GRAND AM NEWS: Collins Takes Record Grand-Am Rolex Series GT Pole as Banner Racing Sweeps Front Row in Qualifying at Mid-Ohio

Photo by John Thawley LEXINGTON, Ohio (June 23, 2007) – The Banner Racing team swept the front row during Saturday’s Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve qualifying at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, as No. 07 Banner Engineering Pontiac GXP.R driver Kelly Collins outhustled teammate Leighton Reese in the No. 06 Banner Engineering Pontiac GXP.R for the pole for Sunday’s EMCO Gears Classic presented by KeyBank.

Collins, co-driving with Paul Edwards, laid down a record lap of 1:25.329 (95.264 mph) to Reese’s 1:25.551 (95.017 mph) for the pair’s second straight GT pole. The previous record was 1:26.196 The 26-car field will take the green flag for its two-and-a-half hour race at 11 a.m. Sunday.

Collins and Edwards hope this fast time goes a long way in recording their first GT class victory of the season. Currently tied for second in the point standings, the pair has finished in the top 10 in all seven races in 2007, but hasn’t surpassed the runner-up mark yet. Both drivers set their fastest laps late in the session.

“I kept catching cars, so then I’d cool off and fall back, but I’d catch them again,” said Collins, who was among the fastest drivers in Friday’s practice sessions. “It was one of those decisions ‘Do I pit and find a different spot?’ But I actually nipped one out. On my fastest lap, I passed a car in the carrousel. The Banner Pontiac GXP was awesome. It was a good day for Pontiac; there are a lot of us up near the front.”

Reese and co-driver Tim Lewis Jr. are on the cusp of being in the top 10 in points, and are looking for their second victory of the season this weekend. Reese posted his fastest time on the last of his eight laps, having brought the car to the pits during the session.

“It was a good call by my engineer to bring me in and let the tires cool,” Reese said. “We went back out there. They didn’t tell me Kelly (Collins) had the pole. I went from P-5 to P-3, and they told me to do one more just like that one. I heated it through the madness in the 7-8-9-10 combination, and it was good enough to get on the front row. It was a good strategy call. They think my setup is weird, I think their setup is weird; it’s a constant battle but it’s the way I like to drive it. It should be strong in the race.”

Starting behind them is two-time 2007 race winner Nick Ham in the No. 70 SpeedSource Mazdaspeed Mazda RX-8. Ham led the point standings with co-driver Sylvain Tremblay earlier this season before struggling in recent races.

“I wanted the pole really badly, because I wanted to reward our guys for all the hard work they had done since Watkins Glen, when we had a crashed car,” Ham said. “It was important for me to get pole to say thank you to the guys. It was a great team effort to rebuild a crashed car in less than one week. But we’re happy. We’ll start in the top three, so we’re in good shape. I feel good about the race. The Pontiac team is a very strong combination, but I feel good about ours. We’re back to where we were in Mexico and the early races. I’m very excited, and I

know Sylvain is, too.”

Another Pontiac GXP.R will start in the second row. Drew Staveley in the No. 30 Racers Edge Motorsports Pontiac GXP.R will start fourth on the grid after Shawn Price and the No. 21 Matt Connolly Motorsports Pontiac GTO had their time disallowed for being under minimum weight. The GTO will tag the tail of the 26-car field. Championship points leader Dirk Werner’s car, qualified by co-driver Bryce Miller, will start sixth, the highest starting Porsche GT3.

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