Associated Press

Aleshin, Mowlem, Tandy, Siedler score class poles for Rolex 24

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – A strange day of qualifying produced four surprise class polesitters, an abnormal order of qualifying times and a jumbled grid for Saturday’s 54th Rolex 24 at Daytona.

The GT Le Mans class produced the fastest lap times during qualifying and thus Nick Tandy, who came off a barnstorming 2015 international sports car racing season, wound up setting the fastest time of the afternoon on a wet track of 2:01.408 in his No. 911 Porsche North America Porsche 911 RSR.

However, owing to a rule in the 2016 IMSA Rulebook – Rule 40.1.4 – the wet track and the declaration of variable conditions by Race Director Beaux Barfield meant the grid order would be in this class order: P, PC, GTLM and GTD.

It means Russian driver Mikhail Aleshin in the No. 37 SMP Racing BR Engineering BR01 Nissan has the top starting position for Saturday’s race, despite only setting the ninth fastest time overall of 2:05.793.

Even quirkier is the fact Aleshin was not the fastest prototype driver although he was the fastest driver in the Prototype class.

That honor went to Johnny Mowlem of BAR1 Motorsports, who claimed his second straight Rolex 24 pole position in the Prototype Challenge class, and set a slightly faster lap time of 2:05.708.

GT Daytona was the only somewhat straightforward class and saw Norbert Siedler secure the top spot, in the No. 73 Park Place Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R, at 2:05.798.

The qualifying results are linked here.

However, the grid order will be done by class, P, PC, GTLM and GTD, from the produced laptimes.

Lewis Hamilton receives Daytona 500 invitation from Bubba Wallace

Lewis Hamilton Bubba Wallace
Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images
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Lewis Hamilton is a fan of the new NASCAR Cup Series team formed by Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan to field a car for Bubba Wallace.

Will the six-time Formula One champion also be a fan in person at a NASCAR race in the near future?

Wallace is hoping so.

After Hamilton tweeted his support Tuesday morning about the news of a Hamlin-Jordan-Wallace team making its debut with the 2021 season, Wallace responded with a sly invitation to the Daytona 500.

Much would need to be worked out, starting with how much garage and grandstand access would be afforded for a 2021 season opener that likely would occur during a still ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

But it would seem fitting given that Hamilton and Wallace have been two of the world’s most outspoken Black athletes about the quest for diversity and racial justice. Hamilton recently reaffirmed his commitment to activism after his donning a Breonna Taylor shirt sparked an FIA inquiry.

The idea of Hamilton attending the season opener already had legs, too. The Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 driver has expressed a desire to race the Daytona 500 after he has retired from Formula One.

He was a spectator (with racing legend Mario Andretti) at four-time champion Jeff Gordon’s final Cup race as a full-time in the 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 2011, Hamilton swapped cars with three-time champion Tony Stewart at Watkins Glen International.

Having rubbed shoulders with other racing greats so often, it only would be fitting if Hamilton — who is one victory from tying Michael Schumacher’s career record and also could tie the F1 record with a seventh championship this season — spent some time with the greatest basketball player of all time.

Jeff Gordon was flanked by Mario Andretti and Lewis Hamilton before the 2015 Cup season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).