Red-Hot SunTrust Team Hits Montreal Eyeing a Piece of Pole Qualifying History
MONTREAL (Aug. 16, 2011) – It would be a magnificent seven if Ricky Taylor can start things off for Saturday’s GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series Montreal 200 by qualifying on the pole.
The 22-year-old co-driver to veteran Max Angelelli in the No. 10 SunTrust Chevrolet Dallara of Wayne Taylor Racing will be trying to snatch a piece of Rolex Series history by earning his seventh consecutive pole position this weekend. That would equal No. 99 Gainsco/Bob Stallings Racing Chevrolet Riley driver Jon Fogarty’s record of seven straight poles set in 2007. For what it’s worth, Fogarty, who went on to win the Rolex Series championship that year with co-driver Alex Gurney, did it as a 32-year-old.
... so I really want to get to (Jon) Fogarty’s record.
Taylor and Angelelli head to the legendary Circuit Gilles Villeneuve for this weekend’s two-hour sprint race fresh off their third victory of the season Saturday night in the Canadian Tire 200 at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International. Like their thoroughly dominating win from the pole there in June’s Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen, Taylor started from the pole for the sixth consecutive time, led the opening 33 laps of the two-hour race, then handed the SunTrust Racing machine over to Angelelli, who led 44 of the final 67 laps and beat defending series champion Scott Pruett of the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates BMW Riley to the checkered flag by 2.517 seconds.
That third victory of 2011 – most by the SunTrust team in a single season since Angelelli and team owner Wayne Taylor co-drove to five wins together en route to the 2005 Rolex Series championship – had a historic footnote by its own right. With only one early caution period for four laps to slow the pace the entire race, Angelelli and Ricky Taylor completed the race distance faster than any other in Rolex Series history at an average speed of 122.308 mph. It eclipsed the previous Rolex Series fastest race mark of 121.170 mph set in 2002 by Rob Dyson and Butch Leitzinger, also at Watkins Glen.
Taylor’s 33 laps led marked the 15th consecutive race, dating back to the July 2010 Brumos Porsche 250 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, where the young driving phenom has led laps. And there have been plenty along the way. Saturday’s 77 laps led by the SunTrust team gave it 567 for the season through the season’s first 10 events, more than any other single season since SunTrust joined the Rolex Series in 2004. The previous high was 503 laps led in the 14-race march to the 2005 championship by Angelelli and Wayne Taylor.
With plenty of momentum behind them, Angelelli and Taylor return to the 2.709-mile, 15-turn home of the Formula 1 Canadian Grand Prix where SunTrust has scored two of its 18 Rolex Series victories since 2004. Angelelli and Jan Magnussen dominated the inaugural Rolex Series race in winning there in 2007, and the veteran Italian won again with Brian Frisselle in 2009. Taylor qualified third at Montreal last season while he and Angelelli went on to finish third.
Getting that seventh consecutive pole for Taylor will mean outqualifying Fogarty, whose qualifying record at Montreal is stellar – three poles and a second in four outings.
Max Angelelli, Co-Driver of the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Chevrolet Dallara:
Racing is usually all about winning, but this weekend, a big focus is Ricky Taylor’s chance to tie Jon Fogarty’s record streak of seven consecutive Rolex Series poles. Would you consider that something of a distraction?
“Not at all. The pole streak is only a good thing. We have a number of records we have achieved already this year. The six poles this season is the most in one season for SunTrust Racing since we started in 2004. Our three wins this season is the most we have had in one season with the Dallara chassis. And we have led more laps (567) in just 10 races this season than we ever led before, including our championship season (503 laps led in 14 races in 2005). The pole record is a personal one for Ricky, which is nice and sweet for him, and it only makes me proud, and it all says a lot about the performance of the team.”
How special has this season been for you, already?
