ALTON, VA, AUG 15: Rockstar Makita Suzuki’s Ben Spies used a change of machine set-up to take the provisional pole for Sunday’s Suzuki Big Kahuna Nationals at Virginia International Raceway in Alton, Va. Spies ran a lap of 1:23.934 mins. to knock teammate Mat Mladin from the top with less than eight minutes to go in the 40 minute session, held under a threatening sky on the track near the North Carolina border. Mladin was holding at 1:24.477 mins. when Spies went to the top and his time didn’t improve. He finished second at a gap of .543 secs. Spies said the team had changed forks “just for a little different feel” and that it had helped in “some areas on the track that I was struggling with this morning. “It did work out. We made some other changes too and rarely do you make quite a few big changes like that and it works, and it did. And it was kind of hard to tell, though, because when we started the session we already had 15, 16 laps on the tire and it had been heat-cycled and it didn’t feel great at all. But the times were OK. Then we just put on a new same compound, just new tire, and it was quite a bit better.” Spies’ health was also quite a bit better. He’d raced at Mid-Ohio less than two weeks after having his appendix removed. Two weeks further on he feels better and is in a much better mood. “I actually feel really good,” he said. “Just took a lot of kinda time off after Ohio and didn’t do a whole lot of anything. Pretty much just played around and that’s about it. Did a little bit of training, but probably half of what I’ve been doing all season. Just try to get healthy. “It’s good to come back to the track feeling good again. I’m just in a better mood in general. I didn’t know how much I was miserable at Ohio. But it’s good, I’m happy, I’m feeling good and ready for the race. “Mat’s (Mladin) going to be tough, obviously. These two tracks,” VIR and Road Atlanta, both tracks where Spies has never won a Superbike race, “are his best tracks, so I don’t think he’s going to lay down by any means and I’m sure he’s going to pick it up, so it’s going to be good,” Spies said. “We’re just going to do everything I can do and try to go as fast as I can.” Third in qualifying with a late burst of speed was Yamaha’s Jason DiSalvo. DiSalvo was half a second down on Mladin with .190 secs. on Monster Kawasaki’s Jamie Hacking, who qualified at the end of the provisional front row. Then came Yamaha’s Eric Bostrom, narrowly in front of the Jordan Suzuki of Aaron Yates. The third Rockstar Makita Suzuki of Tommy Hayden was seventh ahead of a trio of Hondas; American Honda’s Miguel Duhamel and Neil Hodgson, and Corona Honda’s Matt Lynn.
Friday Qualifying: 1. Ben Spies (Suzuki) 1:23.934 2. Mat Mladin (Suzuki) 1:24.477 3. Jason DiSalvo (Yamaha) 1:24.992 4. Jamie Hacking (Kawasaki) 1:25.181 5. Eric Bostrom (Yamaha) 1:25.402 6. Aaron Yates (Suzuki) 1:25.446 7. Tommy Hayden (Suzuki) 1:25.447 8. Miguel Duhamel (Honda) 1:25.869 9. Neil Hodgson (Honda) 1:26.016 10. Matt Lynn (Honda) 1:26.060