More than bragging rights will be on the line in today’s 15-minute qualifying session at 12:15 p.m., highlighting the final day of the Roar Before the Rolex 24.
The times will be official, with the fastest qualifier in each class getting the first choice of pit location and garage stall (for both of its entries for multi-car team).
The fastest DPi team not only gets the first choice of a pit stall, but the prime first garage stall for the Rolex 24 on Jan. 26-27.
That garage location proved a key factor in Chip Ganassi Racing’s 2006 victory, when the No. 02 Lexus Riley took two quick visits to the garage for major repairs. With no limit to the number of personnel working on the car — compared to the limit of crewmen allowed “over the wall” — the team made major changes in quick order with minimal loss of track position en route to victory.
Last year, both overheating Action Express Racing entries made quick stops in the garage for a supercharge of cool water — helping the team preserve a 1-2 finish.
“This is a race where any advantage you can get is vital,” said Action Express Racing team manager Chris Mitchum. “We’ve been fortunate to work from this location five years in a row, and we’ve gotten quite used it. If there’s any competitive advantage, you want everything you can get. There are ways you can work around it, but it’s absolutely important. But if we don’t have it, we’ll still be able to go for the win.”
For car owner Wayne Taylor, there’s another major advantage to be gained by winning the pole.
“In my case, the major reason is so our Konica Minolta trailer can be in the best location to by seen by all the fans and sponsors,” said Taylor, owner of the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R. “Secondly, if you do have a major problem during the race, it’s easier to get in and out of that garage stall. There’s no sandbagging for us at all — we will go as fast as we can with what we have. But right now, I don’t think we have the speed or the power of the Mazdas, so it’s going to be hard. If you look at the sector times, there’s a very clear picture of what’s happening.”
Despite the advantage of the key garage stall — and parking location for the transporter — today’s qualifying will not overshadow official qualifying for the Rolex 24 on Thursday, Jan. 24.
“Race weekend qualifying is more important,” Taylor said.
“When you talk about qualifying for a 24-hour race, you have to gauge the importance of it from the marketing and media side,” Mitchum said. “We have to do the best we can possibly do for our sponsors. But by no means do you have to qualify on the pole to win the Rolex 24.”