SunTrust Pontiac Wins at Infineon GAINSCO Pontiac second Sonoma, Calif., August 23, 2008 -- The No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Daytona Prototype (DP) driven by Michael Valiante and Max Angelelli won round 12 of the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series ...
SunTrust Pontiac Wins at Infineon
GAINSCO Pontiac second
Sonoma, Calif., August 23, 2008 -- The No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Daytona Prototype (DP) driven by Michael Valiante and Max Angelelli won round 12 of the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 at Infineon Raceway today. The No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac of Jon Fogarty and Alex Gurney came home in second giving Pontiac a one-two finish.
The 2.47-mile, 12-turn Infineon road course proved to be the perfect location for the SunTrust team's first win of the season. Michael Valiante started the race from pole position, which he inherited late last night when the original pole sitter was sent to the back following the post qualifying technical inspection. Valiante led every lap of his stint and then turned the car over to Angelelli. He reassumed the lead on lap 45 with a competitive pass on the leader and was never headed since then. The team lead every lap of the 102 circuit event except 22.
The win was a special one as the team, owned by 2005 series champion Wayne Taylor, and has endured a difficult season. The team was returning from the race at Laguna Seca in May when their trailer caught fire in Texas and destroyed their first Dallara and all of their support equipment. The team was quick to rebuild and showed the tenacity today to win their first race of the season.
"I am very happy, there couldn't have been a better place for our first win," Angelelli said. "We had a lot of our sponsors here today and all of the Dallara guys were here from Italy to watch the car run for the first time. It was great to get the win, set fast lap of the race and the pole position, the car was very fast all weekend."
The GAINSCO team was a consistent front runner all day, but with only one caution period in the two-hour-and-forty-five-minute race they could never get close to challenge the 10 team. Jon Fogarty and Alex Gurney still have a glimmer of hope in defending their 2007 championship with two races remaining.
"It was different from last year, we weren't the fastest," Gurney said. "The SunTrust guys set the pace pretty much all weekend. We made big changes for the race and we went faster. It was tough to keep that pace all race. I got a good jump on the restart after the caution and was able to get a gap to the 61 car. I miss all the winning from last year."
Nic Jonsson and Ricardo Zonta finished the day in fifth at the wheel of the No. 76 Krohn Racing Pontiac Lola. The team was sent to the back of the grid after their original fourth place qualifying time was negated due to the car being too low in post session scrutineering.
"We had an unlucky qualifying penalty and had to start from last place," Zonta said. "All the strategy was to try to get back on position. It's hard to overtake here at the Sonoma track because there are no straights. We had some problems with the rear tires also for a few laps and the car was very undriveable, but then the grip came back. It was difficult to overtake the other cars. The lap times we very close. I think fifth position was good for the championship. I had some fun trying to overtake the 59 car, but he was quite quick on the fast corners and it was difficult to try to pass him under braking."
Jim Matthews started the No. 91 Riley-Matthews Pontiac Riley and ran consistent laps before turning it over to teammate Marc Goossens. Goossens was making up time until a noise came from the drivetrain. He pitted on lap 48 and the team took the Pontiac Riley back to the paddock for repairs. Jim Matthews returned to the action several laps latter to take the checker flag.
"I was exiting turn seven and shifted to third gear and then I lost power," Goossens said. "I pitted and the team decided to take the car back to the paddock as they could not repair it in pit lane. It is too bad because we were very fast today in the warm-up and I think we had a car that could have challenged for at least a podium position today.
Tracy Krohn and Eric van de Poele had a good day finishing 11th in their No. 75 Krohn Racing Pontiac Lola. Van de Poele was trying to break into the top 10 when he was hit by a car attempting pass and he spun as a result. The duo was able to improve significantly over their 16th place qualifying effort.
"The car was pretty good and had a very good setup, so thanks to the crew for that," van de Poele said. "It's always very important. Right at the beginning of my stint we decided to start with scrubbed tires, which was a good choice. Afterwards though the car was oversteering, but I could manage the car consistently, but it got worse and worse. I just kept my position and tried to pass a few cars under braking, which was quite good. Unfortunately during my fight to get tenth position, a car pushed me off and I spun, so I lost a few seconds and I couldn't come back from it before the end of the race for tenth position."
Cheever Racing's woes continued in the race. The team did not take part in qualifying and retired their No. 16 Crown Royal Cask No. 16 Pontiac Coyote on lap 80 of the 102 lap race due to an electrical problem. Antonio Garcia and Christian Fittipaldi had been struggling with the handling of the black and gold car all weekend.
"We had a difficult time with the handling in practice," Garcia said. "I was in the race and had the car go dark a couple of times on me. I pitted the car and the guys thought they had fixed it and I returned to the race and it shut down again. It just was not safe to continue."
Today's Armed Forces 250 from Infineon will be televised, tape delayed, tomorrow, Sunday, August 24 on the SPEED Channel at 12:00 p.m. ET.
The penultimate round of the Grand-Am Rolex Series will be run at New Jersey Motorsport Park on August 31.
-credit: gm racing