Daytona II: SunTrust Racing preview

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 29, 2010) -- Hey, Scott Pruett: Max Angelelli says he wants his "Ax" back! Four times in the last two GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series races, Angelelli and co-driver Ricky Taylor's No. 10 SunTrust Ford Dallara of...

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 29, 2010) -- Hey, Scott Pruett: Max Angelelli says he wants his "Ax" back!

Four times in the last two GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series races, Angelelli and co-driver Ricky Taylor's No. 10 SunTrust Ford Dallara of Wayne Taylor Racing beat Pruett and his co-driver Memo Rojas' No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates BMW Riley out of the pits thanks to stellar work by the SunTrust pit crew in the heat of battle. But the passionate Italian racing veteran and former Rolex Series champion hasn't been able to post a win to show for it in either event as the No. 01 came back to score its fourth and fifth victories of the season.

Nonetheless, the SunTrust team has managed, through sheer grit and determination, to keep all but one of the series' impressive array of competitors at bay. And Angelelli and his teammates find themselves a solid second place in the standings, 12 points behind the No. 01 team heading into Saturday's Brumos Porsche 250 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, where Angelelli motored home to a stellar victory for the SunTrust team a year ago this weekend.

Angelelli, of course, is the driver dubbed "Max the Ax" several years ago by a television commentator for his incredible penchant for slicing his way through traffic at crunch time. But after not being able to cash in on the SunTrust team's lightning-fast pit stops in recent events at Watkins Glen and Mid-Ohio, Angelelli jokingly offers a simple explanation: "I think Scott has stolen my ax!"

Seriously, however, watching Pruett, his favorite nemesis over the past seven Rolex Series seasons, roll to five victories over the first seven races harkens in Angelelli's mind memories of his and team owner Wayne Taylor's march to the 2005 Rolex Series title for SunTrust. It was a dominating run featuring five wins and 10 podium finishes in all in 14 events, starting with a runaway victory at the season-opening Rolex 24, and they held the top spot in the standings each week of the season, completing every lap of every race.

Saturday, the SunTrust team returns to the scene of its thrilling victory in last July's Brumos Porsche 250. The team has clearly found the fast way around the 3.56-mile, 12-turn superspeedway road circuit, having followed up last July's victory by clocking the fastest laps there last January in Rolex 24 testing, Rolex 24 qualifying, and the Rolex 24 race, itself. For Saturday's 250-mile sprint, Angelelli and Ricky Taylor are banking on having that speed on their side once again.

Practice for Saturday's Brumos Porsche 250 begins Friday morning with qualifying set for 11:15 a.m. Race time Saturday is 11 a.m., with SPEED's television coverage occurring on a two-hour delay beginning at 1 p.m. The Motor Racing Network (MRN) and Sirius NASCAR Radio Channel 128 will begin their live radio broadcasts beginning at 10:45 a.m. 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:

Seeing the Ganassi team win five times in the first seven races, are you reminded of the season you enjoyed with Wayne Taylor back in 2005, when you won five races and finished on the podium 10 times in 14 races en route to the title?

"I remember the '05 season very well, but I would put that season and the one the Ganassi team has had, so far, on different levels. In 2005, it might have looked easy from the outside but, from the inside, it was an incredible fight every race. Wayne and I were really fast, but we had a lot of competition. This year, we have made several incredible pit stops in a row where we beat them out of the pits, but we just could not finish the deal. When it happened for the second race in a row at Mid-Ohio, I felt like Scott has stolen my ax, and I need to get it back. But still, I am very happy with the tremendous job Ricky and the rest of the SunTrust team have done this year, and I am looking forward to continuing our fight for the championship at Daytona this weekend."

What do you remember most about your championship run in 2005?

"Like I said before, from the outside, it looked easy, but from the inside, it was an incredible fight. Everything was working so well for us every race. We had good strategy and kept making the right decisions. We had no crashes, no major mechanical problems of any kind, except for the fire we had in qualifying at Mid-Ohio. But we worked hard and put up a great fight in that race to finish on the podium. We had a lot more cars to race against. It was a great season all the way around. It wasn't easy, and that is what made it all so satisfying. We finished every lap of every race, and that is a great accomplishment. If you can finish every lap of the season, you are going to win the championship, no matter what. It would be so nice to be able to repeat it."

