O’Connell, Foss, Povoledo Take Road Atlanta World Challenge Poles

BRASELTON, Ga. – Johnny O’Connell, of nearby Flowery Branch, Ga., led a General Motors top-five grid sweep for Friday’s Pirelli World Challenge Championships season finale race, the Cadillac World Challenge Grand Prix of Road Atlanta. Eric Foss, of Dallas, Texas, and Aaron Povoledo, of Toronto, Ontario, earned the GTS and Touring Car poles, respectively.

Eric Foss earned the GT pole at Road Atlanta (Weber photo)

Driving the No. 3 Cadillac Racing Cadillac CTS-V Coupe, O’Connell turned a record 1:21.896 (111.653 mph) around the 12-turn, 2.54-mile circuit and was the only driver to break the 1:22 barrier en route to his second pole of the season.

“It was difficult because normally our dash is giving us information when we run and mine wasn’t,” O’Connell said. “The two laps were within a tenth. I did a good first lap. There really wasn’t much that I could change for lap two. On lap two, my rhythm got thrown out just a little bit because I was worried about Tony Gaples. He had just pulled out of the pits and I was like, ‘ah, man, he might wreck my lap.’ But he did a great job, he let me by coming out of seven. It was two good laps and then I got on the radio that we had a three or four tenth gap and I was like, you know what, I’ll just save my car. There’s no point. I did not think there was a whole lot left.

“I’m really happy, and just excited for the Cadillac guys. It’s been all year, developing, developing, developing, and this is nice to get.”

The General Motors contingent had additional reason to celebrate, as O’Connell led a Cadillac/Corvette sweep of the top five spots on the GT and overall grid for Friday’s season-ending race.

Mike Skeen, of Charlotte, N.C., turned a 1:22.243 (111.182 mph) in his No. 2 CRP/Cragar Wheels Chevrolet Corvette, 0.328-second ahead of teammate Patrick Lindsey, of Santa Barbara, Calif., and his No. 12 Hawk Performance Chevrolet Corvette.

Andy Pilgrim, of Boca Raton, Fla., was fourth quickest in his No. 8 Cadillac Racing Cadillac CTS-V Coupe, followed by Eric Curran, of Easthampton, Mass., in his return to the series in the No. 30 Whelen Engineering Chevrolet Corvette.

Patrick Long, who clinched the GT Drivers’ Championship one race ago, will start seventh in his No. 45 TruSpeed/Privacy Star/EnTrust Porsche 911 GT3.

For Foss, it was his second pole on the season, but they came 11 races apart as he bookended the year with the top grid spot in the No. 73 Traxxas/St. Jude’s/SPX Ford Mustang FR500S with a 1:30.934 (100.556 mph).

“The Traxxas/Capaldi Racing Ford Mustang was phenomenal today,” Foss said. “The crew has done a great job this weekend, and it feels great to be on pole. Tomorrow is going to be a long race, it’s going to be difficult. I’m really looking forward to the challenge and hopefully we’re going to stay up top and see what happens.”

Jordon Musser, of The Colony, Texas, qualified second in his second series appearance with the No. 05 Momentum Autosport Chevrolet Camaro with a 1:31.305 (100.147 mph). Musser won in his only other series start this year at Miller Motorsports Park.

Jason von Kluge, of Ann Arbor, Mich., was third fastest in his No. 19 Varsity Ford Ann Arbor/Steeda Ford Mustang Boss 302S with a 1:31.398 (100.046 mph). Peter Cunningham, of Milwaukee, Wis., will start fourth in the No. 1 Acura/RealTime Racing Acura TSX, followed by Ian Baas, of Opelika, Ala., in his No. 56 APR Motorsport Audi A4.

GTS Champion-elect Paul Brown will start seventh in his No. 50 Lucas Oil/K&N Filters/Luminox Ford Mustang Boss 302S.

Povoledo earned his season-high sixth Pirelli World Challenge Touring Car pole position with a fastest lap time of 1:34.907 (96.347 mph) in his No. 88 K-Pax Racing Volvo C30.

“It means the world to me,” Povoledo said. “This whole season, getting to drive for K-Pax Racing and represent the Volvo C30, this is something I’ve been working toward my entire career to get an opportunity like this. This team puts so much heart, so much effort and work into it.

“For my part, I’ve been giving my absolute all, driving with all my heart and all my brain every corner of every lap of every session this season and leaving nothing on the table. I really feel like we have maximized every minute we’ve had this year. Scoring six poles, it goes to show that, even though we missed out on the championship this year, we’ve proven that this K-Pax car is the car to beat in the World Challenge Touring Car Class.”

Making their first appearance in 2011 and qualifying second and third in Touring Car were a pair of APR Motorsport Volkswagen GTIs, with Josh Hurley, of Gainesville, Fla., taking the front row spot with a 1:35.661 (95.587 mph) and Kevin Gleason, of Johnstown, Pa., qualifying third just 0.013-second behind.

Robb Holland, of Denver, Colo., will start fourth in his No. 66 K-Pax Racing Volvo C30, followed by Lawson Aschenbach, of Darnestown, Md., who has already clinched the 2011 Championship in his No. 71 Compass360 Honda Civic Si.

Friday’s 12th, and final, Round of the 2011 Pirelli World Challenge Championship will make its standing start at 1:25 p.m. (EDT). Follow all the race action via live notes and timing and scoring at www.world-challenge.com. The race will be broadcast Saturday, Oct. 29 at 4 p.m.

Follow World Challenge on Twitter @WCRacing.

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