Birmingham: SunTrust Racing preview

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (July 14, 2009) -- "Solid Is Lightning Fast" was the battle cry for co-drivers Max Angelelli and Brian Frisselle and the No. 10 SunTrust Ford Dallara team of Wayne Taylor Racing, as evidenced by their race-winning performance on...

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (July 14, 2009) -- "Solid Is Lightning Fast" was the battle cry for co-drivers Max Angelelli and Brian Frisselle and the No. 10 SunTrust Ford Dallara team of Wayne Taylor Racing, as evidenced by their race-winning performance on the Fourth of July at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway and their brand new, silver paint scheme.

But, as they and their fellow Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series competitors head to scenic Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala., for Sunday's Porsche 250, "Solid" is also "Consistency" with a capital "C," as evidenced by the SunTrust team's hot pursuit of a second Rolex Series championship and its most recent string of race results.

Just one point separates the SunTrust team from the championship-leading No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Lexus Riley of Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas heading into Sunday's race at the 2.3-mile, 16-turn road circuit just west of downtown Birmingham. And, with five races to go before the 2009 Rolex Series champion is crowned, it's the SunTrust team that has set the standard for consistency dating back to its victory last year at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif.

In the last 10 races, the SunTrust team has more podiums (seven) and top-five finishes (eight) than any other Rolex Series team, and only the Ganassi team and the No. 99 Gainsco/Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac Riley of Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty have matched its number of wins (two) during that stretch.

Sunday's race brings the SunTrust team to one of its most successful venues, where it has a win and two other podium finishes in four outings. And, for first-year SunTrust driver Frisselle, Barber is a track that owes him one after the young driver dominated the latter stages of last year's race in the No. 61 AIM Autosport Ford Riley before electrical problems caused the engine to let go just 13 laps from the finish.

Can the SunTrust team make it two wins in a row, and can Frisselle find redemption? The numbers certainly look "Solid."

Practice for Sunday's Porsche 250 begins at 10:50 a.m. EDT Friday. Qualifying is set for 2 p.m. Saturday, while Sunday's 2-hour, 45-minute race is set to begin at 3 p.m. with live coverage on SPEED-TV. The detailed event schedule, as well as live timing and scoring during all on-track sessions, can be found at www.grand-am.com.

Max Angelelli, co-driver of the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Ford Dallara:

You're coming off your first win of the season and to a track that you enjoy, where the SunTrust team has had a lot of success. What is your mindset in the midst of this highly consistent streak of results you and the team are on?

"I'm feeling very focused, perhaps more focused than ever. And I'm feeling that we definitely need to win again in order to win the championship. One win won't be enough to win the championship this year, I feel. So we are happy that we finally won our first race of the year at Daytona, but we are all experienced enough to know that you have to keep working hard and not lose your focus. I think Barber is going to be a good track for us, once again. Last year, we suffered a good bit in the beginning of the race because we had a difficult time getting traction. By the time I got in the car, we were far back and I couldn't do much to try to win the race. So we came away with a sixth place. But we knew what we were going to have to do the next time we came back, and that will be a huge benefit for us this time. The track is very favorable for our car. It is a high-downforce track with no really long straights and some slow corners."

Considering this is your second race in the Southeast in the middle of summer, let's talk about heat for a moment. You seem to be dealing with it a lot better than your visit to Barber two years ago, evidenced by your ability to power your way to victory under extreme conditions at Daytona two weeks ago. How is that?

"You have to remember that, two years ago in the race at Barber, the coolsuit never worked and my drink bottle was empty. I have to say that the SunTrust team has worked very, very hard to help lower the temperatures inside the cockpit. There has been great improvement inside the car, especially with the Dallara. It's funny, people always seem to think I can't take the heat. I think that has been because of the way I drive and the way it makes me consume too much energy. I am much more relaxed, now. I have been working hard, especially during the last year, to make sure I drive as fast as always but in a much more relaxed way, using less energy. When I do that, I don't overheat myself. Maybe it's because I'm Italian. I'm an emotional driver and I put everything I have into every lap. It used to be I would be hot by the time I drove my second lap in the car, and then even hotter on the third. It's not that way, anymore, thanks to improvements to the car and my ability to be more relaxed."

