Just .019 seconds off the top spot, Hand will start p2 when team owner Chip Ganassi issues the call to start engines for the 56th annual Rolex 24 At Daytona on Saturday.
“Of course we’re always looking to be fastest,” said Hand, who clocked a 1:42.798 lap to put the car he shares with Dirk Müller and Sébastien Bourdais on the front row. “That’s why we’re on this team led by Chip Ganassi. He pushes all of us to be the best and we wanted the pole again this year. We basically wanted to repeat the whole weekend from last year.”
“I feel like we had the best race car we’ve had all weekend today,” Hand said. “I pushed. I drove as hard as I could. It’s windy out there and it’s really throwing some curveballs into the balance of the car. You had to learn quick. It was like racing a sprint car on Saturday night, trying to find out where the grip was on the dirt. The wind is in turn one, in your face, but it’s up the back on turn five, then it’s in your face again in the Bus Stop. The wind played havoc and you had to find some lines you don’t normally run. It’s hard to be so close to a pole, but we’re starting on the front row at Daytona. I think that should do. We can still win from there.”
Westbrook turned in a 1:43.091 to qualify the No. 67 Ford GT he shares with Ryan Briscoe and Scott Dixon p5.
“We’re not quite as comfortable in the car as we were at the Roar (test), and we’re not quite sure yet if that’s the wind or the set-up, or a bit of both,” Westbrook said. “I didn’t quite have a balanced car there, but there’s plenty of time to fix it for the race. This team has a lot of strong data from Daytona. It would’ve been nice to fight for the pole, but it just wasn’t meant to be today. We’ll improve the car and make sure we have a good car for the race.”
Ganassi, who will issue the call for “drivers, start your engines” as the race’s Grand Marshal, first arrived at Daytona International Speedway as a crew member in 1985. He and his race teams have 199 wins to their credit entering the race, and is hungry for win 200. Ganassi has won the twice-around-the-clock race with Ford in both the prototype class and GTLM.
Ford’s history with the event in its current format stretches back to its very first green flag. In 1966, a Ford GT 40 won the first-ever 24-hour endurance race at Daytona.