“I regard this year as one of my best, personally, and one of the best for SunTrust and the team. Obviously, six poles for Ricky, three wins, always top-three, fighting for the win. We’re definitely having a good season. We’ve put together a very nice and competitive car and we’re always fighting for the win. We’re passing cars, we’re leading laps. For people in our world here, they all know none of this is easy to achieve. Sometimes, Ganassi has made things look easy, but we all know that is not the case. It is very difficult. I’m pleased with what we’ve achieved and I know we will achieve more in the future.”
What is your overall outlook for this weekend’s race in Montreal?
“I think we have all the ingredients to win the race this weekend in Montreal. I’m especially looking forward to the race because I believe the racetrack suits our car very, very well. I think we will be very competitive and, again, it will be an exciting race. It’s a short race (two hours), so it’s going to be a fight from beginning to end. Two years ago, in our first visit with the Dallara, we won more on strategy than on pure speed. The first win with the Riley (in 2007) was based on speed and performance. It would be nice to have our third win in Montreal on speed and performance. We definitely want to get more wins before the end of the season.”
Ricky Taylor, Co-Driver of the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Chevrolet Dallara:
As your pole streak has grown each race, have you put yourself under much pressure to keep it going?
“The pressure definitely builds every weekend. I get nervous whether it’s a Skip Barber regional weekend or a GRAND-AM race. I get just as nervous. I’m really competitive, so I really want to get to (Jon) Fogarty’s record. He’s got three of the four poles at Montreal, so I think it’s going to be the hardest of the seven. I’ll just try my best, I guess. For me, it’s nice to just have another goal, a little extra motivation. But I always think of qualifying and the race as two completely different things. So I just try my best and not let it get me nervous. I’ve never had a run of poles like this in any other series – karts, Skip Barber, anywhere. It goes to show just how good this team is. When you’re in the middle of it and taking it one race at a time, and every time you have a really good car, you know it’s a pretty special thing to have the opportunity to go for a record like this. At the same time, you also don’t want to let the guys down because we all know we have the car underneath us that’s capable of doing whatever we want it to.”
What clicked and finally enabled you to seem virtually unbeatable in qualifying these last six races?
“I think one thing is, last year was my first year with the SunTrust team, so obviously I can get after it a bit quicker on the weekends and we’re not wasting time trying to get me up to speed like last year. The major thing is, our engineer Brian Pillar has done a really good job. He’s good at getting a good handle on the car early in the weekend and then we have a little bit of time to make one or two small tweaks to the car that will help us in qualifying. So, we don’t have to just focus on making the car manageable in the race. We can take a little time to make a change for qualifying. We’ve kind of learned what we like for qualifying, what makes the car good. I’d put my finger on that as probably the biggest thing. We’ll have a really good shot at the pole at Montreal. It’s not essential to start on the pole because I think it’s a good track in terms of overtaking with a lot of slow corners and long straights. So, if we don’t start on the pole or the front row, we definitely still have a good shot of winning the race, and that’s always the goal at the end of the day.”
Wayne Taylor, Team Owner of the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Chevrolet Dallara:
Did you ever, in your wildest imagination, think that your 22-year-old son would be trying to make history in a major racing series, especially so early in his career?
“I never would have brought Ricky into this organization if I didn’t think he had the talent to do it. However, I did not think, at this level, that he could achieve the things he already has in such a short time. I’m just ecstatic. Just remember that the team has to give him the equipment to do his job, which it has. And, of course, we absolutely could not do this without all the support we are blessed with from SunTrust and Toshiba and GM. So, it’s really fantastic. Ricky seems to be growing fast. He’s handling it all very well, and he’s good under pressure. ”
What are your thoughts about the Montreal race weekend?
“Montreal has always been good to us. We’ve won there twice. Last year, Ricky qualified third there, lined up right behind (Jon) Fogarty, who was on the pole. Ricky’s trying to tie Fogarty’s record this weekend. We’ll just have to go up there and do like we have the last six races. The first job is to get there and get the car right. And then give him the car for qualifying and see what happens. Ricky actually felt Watkins Glen last weekend was going to be the end of the streak because we seemed to be struggling a bit during practice. But, yet again, the guys gave him a great car for qualifying and allowed him to do what he does. That was really something.”