Michael Cooper, of Syosset, N.Y., carried the momentum from leading both practice sessions on Wednesday at Road Atlanta to an SCCA Pro Racing Playboy MX-5 Cup pole position on Thursday, topping the charts in the 30 minute qualifying session.
With a lap-record time of 1:39.575 (91.826 mph) in the No. 6 Atlanta Motorsports Group Mazda MX-5, Cooper will start Friday's season finale on the pole for the sixth time this season. Cooper has already clinched the 2011 Championship on the strength of five wins already this season.
"I think the track's going to be fast in the morning," Cooper said. "We've got a good car. We always have a good race car, and it's no different this weekend. We hadn't been out after the ALMS guys this weekend, and we went out directly after them. The track was just super fast.
The last two visits by the MX-5 Cup to Road Atlanta have been decided by less than 0.250-second each, and the long, fast straights put drafting at a premium during the race.
"We can't reveal too much strategy to these guys, but we've always got a little bit of strategy behind it," Cooper said of once the green flag drops. "It's worked out so far this year, and I don't think tomorrow will be any different."
Joining Cooper on the front row for the start of Friday's race is Jason Saini, in the No. 28 Autobarn Mazda of Countryside/New Balance/Phiten/SunTrust/CJ Wilson's Children's Charities MX-5. Saini led for the first 15 minutes of the session with a time of 1:39.627 (91.782 mph), also falling under the previous track record of 1:40.220 (91.239 mph) set my Matthew Pombo a season ago.
A pair of ALARA Racing machines will start Friday on the second row. Qualifying third in the No. 10 Race Now For Autism/Frank's International MX-5 is Jeff Mosing with a lap of 1:40.324 (91.144 mph). Mosing has been on the podium four times this season but is hunting for his first race win. Malkhassian has won this season, after leading the final three corners in the No. 11 ALARA Racing MX-5 during the Series' first visit to Road Atlanta this year. Malkhassian's lap of 1:40.565 (90.926 mph) places him fourth on the grid.
Marc Miller, the 2009 MX-5 Cup runner-up, will start fifth in the No.29 C.J. Wilson Racing/Race Now For Autism MX-5 after a time of 1:40.739 (90.769