Acura Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves was the last man standing Friday evening at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, capturing the pole for Saturday’s six-hour.
Castroneves was the fifth different DPi driver to lead the session, running a late lap of 1m8.674s in the No. 7 Acura ARX-05 to score his fifth career pole and second at Road Atlanta.
“This never gets old,” Castroneves said. “Here, everything is on the line. We’ve got great competitors and manufacturers, and every time we go out you’ve got to push it to the limit. For me, it’s great, because every time you achieve something great, it’s fun to do, it’s special. Tomorrow’s a six-hour race, it’s where you finish, not where you start. However, I enjoy celebrating every time I do something awesome.”
Felipe Nasr came back from a trip through the grass exiting Turn 1 to briefly take a turn at the top in the No. 31 Action Express Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi-V.R, before being nipped by 0.056s. Earlier in the day, the No. 31 Cadillac led both practice sessions, with Pipo Derani fastest in the morning and Nasr in the afternoon.
Dane Cameron was third, 0.093 back in the No. 6 Acura, followed by the Mazdas of Tristan Nunez (0.242s back in the No. 77) and Harry Tincknell (0.274s back in the No. 55). The top seven DPis were separated by 0.405s.
Patrick Kelly celebrated his 33rd birthday by claiming his third-consecutive LMP2 pole, turning a lap of 1m12.209s – gapping second place by 3.281s.
Nick Tandy prevailed in a “blink of an eye” GTLM session that saw the top five cars separated by a mere 0.086s. Tandy took his ninth career pole for the Porsche GT Team with a lap of 1m16.167s in the No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR-19.
“It probably means the qualifying doesn’t really matter too much, to be honest,” Tandy said of the tight spread in the qualifying times. “If we see the temperatures that we saw in the middle of the afternoon today, single lap pace will be irrelevant tomorrow. It will all come down to how fast you’ll be in the final half of that stint and not the first half. But when you’re out front you can, to a certain degree, control the strategy. That’s why we put so much effort into qualifying. It’s a long race. And typically, from Porsche’s side and especially our side, we tend to do well in endurance races.”
Corvettes took the next two positions, with Antonio Garcia 0.014s back in the No. 3 Corvette C8.R, followed by Tommy Milner, 0.045s in arrears in the No. 4. Laurens Vanthoor missed the pole by .078s, fourth-fastest in the No. 912 Porsche, followed by the Team RLL BMW M8 GTEs of Connor De Phillippi (0.086s back in the No. 25) and Jessie Krohn, minus 0.192s in the No. 24.
The No. 3 had a late start when it opted to correct a problem with loose insulation encountered on the drive to the pits. The team missed less than three minutes before Garcia joined the session.
Frankie Montecalvo captured the GTD pole with a lap of 1m19.757s in the No. 12 AIM Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3.
“Road Atlanta was the first track I ever came to to see an endurance race, it was Petit Le Mans in 2008,” said Montecalvo, who captured his first career pole at Sebring earlier this year. “So to come here and get a pole means a lot to me. I was able to put together a great lap, great timing. We had no traffic out there thanks to Townsend [Bell] and the guys on the pit box trying to get us a clear track and a clear gap and it worked out today.”
Second, 0.150s back, was Madison Snow in the No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3, with Jan Heylen 0.163s back in the No. 16 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R.
Michael DeQuesada was up to third when he took a trip through the grass in the Esses. He was able to continue, but the grill of the No. 14 Lexus was packed with grass and he was forced to pit. He wound up qualifying eighth.
GRT Magnus Racing opted not to qualify the No. 44 Flex-Box Lamborghini Huracan GT3 to save tires for the race. Teams are allowed nine sets of Michelin rubber for the event.
UP NEXT: Saturday’s six-hour is set to start at 11:35 a.m. ET. This event replaces the Sahlen’s Six Hours of Watkins Glen, and serves as the sixth event for the WeatherTech Championship and the second round of the Michelin Endurance Cup.