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Extra effort nets 24 pole

DAYTONA BEACH — Jorg Bergmeister was just about to end his qualifying run when crew members told him to stay out for one more lap.

It turned out to be a great call.

Bergmeister's final lap Thursday was his fastest, earning him the pole in the Rolex 24 at Daytona. He will lead the field to the green flag in the grueling and prestigious 24-hour race Saturday.

"I honestly didn't expect it," Bergmeister said. "I was about to come in and they told me, 'Okay, try again.' And I went for it and didn't really care too much what was going to happen with the car and it worked out."

He covered the 3.56-mile road course at Daytona International Speedway in 1 minute, 40.099 seconds and edged Max Angelelli in the DP class. Angelelli (1:40.133) will start second, followed by Scott Pruett, Ryan Dalziel and Scott Dixon.

Open-wheel standouts Pruett and Dixon are still the favorites, though. They drive star-studded entries for Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates.

Pruett is teamed with Memo Rojas, Graham Rahal and Joey Hand. Pruett and Rojas teamed to win nine of 12 Grand-Am races last year and won the championship. Dixon, meanwhile, is teamed with Dario Franchitti and NASCAR stars Jamie McMurray and Juan Pablo Montoya.

The 18-car field includes several other NASCAR drivers, including five-time defending Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson. Alex Gurney qualified 10th in the entry shared with Jon Fogarty and Johnson.

NASCAR's AJ Allmendinger qualified eighth and will share seat time with Michael McDowell and Justin Wilson.

Most of the drivers raved about the newly repaved speedway, saying it should make for a considerably smoother endurance race.

"You can go anywhere you want, anytime you want," Angelelli said. "Last year was difficult to stay down and was very bumpy throughout the race. You're in the car for 24 hours, so you had a lot to avoid. This year is beautiful, and it's a lot easier all around."

Andy Lally claimed the pole in the GT class with a fast lap of 1:48.487. But his car failed inspection because its wing was placed too far back, moving teammate Dominik Fambacher into the top starting spot. Lally will start from the back of the 32-car field.

Jordan Taylor qualified third, followed by Craig Stanton and Nick Tandy.

NASCAR driver and road-course specialist Boris Said was ninth, and actor Patrick Dempsey's cars were 15th and 19th. Dempsey will drive one of his entries with Charles Espenlaub, Joe Foster and Tom Long.

>>fast facts

Daytona schedule

Today: Grand-Am Sports Car Challenge Series, Continental Tire 200, 1:30 p.m.

Saturday: Grand-Am series, Rolex 24 at Daytona, 3:30 p.m. start

Sunday: Grand-Am series, Rolex 24 at Daytona, 3:30 p.m. finish

Speedweeks

Feb. 12: Bud Shootout (NASCAR Sprint Cup exhibition race); Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 ARCA race

Feb. 13: Daytona 500 qualifying

Feb. 17: Gatorade Duel at Daytona, twin 150-mile qualifying races for the Daytona 500

Feb. 18: NextEra Energy Resources 250 trucks race (100 laps)

Feb. 19: Drive4COPD 300 Nationwide series (120 laps)

Feb. 20: Daytona 500 Sprint Cup race (200 laps)

Extra effort nets 24 pole 01/27/11 [Last modified: Thursday, January 27, 2011 10:36pm]
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