Roll of the Dice Nets a Sixth-Place Finish for SunTrust Grand Prix of Miami Almost Caution-Free To Foil Strategy for Angelelli, Taylor, Who Were Counting on Typical Caution-Filled Rolex Series Race at Homestead Yellow flags and GRAND-AM Rolex...
Roll of the Dice Nets a Sixth-Place Finish for SunTrust
Grand Prix of Miami Almost Caution-Free To Foil Strategy for Angelelli, Taylor, Who Were Counting on Typical Caution-Filled Rolex Series Race at Homestead
Yellow flags and GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series races at Homestead-Miami Speedway have come to be synonymous over the years. So much so that the No. 10 SunTrust Ford Dallara team of Wayne Taylor Racing, featuring drivers Max Angelelli and Ricky Taylor, felt they had the perfect strategy to pull off the victory in Saturday night's Grand Prix of Miami despite struggling with tire wear issues in practice and qualifying for the second consecutive year on the 2.3-mile, 11-turn speedway road circuit.
But there was one -- just one -- caution period in 129 laps over 2 hours and 45 minutes of racing here tonight. And that lone yellow flag didn't appear until just 23 minutes remained, long after the SunTrust team and its fellow competitors had made their final pit stops for fuel and tires. And by then, it was far too late for Angelelli and Taylor to salvage anything better than a sixth-place finish.
The SunTrust team opted to save three of its weekend allotment of five Pirelli radials for the latter stages of today's race and took the green flag with a set of significantly worn tires that had 28 practice and qualifying laps on them already. So, the marching orders for the 20-year-old Taylor, who was making his first race start behind the wheel of the SunTrust Racing Ford, were to play it safe in the early going, then hand the car over to Angelelli for the late-race charge to the finish.
That strategy, however, was based on the relatively high number of yellow-flag incidents in the typical Rolex Series race at Homestead and the opportunities they offer for making those tire changes under caution. Last October's Rolex Series season finale here saw six caution periods for a total of 25 laps. The previous year's event saw nine cautions for 40 laps. And so it has gone since the series began racing here.
"We gambled on the yellows because we always have yellows here," said Angelelli, who has seen better days at Homestead but had to fight hard in the closing laps to move from ninth place to finish sixth, a lap down to the top-five. "This is the first time in six years since we started racing here that I've seen just one yellow. And, sure enough, this is the only time we gambled like we did and lost. It's just incredible. You can't write your story with 'ifs' and 'buts,' but I'm not sure if we could've finished much better than we did if we didn't take the gamble, considering our tire situation. We did fight our way back to sixth, which doesn't sound very good right now. Maybe I'll see the good that came out of all of this tomorrow. Right now, I'm disappointed. I feel happy for Ricky, but I also feel very bad for him because he had to drive on such bad, old tires. But he did a good job. I'm very happy about how he did. We definitely have a lot of good things to look forward to with Ricky."
Taylor, the son of three-time sports car racing champion and team owner Wayne Taylor, qualified the SunTrust Racing machine fifth on the grid on Friday afternoon, and was ready for the task at hand at the outset of today's event. But racing with the 28-lap tires proved to be a handful not long after the green flag flew. He fell back to seventh by the end of the opening lap and was back to 10th by the time he was called into the pits for fuel, tires and a driver change on lap 28.
Angelelli resumed in 14th place and, as the rest of the leaders made their way in and out of the pits over the next 10 laps, he worked his way back into the top-10 by lap 43, but could make no more headway until much later in the race.
"The SunTrust team had a great strategy but it just didn't quite work out," Taylor said. "For our strategy to work, we needed yellows, which just never came. We got unlucky as far as that goes. The 28-lap tires were really tough. I would've been able to stay in touch with the lead group had I not flat-spotted the left-front tire. That was just me making a mistake going into the corner, and our front brake bias was a little more toward the front than the last time I had driven the car. Other than that, it was just my mistake. I knew I would have a tough stint ahead of me. I knew how much our tires drop off after 10 or 15 laps here, compared to the other cars, but I was just going to have to deal with it. I knew that, if the yellows came as we needed them, the track position was going to come. But they never came, and that was all she wrote. Max, when the tires were new, was one of the fastest guys on the track every lap. So that's good news. This is probably the hardest track we go to on tires, so that bodes well for the rest of the year."
Angelelli was in ninth place when he pitted for tires and fuel on lap 74, and soon after worked his way back onto the lead lap after falling off of it shortly into his opening fuel-and-tire run. By lap 85, he was up to sixth, and then was in the top-five by lap 103 with some 34 minutes of racing remaining.
But the fuel light came on in the SunTrust car five laps later, and Angelelli had to dive into the pits for a final fuel-and-tire stop on lap 108 for the final sprint to the finish. That stop dropped him back to ninth once again, one lap down.
Finally, on lap 114, the yellow flag appeared for the first time to enable officials to retrieve multiple pieces of debris on the racetrack, but it was too little and far too late to help the SunTrust team's cause.
Angelelli still managed to salvage three valuable positions in the final 11 laps, passing Memo Gidley in the No. 77 Doran Racing Ford on the lap-118 restart, Oswaldo Negri in the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Ford on lap 121, and Antonio Garcia in the No. 90 Spirit of Daytona Porsche on lap 123 for his final finishing position of sixth.
Scott Pruett, in the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates BMW, outdueled David Donohue in the No. 59 Brumos Porsche for the victory. Alex Gurney crossed the finish line third in the No. 99 Gainsco/Bob Stallings Racing Chevrolet, followed by Burt Frisselle in the No. 61 AIM Autosport Ford, and Ryan Dalziel in the No. 8 Starworks Motorsport BMW to round out the top-five.
"Well, we had to roll the dice because we had a problem with rear tires and, obviously, we based it on all our experience in the series and at this track with yellows, and there were no yellows," said Wayne Taylor, who co-drove to victory with Angelelli in the 2005 Grand Prix of Miami at Homestead en route to that year's Rolex Series championship. "Basically, that just killed us. We fell a lap down after losing ground on the old tires, and then we had a bad pit stop on our driver change and we lost more time. Then, when we thought we had a chance to get our lap back with a yellow, it didn't come out until the very end, after we're a lap down again. Max did manage to salvage sixth place, but I'm not happy with that at all. This is not what we do. We finish on the podium and we win races. We've got to work on a few things and come back strong for the next one.
"At the start today, we put Ricky in a really difficult position. I wouldn't have changed that strategy but, in the end, I'm not sure it's a great way to start the season for a new driver. All drivers need confidence. But he did exactly what we needed him to do. Max did comparable lap times when his tires were in the same condition as Ricky's, so we're looking good as far as our driver lineup is concerned. Finishing sixth for the second consecutive race is certainly not devastating, but it's not acceptable, either. We'll be back."
The SunTrust team's second consecutive sixth-place finish to start the season bumped it up to fifth in the Rolex Series championship, 17 points behind the first-place No. 01 Ganassi team but only three points behind the second-place No. 99 Gainsco team. Just 10 points separate the second through 10th positions with 10 events remaining.
Round three of the 2010 Rolex Series will be the Porsche 250 at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala., on Saturday, April 10.