Late-Race Spin Ends SunTrust's Podium Streak Angelelli, Taylor Maintain Strong Hold on Second Place in the Team Championship Despite Disappointing Ninth-Place Finish at Mid-Ohio A three-race streak of podium finishes, which included a ...
Late-Race Spin Ends SunTrust's Podium Streak
Angelelli, Taylor Maintain Strong Hold on Second Place in the Team Championship Despite Disappointing Ninth-Place Finish at Mid-Ohio
A three-race streak of podium finishes, which included a dominating victory in the recent Memorial Day Classic at Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, Conn., came to a rather unceremonious end for the SunTrust Racing duo of Max Angelelli and Ricky Taylor in the closing laps of Saturday's GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series EMCO Gears Classic at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington.
With 11 laps remaining in today's two-hour, 45-minute event that covered 107 laps around the 2.258-mile, 13-turn road circuit located between Columbus and Cleveland, the veteran Angelelli was running fifth when he saw a rare opportunity to improve upon the position he held for the majority of his roughly one-hour, 45-minute driving stint. But that attempt to pass the fourth-place No. 9 Action Express Racing Porsche Riley of Joao Barbosa at the end of the long backstraight ended with Barbosa spinning off track and Angelelli continuing in fourth place. The very next lap, when Angelelli and the SunTrust Racing machine arrived at the spot where Barbosa ventured off-track, Angelelli ended up spinning off-track, himself, in the gravel that the No. 9 car had kicked up into the racing line, dropping Angelelli from fourth to ninth place, which is where he took the checkered flag 10 laps later.
"What a waste of points -- I feel terrible," said Angelelli, who recorded the second-fastest lap of the race just 17 laps prior to the fateful incident with the Action Express Porsche. "The SunTrust car was very good, and this is a very difficult place to pass, as everyone knows. We had our strategy, and most of the cars in front of us at the time had a different strategy. I saw an opening at the end of the backstraight and, all of a sudden, the door closed after I was committed, so there was nothing I could do. We had such a good car. It was fast, but there is only so much you can do on this racetrack when you are not running up front all by yourself."
The 20-year-old Taylor started from the second spot on the grid he earned in qualifying on Friday. He drove another solid opening stint, during which he chased the polesitting Memo Rojas in the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates BMW Riley before handing the SunTrust Racing machine over to Angelelli just short of the one-hour mark.
Angelelli resumed in seventh place, ahead of Scott Pruett who was now driving the No. 01 car, but behind six other competitors took advantage of opportunities to employ an alternate fuel strategy during three caution periods that occurred over the first 33 laps of the race.
"I think our SunTrust car was really strong today," Taylor said. "In clean air, we could have been as quick as anybody. I think a big difference really came on the pit stops. The SunTrust guys did an awesome job getting us out in front of the Ganassi car two times, like they did at Watkins Glen (two weekends ago). Also contributing to our advantage was the Ford fuel mileage. It was just awesome again this weekend. We were able to beat them again on fuel, but the guys had to actually execute a good stop, and they did. I think that was a big difference today. I think if we just could've been up there in front, we would've had something. The restarts were definitely the best times to get somebody because it's just so difficult to pass once everybody is up to speed. I think the team did an awesome job. The car was strong. It was just a matter of putting it all together."
Angelelli was able to keep Pruett at bay over the subsequent two green-flag runs and restarts, on laps 37 and 48. And the SunTrust crew got the Italian driving ace out of the pits ahead of the Ganassi car on what turned out to be the day's final fuel stop of the day under caution on lap 55.
But after numerous attempts during the previous green-flag runs, Pruett finally got by Angelelli shortly after the day's final restart on lap 56 as the pair, running in sixth and seventh, respectively, came up on a flock of slower GT-class competitors. From there, Pruett was able to meticulously pass car after car until he took the lead for good on lap 70, clocking the fastest race lap on his 80th tour of the circuit. He easily held the point for the final 38 laps -- all under green -- to score the Ganassi team's fifth victory in seven races this season.
With the win, the Ganassi team opened up a 37-point lead over the second-place SunTrust team in the championship. The No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley duo of Oswaldo Negri and John Pew, which finished second today, moved to third in the championship, 10 points behind the SunTrust team.
"Well, we're obviously disappointed because we came into this event on such a roll and we had a really good car in practice, we qualified well and we started well," said team owner Wayne Taylor. "But the way the cautions played, the way everybody's strategy played -- everything is all about track position -- Max got stuck behind a pack of cars. He was going to try and get us some more points in the championship, so he went to pass the (No.) 9 car and the door closed, the guy spun off, and then Max got caught up in his gravel the next time around, and it was bad. Like I've always said, we all win together, we all lose together, but the team continues to do such a great job. We're winning pit stops, getting the car out ahead of our competitors. Everything is really going well in a lot of respects. But it's really competitive, and it's disappointing on a day like this. From a points standpoint, we're second in the championship, which is a good thing. Clearly, the No. 01 car of Ganassi Racing, at this point, is in a different league, and my hat's off to them. They've done every single thing right and they're not making any mistakes. Five wins in seven races, that speaks for itself."
Round eight of the 2010 Rolex Series season will be the Brumos Porsche 250 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway on July 3. The SunTrust team is the defending race-winner of the event, run in conjunction with that evening's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coke Zero 400. Race time is 11 a.m. EDT with live television coverage on SPEED. Live radio coverage by the Motor Racing Network and Sirius NASCAR Radio Channel 128 begins at 10:45 a.m.