Rennsport One’s Stevan McAleer put himself in excellent position to defend his victory from last year Thursday (Jan. 26) by winning the pole for Friday’s IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge BMW M Endurance Challenge at Daytona. McAleer’s lap at 114.268 mph is a new Grand Sport track record by more than six-tenths of a second.
“It’s nice to be at the pointy end of the field,” McAleer said afterwards. “Our goal is to try to capitalize and get a good result. I’d love to win, but I’d be happy with a top three finish.”
McAleer won the pole by .038 seconds over KohR Motorsports’ Luca Mars. PF Racing’s Zane Smith will start third, then Murillo Racing’s Kenny Murillo and CarBahn Motorsports with Peregrine Racing’s Sean McAlister.
Wyatt Bricachek will start Van der Steur Racing’s first GS race from sixth on the grid, then AutoTechnic Racing’s John Capestro-Dubets. Hailie Deegan starts eighth in the second PF Racing Ford, then TR3 Racing’s Jon Branam in the best of the Bronze Cup cars. Motorsports In Action’s Jesse Lazare starts 10th.
Unlike the ROAR Before the 24 and even the pre-qualifying practice, Grand Sport qualifying was a back-and-forth affair. Smith and Mars, the quickest drivers at the ROAR, were right up there. So was McAlister in his Porsche.
Capestro-Dubets was quickest early on in his new BMW G82 M4 GT4 before Smith put his Mustang at the front. McAleer then displaced Smith at the top of the chart with about five minutes remaining.
The nightmare weekend for Crucial Motorsports with their McLaren continued in qualifying. Henry O’Hara pulled off the track in the Le Mans chicane to try to reboot his McLaren Artura GT4. He eventually got it back going after a brief interruption, but only good enough for O’Hara to get the car back to the pits.
McCumbee-McAleer Racing with AEROSPORT’s Jenson Altzman was quick early on in the session, but his No. 13 Mustang ground to a halt exiting the International Horseshoe. Altzman pulled the car into a safe place to prevent a red flag, but the team will have to make some repairs prior to Friday’s race. He ultimately qualified 12th.
In TCR, VGRT had dominated both practice sessions prior to qualifying, but it was LA Honda World Racing’s Mat Pombo that drew first blood with a track record lap. Later on, a group of five different cars got together into a draft. That allowed Bryan Herta Autosport’s Harry Gottsacker to go to the top of the chart.
HART’s Chad Gilsinger and KMW Motorsports with TMR Engineering’s Tim Lewis Jr. put themselves at the top of the chart, but it was Pombo that came back with a lap at 109.691 mph to win the pole. The lap is a new TCR track record by 1.263 seconds.
“To have two poles and two track records back-to-back is kind of cool,” Pombo said afterwards. “We’re expecting to get our new Honda from JAS…sometime in the next couple of weeks. We’re trying to [send] this car off with a bang.”
Pombo won the pole by .088 seconds over Lewis. JDC-Miller MotorSports’ Chris Miller will start third in his Audi, followed by Gilsinger. Gottsacker will start fifth.
The BMW M Endurance challenge at Daytona is scheduled to go green at 1:45 p.m. ET Friday afternoon. Coverage will air live on Peacock starting at 1:40.
About the author
Phil Allaway has three primary roles at Frontstretch. He's the manager of the site's FREE e-mail newsletter that publishes Monday-Friday and occasionally on weekends. He keeps TV broadcasters honest with weekly editions of Couch Potato Tuesday and serves as the site's Sports Car racing editor.
Outside of Frontstretch, Phil is the press officer for Lebanon Valley Speedway in West Lebanon, N.Y. He covers all the action on the high-banked dirt track from regular DIRTcar Modified racing to occasional visits from touring series such as the Super DIRTcar Series.
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