SunTrust Racing Team Is Aiming to Climb Championship Standings at Mid-Ohio Lexington, Ohio (June 20, 2006) -- After four straight top-four finishes, the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley team is aiming for a season-ending championship run. Despite a...
SunTrust Racing Team Is Aiming to Climb Championship Standings at Mid-Ohio
Lexington, Ohio (June 20, 2006) -- After four straight top-four finishes, the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley team is aiming for a season-ending championship run. Despite a slow start to the season, the defending champion SunTrust team has pushed their way towards the top of the standings and look to the EMCO Gears Classic at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, June 23-25, to continue their surge towards the championship.
Entering the EMCO Gears Classic, the ninth of 14 races, the SunTrust team finds itself in third place in the standings. A podium finish at Mid-Ohio could set the table for an end of year championship bid for the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley Mk.XI car.
"We need to finish in the top-five at Mid-Ohio. Without a question, it's a priority," said Max "The Ax" Angelelli, who will pilot the No. 10 machine along with the team's third driver, Jan Magnussen. "This race is very important to us. We need to move towards first place and each week there are less and less races to do so. So, there is pressure to continue doing well."
The SunTrust Racing team, with 260 points, is 21 points behind the first-place No. 01 CompUSA Chip Gannasi team (287), who sits seven points ahead of the second-place No. 19 Playboy/Uniden Racing team (280).
After an unfortunate start to the season at the Rolex 24 At Daytona and less than stellar performances at the next three races, the SunTrust team found themselves down early. But, the team has resiliently battled back over the past four races, claiming victory at Laguna Seca, finishing second at the VIR 400 at Virginia International Raceway and claiming third at the Six Hours at The Glen in Watkins Glen, NY.
"What the team is doing - the way the team is working right now - they are doing everything right," said Magnussen. "The reason why in the beginning of the season they weren't competing well was just bad luck. Everyone knows this team doesn't have to be lucky to win, but you can't be unlucky and expect a victory."
Resiliency is a strength the SunTrust team has displayed at Mid-Ohio in the past. At last year's EMCO Gears Classic the No. 10 car nearly burned to the ground during qualifying after a fuel fire. Fifteen crewmembers worked 15 hours straight overnight to rebuild the machine, which Wayne Taylor and Angelelli drove to a podium finish later that day.
"I'm really excited to return to Mid-Ohio. Last year, we had a great race despite the fact we were challenged by the fire," explained Angelelli, who is currently fourth in the driver standings, "but, the team did an amazing job rebuilding the car and we went out and took third. It was quite a feat."
"I think this race last year was the key event for the championship, considering the fire," said SunTrust car owner/driver Taylor. "It could have taken us out of the championship hunt, but it was the race that helped us. We're going back this year with Max and Jan and we really like the circuit. The big picture is keeping the championship in view and we'll see how we do."
"Obviously, that was a remarkable weekend by the crew to get the car back together," added Bill Riley, who oversees the preparation and running of the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley. "It was a massive rebuild and the fact we were able to get back out there and the team was still able to claim a podium finish was nothing short of a miracle."
In order to earn another miraculous finish at Mid-Ohio, the team will use the experience of veteran Grand American champion Angelelli and the sheer driving ability of Magnussen, who is coming off his third straight victory at the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans in the GT1 class driving a Corvette. Now, Magnussen will jump from Corvette to a Pontiac Riley prototype for Mid-Ohio.
"I do this all the time, so it's not difficult for me to go from car to car," said Magnussen. "One weekend I'll drive a super touring car, the next weekend I might drive the SunTrust prototype and then the next weekend I'll drive the Corvette. While all the cars are different, you become familiar with jumping in and out of different cars and driving them. So, I'm definitely ready to go at it in Ohio."
The EMCO Gears Classic at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, the ninth of 14 races, will have a 250-mile/110-lap/two and three-quarter hour format on the 2.258-mile course. Speed Channel coverage of the race will be aired tape delayed at 3:00 p.m. ET on Sunday, June 25.