it from going loose in the race as the tires get older.”
Edwards and co-driver Robin Liddell will be searching for their fifth class victory of the season. The duo currently trail championship leader Alessandro Balzan by three points heading into Sunday’s penultimate round of the season.
Balzan’s co-driver, Leh Keen, who is coming off victory at Kansas, qualified third in the No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 458 Italia Grand-Am.
The top-five in class was completed by the No. 61 AIM Motorsport Ferrari of Alex Tagliani and the Patrick Lindsey-driven No. 73 Park Place Motorsports Porsche.
Mazda swept the front row in the GX class, which features four entries this weekend.
Tristan Nunez, fresh off his maiden victory in American Le Mans Series competition, claimed class pole in the No. 00 Visit Florida Racing Mazda6.
Nunez’s 1:33.533 lap time was more than a half second quicker than the No. 70 SpeedSource entry of Tom Long, who qualified second.
The Continental Tire Sports Car Festival takes the green flag Sunday at 5 p.m. ET, live on FOX Sports 1.