Pole Roll Continues For Acura Team Penske

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Dane Cameron earned another pole for Acura Team Penske Friday at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta. (IMSA Photo)
Dane Cameron earned another pole for Acura Team Penske Friday at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta. (IMSA Photo)

BRASELTON, Ga. – When it comes to IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship qualifying lately, Acura Team Penske, Dane Cameron and Patrick Kelly must be butter, because they’re definitely on a roll.

In qualifying for Saturday’s 10-hour Motul Petit Le Mans, Acura Team Penske picked up its fourth consecutive Motul Pole Award – and Cameron’s second straight – in the Daytona Prototype international class, while Kelly picked up his fourth consecutive Le Mans Prototype 2 class pole.

Driving the No. 6 Acura ARX-05, Cameron edged teammate Ricky Taylor by 0.094 seconds, scoring the top starting spot Friday with a best lap of 1 minute, 8.412 seconds (133.660 mph). In the process, Cameron claimed the track record around the 2.54-mile, 12-turn Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta circuit, besting Felipe Nasr’s previous record of 1:08.457 set last year.

“We’re very pleased,” said Cameron, who is co-driving with Juan Pablo Montoya and Simon Pagenaud. “I was a little disappointed when we came here for the six-hour run a few weeks back. Usually we are pretty aggressive with our stuff for qualifying and I thought we did a really good job, but we missed a little bit. I told the engineers, ‘Let’s really put the thing on the limit this time and see.’ I’m happy with what we ended up with, happy to get pole after missing out here the last time we showed up and the last couple of years here at Petit.”

It’s also the second consecutive front-row lockout for Acura Team Penske after Taylor claimed the outside spot with a lap of 1:08.506 (133.042 mph) in the No. 7 machine. He and co-driver Helio Castroneves will be going for their fourth consecutive victory on Saturday and are joined for the endurance race by Alexander Rossi.

Nasr wound up third on the grid at 1:08.612 (133.270 mph) in the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi-V.R he shares with Pipo Derani and Filipe Albuquerque. The full DPi field was covered by a scant 0.817 seconds.

In the LMP2 class, meanwhile, Kelly remained on the same hot streak he’s been on since July’s Cadillac Grand Prix of Sebring. In Friday’s session, the Minnesotan posted a best lap of 1:11.590 (127.727 mph) in the No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA to secure the class pole position by more than a second and a half.

He will go in search of his second consecutive Michelin Raceway victory with co-drivers Simon Trummer and Scott Huffaker, with whom he also won last month’s six-hour TireRack.com Grand Prix here. Kelly also enters Saturday’s race as the LMP2 points leader.

“The thing that I learned (in September), the difference for me, as crazy as it sounds, is being a little more patient with the car,” Kelly said. “I found myself trying to over-rush the car going into (turn) three and maybe down into (turn) five when I was here last time, as opposed to being a little more patient with the car and let it roll a little more. That’s what I learned the most.”

Rob Hodes qualified second on the LMP2 grid with a best lap of 1:13.161 (124.984 mph) in the No. 51 Inter Europol Competition ORECA he is sharing with Austin McCusker and Jakub Smiechowski. John Farano qualified third in the class aboard the No. 8 Tower Motorsport by Starworks ORECA at 1:14.082 (123.430 mph). His co-drivers are Mikkel Jensen and Job van Uitert.