Your win at Daytona ended in a very thrilling, nose-to-tail battle with Alex Gurney in the No. 99 Gainsco car. How special was that for you, personally?

"If I would have a chance to pick a race to win this year, I would've taken that Daytona race for many reasons. First, it's a home race for SunTrust Racing, and it's a home race for Wayne, who lives in Orlando. SunTrust has a lot of clients in Florida who follow our races. And this year, last but not least, all of the NASCAR fans and teams were there, so I wanted to tell everybody that Grand-AM racing is something they need to be watching. We are able to put on a show that is different than NASCAR. But with NASCAR, we can really complete the weekend. In the same day at Daytona, fans saw two very different but very exciting races. During those final laps, I kept thinking to Alex Gurney, 'You will not overtake me because this is my race and you have no chance.' He actually overtook me, completely, a couple of times at the end, but I said, 'Enjoy it, now, because I'm going to get you back and win this race.' It was truly remarkable and I am very happy for SunTrust and everybody on this team."

Brian Frisselle, co-driver of the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Ford Dallara:

You had the car to beat in last year's race at Barber, but it all came to a heartbreaking end for you and your team. Does that enter your thinking as you return to Alabama this weekend?

"I definitely feel like I have unfinished business at this track. What happened last year was probably the most devastating moment of my racing career in Grand-Am -- getting into the lead, holding it in comfortable fashion, and looking like nothing was going to stop us. It was just a shame that an electrical problem caused the engine to let go. That hung with me for a while, afterward. It was difficult because, finally, we did everything right to get our first win together as a team, and the first Grand-Am win of my career. It was all taken away by some unfortunate luck. But, as it turned out, we won twice at the next two races and that took care of the pain from our result at Barber. Still, I feel like the track owes me one. I do enjoy driving that track. Ever since last year, I couldn't wait to go back and finish the job I started last year."

Even before the win at Daytona, the SunTrust team has been on quite a roll. Now, with the momentum from that win, how do you feel about the way things are going as you head to Barber?

"I feel absolutely great about everything. I couldn't be more excited. I'm enjoying, so much, racing for a championship this year and being in the hunt at every race. We're coming off an awesome win at Daytona, where I can't say we were really expecting to win because it's not the strongest type of track for our car. Now, we're going to a place where the car should be strong. Hopefully, Max and I can pick up our second win in a row. I really enjoy driving that track. It's very smooth and the corners are very unique. It's got a lot of character to it and it's very enjoyable to drive. It doesn't have many really slow corners, so most of the track has nice flow. It is difficult to pass there, but as we were able to show last year, when you've got a good car, it's much easier to get around people. I would expect that to be the case for our SunTrust team this weekend."

Wayne Taylor, owner of the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Ford Dallara team:

How have the last couple of weeks been for you after that first win of the season at Daytona?

"It was really a great race to win because it's Daytona and everything that means to SunTrust and me, personally. We had new ('Solid Is Lightning Fast.') branding on the car with a new paint scheme. And the way we won, it was a great accomplishment by everybody in the entire program. I would've liked to have celebrated a lot longer, but it became business as usual pretty quickly. You finish one race and you start preparing for the next one, no matter the result in the previous race. That's how championships are won. This group really has a special ability to keep its eye on the big picture because, the way things are and how competitive it is in Grand-Am these days, you really have to have a lot of things go right and you have to continue to do that in order to win a championship. We worked really hard to put together the right group of people and, clearly now, they've jelled and came together at the last race."

Now, you're coming to another of your more successful tracks. What are your overall thoughts heading to Barber this weekend?

"Obviously, we've got momentum coming into Barber this year with the win at Daytona, which has everybody feeling pretty excited at the moment. We're back in contention for the championship, and it's a good track for us. We always have a nice turnout of SunTrust employees, as well as clients, since their headquarters are just over in Atlanta. I would say it's another 'home' type of event. Last year, we got the pole but really weren't able to run the kind of race we wanted to run because the Dallara wasn't nearly as developed as it is this year. I think, this weekend, it'll be a whole different story."

-credit: str

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Alex Gurney , Jon Fogarty , Wayne Taylor , Max Angelelli , Memo Rojas , Chip Ganassi , Brian Frisselle , Bob Stallings , Felix Sabates
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing , Wayne Taylor Racing