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Dario Franchitti Takes Acura To Its First American Le Mans Series Pole Position

Andretti Green Acura ARX-01a Stuns Porsche, Audi For Top Overall Starting Spot

In dramatic fashion with a flying last lap, Dario Franchitti stunned the American Le Mans Series paddock Friday by driving the No. 26 XM Satellite Radio Acura ARX-01a to the overall pole position for SaturdayÂ’s one-hour, 40-minute Long Beach Grand Prix event.

Franchitti, who will co-drive with Bryan Herta Saturday before competing in next weekÂ’s IndyCar Series race in Japan, came from third behind the two Penske Porsches with less than a minute remaining in the 20-minute qualifying session on the famed 1.9-mile street circuit west of downtown Long Beach to claim the top spot. FranchittiÂ’s final lap time of one minute, 11.838 seconds (98.622 m.p.h.) gave Acura its first American Le Mans Series pole position in only the automakerÂ’s third sports-car event.

Highcroft RacingÂ’s Stefan Johansson drove his Acura ARX-01a to fourth in LMP2 class qualifying Friday, behind the Andretti Green Acura and the two Penske cars. The former Formula One veteran clocked a time of 1:12.844 in the No. 9 Highcroft Acura. Johansson will team with another F-1 veteran, AustraliaÂ’s David Brabham, in SaturdayÂ’s feature race in the Long Beach streets.

Adrian Fernandez took his No. 15 LoweÂ’s Fernandez Acura Lola to the fifth starting spot after a slight mishap with another car eliminated his chance for the pole. The popular Mexican driver was the fastest in FridayÂ’s morning practice session and looked to be a favorite for the pole. However, Fernandez, who co-drives Saturday with Luis Diaz, made contact with a Mazda exiting the pits early in qualifying. Fernandez had to return to the pits to replace the nose of his Acura Lola. FernandezÂ’ best qualifying time was 1:13.148.

SaturdayÂ’s American Le Mans Series race will be telecast at 8 p.m. (EDT) on the SPEED Channel.

DARIO FRANCHITTI(#26 XM Satellite Radio AGR Acura ARX-01a) “I am getting used to the track with each run. It has been five years since I have run here. Trying to get a lap together is difficult with all of the traffic. But at the end I was able to get a pretty clean lap. Actually, I almost had to stop coming down for the final lap. So I was a little surprised by the time of the lap. But I knew I had a shot at the pole if I got a clear lap. It is very exciting to win Acura’s first pole. Bryan [Herta] has been waiting to come back here. When I jumped in the car this morning, Bryan tapped me on the helmet and said, ‘Hey, it’s Long Beach. Have fun!’ It is always great to race here. I hope we can put together a solid race and win here. Bryan and I have been trying to win here for many years. It would be a tremendous thrill to win at Long Beach. ”

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ (#15 Lowe’s Fernandez Acura Lola 06/40) “I hit a slower car that was coming out of the pits. I think it was the Mazda. But that car was going very slow. I clipped it and we had to come in and change the front nose. The new nose was dragging a little too much after we changed to it. I don’t think our car is too far off for the race. Luis [Diaz] and I have raced here previously, so I think we’ll have a competitive car for Saturday. It is great to race the Acura in the company’s backyard here in Southern California. We are very excited to be here.”

STEFAN JOHANSSON (#9 Highcroft Racing Acura ARX- 01a): “We are getting closer with the new Acura chassis. The engine feels good. I thought we had a chance to run a little quicker but we ran out of time. I really like being back and racing at Long Beach. It has been ten years or so for me. It took a little time to learn the new sections of the track and it is a little different with the ALMS car than the Champ Car. We had a couple of problems in practice this morning and, with the limited time here, that hurt us a bit. But we feel good about the race.”

Long Beach Grand Prix Lineup (LMP2)
*Overall For All Classes

1. ANDRETTI GREEN ACURA 1:11.838 *

2. Penske Porsche #6 1:12.144

3. Penske Porsche #7 1:12.245

4. HIGHCROFT ACURA 1:12.844

5. LOWE’S FERNANDEZ ACURA 1:13.148

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