The No. 10 SunTrust Chevrolet Dallara of Wayne Taylor Racing will start Saturday’s GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series 250 from the pole for the third race in a row after qualifying Friday afternoon at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis.
Ricky Taylor, the 21-year-old co-driver to veteran Italian Max Angelelli, earned his third consecutive and fifth career Rolex Series pole with a lap of 2 minutes, 1.050 seconds (120.386 mph) around the 4-mile, 14-turn road circuit that is also hosting the NASCAR Nationwide Series here this weekend. It put Taylor and the SunTrust Racing machine at the front of the starting grid among 27 car-and-driver combinations set to take part in Saturday’s two-hour timed event. Taylor and Angelelli not only started from the pole at the previous two Rolex Series events at Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, Conn., and Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International, they went on to score thoroughly dominating victories and currently stand second in the Rolex Series championship.
“I think of the three poles this season, this one’s the most satisfying,” said Taylor, who in addition to the last three race poles was the fastest qualifier last season at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala., and in July at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. “We lost pretty much an entire test day here Wednesday because we had to change an engine, so we started the weekend a day behind everybody else. We got three laps each for Max and I on Wednesday, just getting acclimated to the track, timing our braking points and stuff like that. Then, yesterday, it rained all day. We got a little bit of running in the dry late in the day and that was it. Today, we just took a swing at it. The car was really good, again. When I did my fast lap and saw my time on the dash, I was really shocked. The new tires cover up a lot of problems, so we still have some work to do. But, overall, I’m really happy and this is a real credit to everybody on the SunTrust team. We are on quite a roll.”
Today’s pole was the 16th for SunTrust since it joined the Rolex Series in 2004 with Angelelli and Taylor’s father and team owner, three-time sports car racing champion Wayne Taylor, as his co-driver. It was the third time the SunTrust car has qualified on the pole in its first visit to a racing venue – with Watkins Glen in 2004 and Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., in 2006 being the other two – and the ninth time SunTrust has started on the front row in its first visit to a track. Three of those first-time front-row starts resulted in victories for the SunTrust team – Virginia International Raceway in Alton from the second starting spot in 2004, Montreal’s Circuit Gilles Villeneuve from the second starting spot in 2007, and Lime Rock from the second starting spot in 2010. Angelelli and Wayne Taylor also co-drove to victory for the SunTrust team from the fourth starting spot in their first visit to Phoenix International Raceway in 2004.
Ricky Taylor’s pole lap today was almost two-tenths of a second faster than the next-best lap of outside-front-row starter Jon Fogarty in the No. 99 Gainsco/Bob Stallings Racing Chevrolet Riley, which toured the circuit in 2:01.204 (120.233 mph). The championship-leading No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates BMW Riley will start third after Memo Rojas’ qualifying lap of 2:01.583 (119.858 mph).
“As Brian (Pillar), our engineer, said, this is the most impressive pole he’s seen, given that we’ve had virtually no practice because we had an engine issue during the test day Wednesday, then it rained on Thursday, and I think Max and Ricky, together, did a maximum of 14 laps of testing and practice,” Wayne Taylor said. “So, going into qualifying, it was a real unknown. We really didn’t have any idea where we would end up. I don’t know how Ricky’s doing this. He’s obviously doing something right. He has a lot of confidence. He has a lot of support from the team. Brian, engineering this car, has been absolutely faultless. When our drivers have a car they can feel confident about, they can do more with it. And I’ll just say that Brian has methodically gone through this car since the beginning of the season and just kept making it better and better and better. If you think, in past years, we would be good at one track and not good at another. Now, we basically have a car that is good everywhere, which is the way we feel it should have been a few years ago. So, I’m very happy – so very happy.”