A Glimmer of Hope for Rolex Series Titles Heading to Mid-Ohio Finale
LEXINGTON, Ohio (Sept. 13, 2011) – With the curtain set to fall on the 2011 GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series season Saturday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, the SunTrust Racing duo of Max Angelelli and Ricky Taylor head to the scenic road course situated smack between Columbus and Cleveland with the ever-so-slightest of chances to still win the driver and team championships.
They have SunTrust second in the team championship, 20 points behind the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates BMW Riley of Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas, who need to simply take the green flag for Saturday’s race to claim the Rolex Series team title for the second year in a row. That doesn’t leave much of a chance for the SunTrust team but, stranger things have happened, so stay tuned.
Whatever happens to the 01 team is totally out of our control, other than the fact that we will try to beat them on the racetrack.
In the driver championship, Angelelli and Taylor have a mathematical chance of catching Pruett and Rojas, albeit a rather slim one. To win the driver title, Angelelli or Taylor needs to complete 30 minutes of the race and the No. 01 needs to exit the race for good prior to the 30-minute mark. Considering it’s been 19 races since anything like that has happened to Pruett and Rojas – at Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, Conn., on Memorial Day 2010, when Taylor and Angelelli blazed to victory – that possibility would be considered a longshot, at best.
What the No. 10 SunTrust Chevrolet Dallara of Wayne Taylor Racing duo does hope to accomplish this weekend on the 2.258-mile, 13-turn Mid-Ohio circuit is to finish off the season in style as the hottest team in the series over the latter two-thirds of the season. For starters, the 22-year-old Taylor saw his six-race pole qualifying streak come to an end at Montreal four weekends ago, so he would like nothing better than to add a seventh for the season this weekend.
Angelelli and Taylor have led more laps this season – 591 – than any other duo since SunTrust joined the Rolex Series in 2004. Angelelli’s 296 laps led and Taylor’s 294 rank first and second among all Rolex Series drivers. And the 22-year-old Taylor has led laps in 16 consecutive races dating back to the July race at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway last year – a series record.
So, regardless of the outcome of Saturday’s event, it’s already been a landmark season for SunTrust Racing. In the seven races since Angelelli and Taylor won for the second straight year at Lime Rock this past Memorial Day, SunTrust has clearly been the dominant team. With three wins, a pair of runner-up finishes and seven consecutive podiums, the SunTrust team has outscored the Ganassi team 229 points to 216 in the championship during that time. It was three consecutive victories and a runner-up finish to open the season that enabled Pruett and Rojas to open a hefty 33-point lead in the championship as the SunTrust team recorded finishes of fifth, third, 11th and fourth. Even with Angelelli and Taylor’s recent dominance, that early lead has proven to be virtually insurmountable. But, again, stranger things have happened, so stay tuned.
Max Angelelli, Co-Driver of the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Chevrolet Dallara:
The team championship is all but a foregone conclusion, but there is a chance you and Ricky can still win the driver championship. What are your thoughts as you head to the season finale at Mid-Ohio this weekend?
“I think we have 30 minutes to win the driver championship, so we need to figure out a way to stop the 01 (Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas) before it’s too late (laughs). You never know what can happen at the start of the race. Something happened to the 99 (Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty) at Watkins Glen and they didn’t score (driver) points. This year, like every year, we’re all about winning the team championship for SunTrust. So, I’m a little bit sad that it looks like we’re going to end up second in both. But, this year I’m pleased with everything that’s happened inside our team and the performances we have had. I’m very happy with our new team structure. I’m very happy with Ricky. I’m very happy with myself. All three human components – which is the team members, the drivers and the engineering side – we’ve all performed well. I’m a lot happier than last year. We are finishing in the same position, but last year’s second came when we were not strong in nearly all of the races. This year was a complete transformation. If you look at the second half of the season, we’ve basically been the top team in the championship. That says a lot. I only regret two races that I feel we should have won and we didn’t – Barber (11th) and Laguna Seca (third). I wish we could have those two races to do over again.”
How do you feel about finishing the season at Mid-Ohio for the first time?
“Mid-Ohio is really going to be very difficult because everything about the race relates to track position. Once you have your track position determined, it’s not easy. So, it’s very important to qualify well. Strategy is important. I’m hoping for a lot of yellows so we can have different strategy between the cars and the teams to make it interesting. If it’s a full green race, once you’re in position, you have to stick with it, unfortunately. Personally, I would like to go to another track to finish the season because the last race of the season has to be on a track where you can overtake, where the passing opportunities are possible. And then you can see some action.”
Ricky Taylor, Co-Driver of the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Chevrolet Dallara:
Your championship hopes are rather slim with just this one race left on the schedule. What is the motivation for this weekend?
“Get another pole and win the race. That’s the goal, as it always is. If you do that enough times, the championships usually take care of themselves. Whatever happens to the 01 team is totally out of our control, other than the fact that we will try to beat them on the racetrack. Championships are so hard to get. Most people have so few opportunities to even fight for them in their lifetime. But the SunTrust team seems to be knocking on the door of the championship every year. In one sense, it’s a shame since we have such a good team and we’ve had such a good year. So many good things have happened – the three, wins, all the poles. At least it’s better to be fast and winning races and getting good results than being second in the championship and being slow. It’s more exciting. I’ve really enjoyed this year.”
How do you feel about the layout at Mid-Ohio?
“I would consider it a good track for us, speed-wise. It’s really an important track as far as track position because it’s really hard to pass. It’s probably the track where track position is most important. I think the SunTrust car will be very fast there. If we can qualify well and just put together a good race, we’ll get a good result. Last year, we qualified well and were struggling get on the podium and had a little incident at the end because of it. The year before, we seemed to have the race in-hand, but a yellow came out just as Max passed the pit entrance and everybody else behind him was able to stop while he had to go around. It’s a track where the little things can really bite you, I guess. We’ll need to have one of those perfect weekends, like we had Lime Rock and the two Watkins Glen races. The good thing is we know how to do it. That will finish the year off on a great note.”
Wayne Taylor, Team Owner of the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Chevrolet Dallara:
How will you look back on this season in spite of the fact the championship chase is not likely to come out in your favor?
“Winning a championship is something that’s printed clearly in the record books. It’s easy to find who won the championship each year, and you never forget who won the championship. But it seems to be rather easy to forget who finished second and third. We have had probably our most competitive season. Unfortunately, we had a couple of incidents that cost us the championship. One of them was during the (Daytona) 24-hour when we were hit by (Juan Pablo) Montoya, and the others were mistakes we made as a team at Barber and Laguna Seca. Other than that, it was a great year for Ricky, who’s had six poles to this point. Max has done an awesome job finishing the races. I think we want to go to Mid-Ohio like we have all these other races and try to get the pole, lead the most laps and try and win the race. We know there’s a slim to no chance of us winning the championship. We just want to finish on a high note and come back strong for the new season.”