HOMESTEAD, Fla. (Oct. 6, 2009) -- Before NASCAR crowns its champion next month, and before the IRL IndyCar Series crowns its champion this Saturday night, the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series will decide its 2009 championship Saturday afternoon at...
HOMESTEAD, Fla. (Oct. 6, 2009) -- Before NASCAR crowns its champion next month, and before the IRL IndyCar Series crowns its champion this Saturday night, the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series will decide its 2009 championship Saturday afternoon at the very same Homestead-Miami Speedway, and co-drivers Max Angelelli and Brian Frisselle will do everything in their power to bring that title back to SunTrust and the No. 10 SunTrust Ford Dallara team of Wayne Taylor Racing.
The SunTrust team, which last blazed to the Rolex Series title in 2005 when Angelelli co-drove with now team-owner Wayne Taylor, sits just eight points behind this year's championship-leading No. 99 Gainsco/Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac Riley of Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty with only Saturday's Grand-Prix of Miami left on the schedule. And just two points behind the SunTrust team and very much in the championship mix is the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Lexus Riley duo of Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas.
With the title still undecided, one thing for certain is Saturday's 150-minute event will be loaded with the usual Rolex Series fireworks as the three perennial contenders wage an all-out sprint to the finish. Gurney and Fogarty are in control of their own destiny, needing only a top-four finish to clinch their second Rolex Series championship since 2007. But the team, which has scored a series-high four victories this season, has never finished better than sixth in three previous outings at the 2.3-mile, 11-turn Homestead-Miami Speedway road course layout, offering much-needed hope to the SunTrust and Ganassi teams, each of which has scored two wins this season.
Angelelli has a pair of runner-up finishes in 2004 and 2008 to go with his 2005 championship-season victory at Homestead, while Pruett and the Ganassi team won this event last season after back-to-back third-place finishes in 2006 and 2007.
Max Angelelli, co-driver of the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Ford Dallara:
Well, here you are once again, down to one final race and the championship within reach. What's on your mind as you head down to Homestead this weekend?
"We have a chance to win the championship at the final race, and I have to say I am already kind of a proud just to have a chance to win it. That's all we hope to have every year. Our chance this year feels like a small one in a lot of ways, but as long as we have a chance to go out there and fight for the championship, it is possible. We know what we have to do, just like we do at every race. We just have to go out there one more time and do what we know how to do."
Do you think either of the three teams involved have any more or less pressure to get the job done?
"I think everybody will have the same amount of pressure. Nobody will have more or less pressure than the other two teams. All three teams are good competitors. We definitely can't forget about the (No.) 01 car. It's a strong car. All three of us have been very competitive, not just this year but ever since we have been racing together in Grand-Am. We all have good cars. We all are going to be fast. I'm guessing that all three of us will be in the top-three or the top-four by the end of the day. If that happens, the championship will belong to the (No.) 99. There's not much we can do about them, or the (No.) 01. We just need to go out and race like a championship team and see if it is going to be good enough to win our second championship for SunTrust."
Homestead seems to be an ideal place for this championship to be decided from the SunTrust team's standpoint, considering its history of winning there (in 2005) and finishing on the podium (2004 and 2007) in recent years. Do you agree?
"I guess it's a very good track for us as far as results go. It's funny because it's really not one of my favorite tracks because it's very difficult to overtake. I won there with Wayne (Taylor, team owner) when we won the championship in 2005. We finished second there a couple of times. And we should have had maybe another win or two since we have been racing there, but we have had some bad luck, like we did last year. The (No. 01) is always strong at Homestead, too. So the way things go in Grand-Am, what has happened in the past probably will have nothing to do with what happens this weekend. In Grand-Am, anything can happen. That is what makes Grand-Am racing so great."
Brian Frisselle, co-driver of the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Ford Dallara:
This is it. The championship is at stake, and you are right in the middle of it. Have you ever been in a situation like this before?
"It's very special for me. It's the first time I've ever gone to the last race with a shot at winning the championship. I'm just blessed to be with such a great team. In a lot of ways, this is exactly where I expected to be when I joined the SunTrust team. But, in a lot of ways, it's been more difficult than I ever imagined it would be to get to this point. What I mean is all the pressure and the expectations I placed on myself to do what this job with this team requires. It's a great team full of great people. And great people do great things under the most extraordinary circumstances. I think we'll see the best this team has to offer at Homestead this weekend and I'm more than ready to do my part."
How would you size up the season and the battle for the championship?
"It's been an amazing battle all year long. There have been some ups and downs and there were quite a few moments during the year when we thought we were out of it. But it's been good Grand-Am racing all year and you never know who's going to win or what's going to happen and it's really made for a good championship battle. It's so fun to be a part of it. I think the Rolex Series has some of the best road racing in the world and it's evident by how close our championship is. There were quite a few times when we thought we were out and the other teams thought they were out. It's been an up-and-down year for everyone and it's made it very exciting for the fans."
What do you think of the Homestead track and your chances of having another good run there this weekend?
"It's an alright track. It's got its challenges and it's definitely hard on tires, so tire wear is always an issue. Our car typically has been very easy on the tires all year. We've usually been good late in the stints. So, I think it's going to suit our team."
Lastly, how about your first season as co-driver with Max Angelelli? Has it been about what you expected?
"It's been awesome. Max is a legend in our sport and it's been a great year for me to learn from him, to have him as a mentor and a teammate. You don't earn nicknames in this sport without doing something special, and everyone knows him as 'Max the Ax.' He's a special driver. He always gets it done on race day and it's just been awesome being his teammate."
Wayne Taylor, owner of the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Ford Dallara team:
It's been somewhat of an up-and-down season, but here you are with a shot at the championship at the final race. What is your and the team's outlook?
"I'm really excited. I'm looking forward to this in a big way. All three teams that are fighting for the championship, they really are good. It's obviously satisfying to be in this position once again. We would like to be going in there with the points lead rather than a points deficit. But, at the same time, we are second with enough points for us to have a shot at coming away with the championship. A lot of things have to go our way. The only way to go to Homestead is to try and win the pole and win the race. That's the best we can do, and it's really all we can do. We can't approach it any other way than to do the best we can as a team, to go and win this race. Even if we are successful at that, whatever else happens beyond that will determine who wins the championship, so it is what it is."
How do you size up the three teams in the championship fight?
"We could definitely win it, and that's the mindset we are taking down there. The (No.) 01 could cause us problems and they probably will because they are good there, too. We've got to stay ahead of the 01, for sure. That's part of the championship formula. The (No.) 01, the (No.) 12, the (No.) 45, which is now there with Ryan Dalziel, are all good cars, as is the (No.) 61 with Brian's brother Burt (Frisselle) and (Mark) Wilkins. There are enough cars, quite honestly, to get between us and the (No.) 99. If I was in the (No.) 99's position, I'd be the one worrying the most because they have the championship to lose. They have way more things to worry about than the rest of us. It'll be interesting, and it's going to be incredibly fun to watch, to say the least."