DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 24, 2008) - Brazilian Oswaldo Negri lead a 1-2 Michael Shank Racing sweep of the front row for Saturday's 46th anniversary of the Rolex 24 At Daytona at Daytona International Speedway.
Negri put the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley on the pole for with a fast lap of one minute, 40.793 seconds, 127.152 mph on the historic 3.56-mile road course.
"It's a fantastic way to start a relationship with Ford," said Negri, who will co-drive the No. 60 car with Mark Patterson, Justin Wilson and Graham Rahal. I'm pretty sure this is important for them as much as it is for us. This is the fruit of a lot of work. (The team) worked non-stop since the last race of the season in Salt Lake. We had a good car but we're always looking for something better and better and better.
"This is going to give us bragging rights for now. It's about 1/10th of what we need to do to win this race. It's a long race but I'm so honored to be here."
Taking the outside pole was the No. 6 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley and NASCAR driver A.J. Allmendinger, who posted a lap of one minute, 40.802 seconds, 127.140 mph.
"Mike Shank has put together a great team and I love coming to race for these guys, so it feels good to put them on the front row," said Allmendinger. "Mike (Shank) is a racer to the core, and this team is full of a lot of good guys-everyone has fun, but they are focused on getting the job done. The car was strong, and is a great way to start the weekend, but everyone knows that this is a long race, and the work really happens on Saturday once the race starts."
Said owner Michael Shank: "We're going to celebrate this for about three minutes and then go back to work. If this was a sprint race, I'd be ecstatic. I'm very honored at this and how we qualified, but I want to win the race. I want to win the race. That's what we've been trying to do for five years and we're going to go back and do night practice here and celebrate for a little bit and that's it. We'll have strategy meetings with having two teams on the front row and go from there."
It's the first all-Ford front row in the Rolex 24 since 1964. Only the top 30 in Rolex 24 qualifying have locked their positions in the twice-around-the-clock challenge and final qualifying will take place on Friday.
Other notable Rolex 24 qualifiers were:
Daytona International Speedway.
Kicking off the day will be a Champions of the Century media event at Gatorade Victory Lane scheduled for 10:45 a.m. that will feature major North American Champions since 2000 and will include Daytona 500 champions (Jimmie Johnson), NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champions (Kurt Busch), Indianapolis 500 champions (Dario Franchitti, Dan Wheldon, Juan Pablo Montoya and Helio Castoneves) and Rolex 24 and Rolex Series champions (Dan Gurney, Wayne Taylor, Max Angelelli).
Also scheduled for Friday is final Rolex Series qualifying and practice and the Fresh From Florida 200 KONI Challenge race which starts at 2:15 p.m.
Mayor Kicks Off DIRECTV Speedweeks: The wait is over and DIRECTV Speedweeks is finally underway.
Daytona Beach resident Rich Scherer, who was selected as the 2008 honorary "Mayor of DIRECTV Speedweeks" kicked off activities by waving the green flag to kick off Rolex 24 practice on pit road Thursday morning. in a contest held by Daytona International Speedway and Black Crow Broadcasting (WVYB, 103.3 FM; WHOG, 95.7; 93.1 KRO Country).
With a thunderous, "Rolex Series Drivers Start Your Engines," Scherer green-flagged the start of the Rolex 24 At Daytona Weekend. The weekend culminates with the 46th anniversary of the Rolex 24 At Daytona at historic Daytona International Speedway on Jan. 26-27.
The winner, who says he's seen every Daytona 500 since 1959 and spent his honeymoon in the DIS infield watching Lee Petty win the 1959 event, pointed out in his application that somehow I scrape enough money together to go to all the races, but never have I been treated like a VIP celebrity by attending the festivities as an honorary Mayor.
As honorary Mayor, Sherer will receive two tickets to all DIRECTV Speedweeks races and be part of the historic 50th running of the Daytona 500 Gatorade Victory Lane celebration.
Sherer will also receive two credentials/access to pre-race and Sprint FANZONE on Sunday, Feb. 17, 2008, receive two tickets to the Daytona 500 Experience; attend the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Driver's Meeting; receive Party Zone access during the NASCAR Nationwide Series event and be part of the Gatorade Victory Lane celebration at the historic 50th running of "The Great American Race" the Daytona 500.
Tickets: Race fans can purchase their tickets for the 46th anniversary of the Rolex 24 At Daytona on Jan. 26-27 at the gate or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP.