DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — At 52, Scott Pruett isn’t sure how many Rolex 24 at Daytona races are left in him. But he proved again Thursday he’s not ready to slow down just yet.
The defending Grand-Am Road Racing Daytona Prototype champion had the fastest lap in qualifying to put his Ganassi Racing team on the pole for Saturday’s twice-around-the-clock race at Daytona International Speedway.
“I told the crew I don’t know how many years I have left, so I have to get as many poles as I can,” Pruett said.
Pruett ran an average speed of 127.455 mph around the 3.56-mile road course. He now will join Memo Rojas, Juan Pablo Montoya, Scott Dixon and Charlie Kimball in a BMW-powered Riley from the No. 1 starting position.
A similar Ganassi sports car for Dario Franchitti, Jamie McMurray and Joey Hand will start second. They were clocked at 127.337 mph.
Pruett and Dixon also are listed as co-drivers on the second car, but they can only receive championship points in the pole-winning car.
For Pruett, Thursday’s run was the third time he’s won the pole for the 24-hour race. He also has four overall wins, trailing all-time champion Hurley Haywood by a single victory.
The defending 24-hour car for AJ Allmendinger, John Pew, Oswaldo Negri Jr., Justin Wilson and Marcos Ambrose was sixth.
Fifty-seven cars when through time trials.
Nick Tandy was the quickest among the GT drivers at 119.074 mph in a Porsche GT3 Cup. His co-drivers include Michael Christensen, Christian Engelhart and Lance Wilsey.
Despite winning the pole in his class, Tandy will be 18th on the starting grid behind all the prototypes.
“It’s a big deal to be starting up front (in class),” Tandy said. “If you’re in the back, you start chasing the race. You’re more likely to get caught up in something. You also get caught quickly by the DPs.
“You can relax for the first hour or two.
For a driver it’s driving at 98 percent, instead of 99. You have to be on every single lap for every single minute. You don’t have to force the issue to get past cars. You can be a little bit more careful with the DP cars coming through.”
Shane Lewis’ GX pole-winning Porsche Cayman ran 114.321 mph.
The difference between Pruett’s prototype and Lewis’ GX sports car is more than 13 mph.
“We’ve got a gap between us and the GT cars, and the GT cars have a gap with the DP cars,” Lewis said. “It’s not like we’re running really slow. We will have to be mindful where they brake. It adds some diversity and makes it interesting.
“You have to be very predictable. My job is not to get out of their way, but my job is to not do anything out of the ordinary.”
Pruett believes the challenge to avoid the slower cars is every bit as important as maintaining a fast pace.
“Short of contact, we can run these cars hard,” he said. “We’ve shown over the last few years we can run a very aggressive sprint pace. We will and we do. They’re meant to go thousands of miles.”