Heavy rain causes odd qualifying for Rolex 24 at Daytona

Heavy rain made for a strange qualifying session on Thursday for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Driving a Porsche 911 in the GT Le Mans class, Nick Tandy posted the fastest lap around the 3.56-mile road course. But because the race director declared "variable conditions" before qualifying, Tandy will start well back in the field.

Mikhail Aleshin earned the pole with a ninth-place qualifying effort. The twice-around-the-clock endurance event begins Saturday.

Aleshin, driving in the top Prototype class, averaged 101.882 mph and covered the course in 2 minutes, 5.793 seconds. Tandy was more than 4 seconds faster, but it didn't matter.

Tandy will start behind 13 Prototype entries and eight Prototype Challenge entries.

"It's going to be interesting at the start to see where exactly we shape up, but it should be fun," he said.

Forecasts call for no rain over the weekend, but steady downpours created havoc during qualifying.

Defending IndyCar Series champion and defending Rolex 24 winner Scott Dixon drove off track during the session, spewing mud all over his No. 02 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing entry. The "star car," which includes Dixon, fellow IndyCar regular Tony Kanaan and NASCAR drivers Kyle Larson and Jamie McMurray, qualified 32nd in a 54-car field.

Ganassi's other car, No. 01, qualified 26th.

Six cars didn't even get on track during the session, including the unique DeltaWing entry.

"I don't think the decision not to qualify will affect us," DeltaWing driver Katherine Legge said. "The Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona is a long race, and by the time we get our first yellow, it should have all sorted itself out. I think we have a really fast car for the race and I'm super excited to prove what the DeltaWing can achieve and reward the team for all their hard work."

DeltaWing and everyone else will be chasing Aleshin when the green flag drops.

"On my fastest lap, I almost hit the wall a couple of times," Aleshin said. "Surprising to myself as well, I stayed on track and managed the fastest laps, which put me on the pole."

The No. 2 Honda, with Scott Sharpe, Ed Brown, Johannes van Overbeek and Luis Felipe Derani sharing the seat, qualified 12th and will start second. The No. 60 Honda, driven by John Pew, Oswaldo Negri Jr., AJ Allmendinger and Olivier Pla, will start third. Two-time defending series champions Christian Fittipaldi and Joao Barbosa will start 11th in the No. 5 Action Express Corvette that also includes five-time Rolex winner Scott Pruett.

Pruett left Ganassi after 12 years and needs one more Rolex win to break the record he shares with Hurley Haywood.

"It's just great to have him and hopefully he'll bring his lucky charm with him, which is what you always need to win a 24-hour race," Barbosa said.

The top qualifiers in the other two classes: Johnny Mowlem posted the eighth-fastest lap overall and tops in the Prototype Challenge class, and Norbert Siedler had the best lap in the GT Daytona class.