The SunTrust car was fastest the entire month of January at Daytona but had to settle for a sixth-place finish in the Rolex 24 because of numerous mechanical issues. Do you expect to be fast, once again, as you try to defend your race win in the Brumos Porsche 250?

"In January, everything about the (Rolex) 24-hour race is different. It's a race where you have to manage your situation in every way -- your equipment, your pace, your physical and mental abilities. Daytona, in July, is always a big question mark. You never know what to expect. It's pretty weird because you can go there and your car works well and you go on and win the race. Or, you can go there and nothing works and you look bad. There seems to be no middle ground. It's either a super race or a disaster. Fortunately, we have usually been able to have a very good car at Daytona, whether it's for the 24-hour or for the July race. I still don't want to say I know what to expect this year, because there's no predicting. But we do have a very good history at Daytona."

Ricky Taylor, co-driver of the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Ford Dallara:

After running the 2008 and 2010 Rolex 24s with the SunTrust team, you're heading into your first Brumos Porsche 250 with the team. Is your outlook and your approach any different, as you'll be qualifying the car and starting the race?

"The 24-hour is always a lower-pressure situation, just being such a long race. And the way the strategy plays out, you don't need a whole lot of speed every lap. For the July sprint race, you need speed every lap. Qualifying is going to be important. As at all races, track position is going to be important. I'm looking forward to it because it's going to be the first time I'm going back to a track with the SunTrust team with this exact package (Ford-powered Dallara on Pirelli tires), so we can get right to work and not have to spend time getting me comfortable in the car. Normally, one of the main differences for me with this race is, in the 24-hour, there's debris everywhere, the track is really dirty, and you pay a big price for going off-line. In the sprint race, the track is really clean, and the race is so short, there's no time to really get into a groove. You just put your head down and go for it. Being so hot in July, there is a little less grip, but the same principles still apply when it comes to how you drive the car. You use all the same tricks."

You were transitioning from go-karts to Skip Barber cars back in 2005, when your dad and Max won the championship. Do you remember anything about the way they dominated that season?

"I just remember how many races they kept winning and all the podiums. But the thing that probably stood out more than anything else was how disappointed everybody was when they didn't win. A win is obviously special. I mean, a second or a third is very special. But, back then, I remember how they won both sprint races at Watkins Glen but just couldn't win the six-hour race and that was so disappointing. So, as it turns out, it was not winning that stood out more than all the wins and podium finishes."

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

You're holding down a solid second place in the standings after the Ganassi team has won five of the first seven races. Does the No. 01 team's start to the season remind you of your championship run of 2005?

"In both cases, we're talking about years where everything is working well, and everything just clicks. I think we're having a pretty good year. It's a pity that we had a couple of on-track incidents since the (Rolex) 24-hour. So, at the moment, we're in a solid position in second place. But we're going back to Daytona, our home track, where we won this event last year and where we were the fastest car the entire month of January this year. So we're going there in a very upbeat, optimistic way. I think we'll be fast, once again. It'll be a lot hotter than it was during the 24-hour. But at least we're racing a little earlier in the day, when it shouldn't be quite as hot as it was last year, which should make it a little easier on everybody."

What do you remember most about your championship run with Max in 2005?

"We started the season by winning the 24-hour, so we immediately started off in a great position. We held first place in the championship every single week of the season, and we finished every single lap of every single race. It's amazing to me that it's been five years. I can't believe it's been that long ago because it's still very fresh on my mind, in a lot of ways. It was by far one of my all-time favorite years in racing. And Max and I did it together. SunTrust had just signed on with us the season before. It was a very special achievement. Now, we have Ricky driving with Max and they're doing quite well together. It's so competitive in this series that it takes just that kind of a season, like we had in 2005, to win the championship. Even now."

-source: str

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Scott Pruett , Wayne Taylor , Max Angelelli , Memo Rojas , Skip Barber , Chip Ganassi , Felix Sabates , Ricky Taylor
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing , Wayne Taylor Racing