SunTrust Racing Watkins Glen race report

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SunTrust Racing press release

Lightning-Fastest Win in Rolex Series History
Angelelli, Taylor Blaze to Victory at Watkins Glen, Their Third in the Last Six Races

Victory lane: DP and overall winners Max Angelelli and Ricky Taylor celebrate with Wayne Taylore
Victory lane: DP and overall winners Max Angelelli and Ricky Taylor celebrate with Wayne Taylore

Photo by: Adriano Manocchia

The words on the sidepods of the No. 10 SunTrust Chevrolet Dallara of Wayne Taylor Racing read “Solid Is Lightning Fast.” Perhaps never have those words rung more true than in summing up another thoroughly dominating victory by the SunTrust Racing duo of Max Angelelli and Ricky Taylor in Saturday night’s GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series Canadian Tire 200 at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International.

The 22-year-old Taylor qualified on the pole for the sixth consecutive race – leaving him just one shy of the series record – and he and the veteran Angelelli went on to lead a race-high 77 of 100 laps in scoring their third victory in the last six races. And, it was all done at record speed. With just one caution period for four laps during the two-hour race, Taylor and Angelelli were able to complete the event at an average speed of 122.308 mph, making it the fastest race win in Rolex Series history. The previous record was the victory by Rob Dyson and Butch Leitzinger in the August 2002 Bully Hill 250 at Watkins Glen at an average speed of 121.170 mph.

Like they did during a similarly dominating race win in June’s Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen, Angelelli, Taylor and the SunTrust Racing pit crew performed flawlessly today. Taylor led the opening 33 laps before pitting at the 45-minute mark to hand the No. 10 car over to Angelelli with fresh tires and a full load of fuel.

Angelelli then simply bided his time behind four cars that opted to pit out-of-sequence during a lap-10 caution period less than 12 minutes into the race, all the while maintaining a comfortable advantage over defending series champion and current points leader Scott Pruett in the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates BMW Riley behind him. He was back in first place when the four out-of-sequence competitors cycled through their second round of pit stops by lap 56, and he stayed there until giving up the lead for just one lap when he made the SunTrust team’s final pit stop on lap 65.

A tenacious Pruett stayed within a second or two of Angelelli for the final 35 laps of the 2.45-mile, 11-turn high-speed NASCAR road course. He made several attempts to get by Angelelli as the two longtime rivals negotiated their way through a hefty field of lapped Daytona Prototypes and 21 GT-class competitors.

“That was a really close call – we had a couple of moments with the traffic,” Angelelli said of his efforts to keep Pruett behind him over the latter stages of the race. “You really have to time the traffic but, sometimes, it’s so difficult to predict. As everybody knows, Scott is a master through traffic, so I was trying to learn from him, watching his lights behind me and see how he was doing it. I have to give the credit to the entire SunTrust Racing team. Ricky and I are the same from last year, but the car is definitely better and that makes it really enjoyable for us. I said I was struggling in traffic, so I was trying to time the traffic. In a clear lap, I felt I was stronger, so I wasn’t really worried then. But, around traffic, Scott’s pretty good.”

Angelelli crossed the finish line 2.517 seconds ahead of Pruett for SunTrust’s 18th Rolex Series victory since joining the series in 2004. The three victories in 2011 are the most for the SunTrust team since Angelelli and Wayne Taylor – the team owner and Ricky Taylor’s father – co-drove to five victories en route to the 2005 Rolex Series championship. Angelelli and Wayne Taylor also won three times in their inaugural 2004 season, but the team had not won more than twice in a season since 2005.

“It was just a perfect race for us,” said Ricky Taylor, who at next weekend’s Montreal 200 at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve will try to tie the Rolex Series consecutive pole streak of seven set by Jon Fogarty in 2007 behind the wheel of the No. 99 Gainsco/Bob Stallings Racing Chevrolet Riley. “We struggled quite a bit in the first practice yesterday. Max and the guys did a good job with changes in the first session and put in a lot of work to get the car to where it was today, and for qualifying. In qualifying, the car was great and that started us off in the right direction. In the race, it’s much easier when you can control things from the front and manage the gap. Right there at the end, it was a really long hour and 15 minutes to watch Max and Pruett battle it out. But it was a perfect day. The team was awesome, as usual. I’m looking forward to getting out there and keeping it going. This was very special.”

The SunTrust team’s victory, coupled with the second-place finish by Pruett and his Ganassi Racing co-driver Memo Rojas, did little to close the gap in the Rolex Series championship. With just two races remaining, the SunTrust team trails the Ganassi team by 26 points (327-301). The No. 5 Action Express Racing Porsche Riley duo of David Donohue and Darren Law moved into the third position in the standings with their sixth-place finish today and are 39 points behind the SunTrust team. The No. 99 Gainsco/Chevy duo of Fogarty and Alex Gurney started the day third in the championship but suffered a stunning blow when Fogarty was tagged by a GT-class competitor early in the race, slid into the outer SAFER Barrier and suffered damage to the left-rear of the car that was beyond repair.

In addition to the average race-speed record, the SunTrust team achieved another milestone during tonight’s resounding victory at The Glen. With 77 laps led, Angelelli and Taylor raised their season total to 567 laps led through the season’s first 10 events. That eclipsed the 503 laps led by Angelelli and Wayne Taylor during their 2005 championship season, the previous best season-long total by the SunTrust team since joining the Rolex Series in 2004. And that 2004 total occurred over the entire 14-race schedule that year.

“What can I say?” said team owner Wayne Taylor, who co-drove with Angelelli to a pair of wins at Watkins Glen in late-season sprint races during the 2005 championship season. “I really want to give a big thanks to SunTrust Bank. So, it’s Chevrolet Weekend at The Glen, Ricky earns his sixth pole in a row, he and Max drove just flawlessly. The team, led by Simon (Hodgson, general manager), Brian (Pillar, race engineer), was just flawless. It was a perfect weekend. It was our third win in six races and, with the might of Ganassi and all their stuff, it was a tough, tough race. But, you know, in the end, we beat them. And also, my younger son Jordan, he just now took the lead in the GT championship. He drove just incredibly in another Chevrolet. I also want to thank Toshiba, GM, Chevy and all our other supporters. It was great to have Jim Campbell (Chevrolet’s U.S. Vice President, Performance Vehicles and Motorsports) here with us. We had Jeff Gordon and Kurt Busch visit with us in the pits during the race. It’s great to see we’ve got so much support out there. It’s just overwhelming. We swept Watkins Glen this year and it feels great.”

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Series GRANDAM
Tags angelelli, chevrolet, grand-am, suntrust, taylor, watkins glen