WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (Aug. 7, 2012) – It’s a team motto coined almost 50 years ago by the late Al Davis, one of the founding fathers and owners of the National Football League’s Oakland Raiders: “Just Win, Baby!”
Since Davis first uttered those words in the mid-1960s, they have become the true essence of all things competitive. And as the 2012 GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series season hits the home stretch, they have become the battle cry for Max Angelelli and Ricky Taylor and the No. 10 SunTrust Corvette Dallara DP team of Wayne Taylor Racing as they head to Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International for Saturday night’s Continental Tire 200.
Winning certainly has been a key part of SunTrust Racing’s DNA since it became one of the flagship teams of the Rolex Series in 2004. In just its second year in the series, Angelelli and Ricky Taylor’s father, three-time sports car racing champion Wayne Taylor, co-drove SunTrust all the way to the 2005 Super Bowl – err, Rolex Series – championship. In its eight-plus Rolex Series seasons, like clockwork, the SunTrust team has been among the winningest in all of sports car racing, finishing top-three in the championship every year but one.
SunTrust Racing’s winning ways continued into 2012 as Angelelli and the younger Taylor, his third-year co-driver, blazed to back-to-back victories at Homestead-Miami Speedway in April and New Jersey Motorsports Park in Millville in May. But those high points of the season were bookended and heavily offset by the most bizarre set of circumstances – a season-opening DNF (did not finish) just 30 minutes into the 50th running of the Rolex 24 At Daytona, and four (yes, four) consecutive DNFs after the victory at New Jersey.
Consequently, a second Rolex Series championship appears to be a longshot, at best, as Angelelli and Taylor find themselves in eighth place, 35 points (265-235) behind two-time-defending champions Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas of the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates BMW Riley team. An eighth trip to the top-three podium at this year’s season-ending Rolex Series banquet in New York City is still a distinct possibility for the SunTrust team, however. Just 13 points (243-230) separate Angelelli and Taylor from the third-place No. 5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP team for which, ironically enough, Taylor’s younger brother Jordan will be co-driving with David Donohue for the first time this weekend.
Two weekends ago, on the hallowed grounds of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the veteran Italian Angelelli and the recently turned 23-year-old Taylor broke their midseason jinx by completing a solid performance that netted a much-needed podium finish at the inaugural Brickyard Grand Prix.
This weekend, they return to Watkins Glen’s 2.45-mile, 11-turn NASCAR short course on which they recorded the fastest race win in Rolex Series history a year ago. It was thoroughly dominating weekend as Taylor qualified on the pole for the sixth consecutive race, and he and Angelelli went on to lead 77 of 100 laps and clocked a record average speed of 122.308 mph over the two-hour timed event.
Is there a repeat performance in the cards for Angelelli and Taylor? All they have to say to that is, “Just Win, Baby!”
Practice for Saturday’s Continental Tire 200 begins Friday morning with qualifying set for 5:40 p.m. EDT. Race time Saturday is 6 p.m., immediately following the NASCAR Nationwide Series race, with SPEED carrying the television broadcast live. Live radio by the Motor Racing Network (MRN) and SiriusXM Channel 117 begins at 5:45 p.m. Live timing and scoring during all on-track sessions can be found at www.grand-am.com, and on mobile devices at m.grand-am.com/laptrax.
Max Angelelli, co-driver of the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Corvette Dallara DP:
Your overall thoughts as we head to Watkins Glen for the two-hour sprint race this weekend?
“This is another race and another opportunity to try and get a win. This year is really a strange championship, more strange than it has ever been since I have been driving in GRAND-AM. There are many opportunities for everyone. The championship race is really different compared to the past. You have new competitors fighting for the championship lead and there are many changes. It’s really hard to say who’s going to win the race each week, and even harder to say who is going to win the championship. You have some favorites, but many outsiders. We definitely don’t consider ourselves an outsider, and of course we are going to try to win this race again this weekend, like we did last year. We really have nothing to lose. In a lot of ways, it makes it easier to go racing.”
How are you dealing with the fact that you are 35 points out of the championship lead with four races to go?
“It’s not much different than usual because I give 100 percent every race, whether we’re fighting for the championship or not. I’ve always approached every race as a single race. It’s always ‘head down and push, push, push for the win.’”
You’re racing the Corvette DP package on The Glen’s short course for the first time. What are your expectations?
“What I’ve noticed is, when we go testing, there are cars that are very fast or very slow, and then when we go back for the actual race, everything is different. If you base this weekend on our great performance at our test at Watkins Glen two weeks ago, I’d have to be concerned about this weekend. But if I base it on what has happened this season and how we have been able to make our SunTrust car perform on race weekends, I am very optimistic. We always perform on the race weekends, so I would not judge how we are doing based on the actual race results. We were always there. It’s just that we have had some bad things happen along the way.”
Ricky Taylor, co-driver of the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Corvette Dallara DP:
What’s your overall outlook for this weekend at Watkins Glen?
“Watkins Glen should be good for us, once again. I think we had a good car at the six-hour. So it’s really a three-race stretch that we’ve had good cars at Watkins Glen going back to last year. After the tire test we did there a couple of weeks ago, we’re pretty hopeful again. This weekend is very different from the six-hour, but a majority of the things we do with the car carry over. If we can get the aero (aerodynamics) all set early on and use all the practice well and efficiently, we’ll be OK. At Indy, we ran out of time, basically. For The Glen we have a good a starting spots as far as working on our setup.”
Being so far out of the championship lead with four races to go is an unusual position for you and this team. How are you dealing with that as you finish out the season?
“I’ve been over it for the last race or two, I guess. We’re just focusing on winning races. Actually, that’s always been our goal, even when things have been going really well. We normally just go race-by-race and try to win as many as we can and that’s how the points have always taken care of themselves. Since I’ve been with the team, I can’t say we’ve ever really been caught up in championships, per se. We’re always just trying to collect maximum points.”
Have you been keeping up with the Olympics, and what are your favorite things to watch?
“I like all the racing, the bike racing, the triathlons, the marathon. I’ve been watching everything, even the simplest sports like table tennis. It’s great to watch people who are the best in the world at what they do. Even the simplest sports are incredible.”
Wayne Taylor, team owner of the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Corvette Dallara DP:
You’re headed back to Watkins Glen, where you had ultimate success in both races last year but had a bit of bad luck during this past June’s six-hour race that further dampened your championship hopes. How are you approaching this weekend?
“We’re going to Watkins Glen with the same attitude we went to Indy with, which is that we’re out of the championship fight, so we’re going to continue taking it one race at a time and see if we can win more races before the end of the season. That’s absolutely the focus, to try and win races. The team tire-tested Tuesday in New Jersey and both Max and Ricky are ready for this one. The car is back in its regular SunTrust colors, so we’re absolutely ready to go.”