Watkins Glen International
Perfect for Six Hours in June, Can SunTrust Do it Again at Crown Royal 200 at The Glen?
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (Aug. 9, 2011) – Ah, Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International. Seems like just yesterday the SunTrust Racing driving duo of Max Angelelli and Ricky Taylor were steamrolling their GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series competition with a thoroughly dominating victory in the season’s second-longest event – the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen.
I’m hoping we can stay perfect, if that’s possible.
That day was actually Saturday, June 4, a little more than two months ago. It was a day the No. 10 SunTrust Chevrolet Dallara team of Wayne Taylor Racing capped a magical week in Watkins Glen’s victory lane. It was a week that started just five days prior with the season’s first victory – in similarly dominating fashion – in the Memorial Day Classic at Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, Conn.
What made it most special for the SunTrust team was that, despite an incredible finishing record in the annual June endurance classic on the 3.4-mile, 11-turn former home of the U.S. Formula 1 Grand Prix, it was a long-awaited first victory in the venerable event. Prior to this season, the SunTrust team had been a model of consistency in the Sahlen’s Six-Hour, scoring six podium finishes in its first seven attempts, including the last five in a row. But victory seemed so elusive.
That was until this year. And, boy did Angelelli and Taylor score some serious style points in their dominating six-hour win. It started when the young Taylor, who turned 22 on Aug. 3, qualified on the pole like he did at Lime Rock five days prior. And, once the green flag flew, he and the veteran Angelelli kept the SunTrust car in front, leading nine times for a race-high 128 of 174 laps, with Taylor taking the checkered flag a comfortable 3.839 seconds ahead of defending series champion and current points leader Scott Pruett in the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates BMW Riley.
There have been three more pole positions to make it five in a row for Taylor, and three more podium positions since for the SunTrust team – Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis. (third), Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif. (third), and New Jersey Motorsports Park in Millville (second) – as they make their return to Watkins Glen for Saturday night’s annual running of the two-hour sprint race on The Glen’s shortened, 2.45-mile, 11-turn NASCAR road circuit. The SunTrust team has won a pair of late-summer sprint races at The Glen, both in 2005 at the hands of Angelelli and team owner Wayne Taylor en route to that year’s Rolex Series championship.
Coming into this weekend, the prospects for a third sprint race win at The Glen look very promising for the SunTrust team, especially considering the roll it’s been on, of late – five consecutive poles, two wins and five consecutive podium finishes. For the year, Angelelli and Taylor have led laps at all nine races, including race-high totals at five of them. They’ve already totaled 490 laps led in 2011, more by far than each of the previous seven seasons by the SunTrust team except for the 2005 championship campaign, during which Angelelli and Wayne Taylor led 508. But there are three races left to top that mark for Angelelli and Ricky Taylor. Moreover, Taylor’s five consecutive pole positions – the team’s only five this season – are the most ever scored in a season by the SunTrust team. The pole streak has lowered the No. 10 SunTrust Chevy’s average starting position through the first nine races to an incredible 1.87, and it leaves Taylor two poles from tying the series record of seven straight set in 2007 by Jon Fogarty in the No. 99 Gainsco/Bob Stallings Racing Chevrolet Riley.
Max Angelelli, Co-Driver of the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Chevrolet Dallara:
You finally got the monkey off your back by winning the most recent Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen. Now, what is it going to take this weekend to win the Watkins Glen sprint race for the first time since you won there twice in 2005?
“Our win in the six-hour race was simply magnificent in every way. Just look at all the races this year – it takes that kind of a weekend to become the winner. We did it at Watkins Glen in June, and we did it at Lime Rock. It was a great job by the SunTrust team, by the pit crew, the engineering department, by Wayne, by Ricky, by everybody. It was an honor to be able to enjoy a weekend like that with the SunTrust team. To do it again this weekend will probably require that same kind of performance and no mistakes. If you look at our team and our car this season, we have been fast everywhere. The races we have not won were because we weren’t quite perfect enough and another team was. The team that can execute a perfect race is the one that will leave Watkins Glen the winner.”
Just how different is it, in terms of set-up and your driving style, to race the NASCAR short course vs. the six-hour’s long course?
“The short track at Watkins Glen is always a compromise. It’s not that cut-and-dried like the long course. On the long course, you go one way with your set-up. You don’t have to weigh many options. On the short course, you have different options, and they all point toward low downforce. The big question is, ‘How low you can go? How low do you want to go?’ So, as usual for this race, we will know what we need to do after the practices. We’ll see where we are, what we need. We’ll check the other cars’ top speeds and we will make our decision. From my perspective, my experience, it will be great to go really low on downforce, have a good top speed, and basically command the race. But, in order to do that, we need to start in front and be leading the race, which we have been doing a lot, lately.”
Ricky Taylor, Co-Driver of the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Chevrolet Dallara:
The win by you and Max in the Sahlen’s Six-Hour had to be one of the most thrilling weekends of your racing career, especially considering you were able to start and finish the race for the first time. Looking back, just how special was it for you?
“There has been nothing else even close to that in my entire career, so far. That was by far the best day I ever had. I think we just had the dominant car. It’s hard to pick out just one moment that made it so special because the weekend was perfect from start to finish. We worked through practice really well, didn’t have to make many changes to the car. We qualified really well, made no mistakes. And the car was really the dominant car. It was the perfect race. You never have weekends like that, but that was the best weekend we could possibly have. We really didn’t inherit anything, and nobody else made any big mistakes to hurt their chances, so I think our car was just so good and we beat everybody on speed. Our guys were really good on pit road. We just, plain beat them, which is the best way to do it.”
How would you compare any differences between the June six-hour race and the August sprint race at The Glen?
“They’re quite different. The short track is much less technical from a driver’s standpoint, but there are quite a few differences in set-up because there are fewer slow corners. As far as this race goes this year, there are over 20 GT cars entered, and I think that’s going to play a big role because from the Bus Stop to the backstraight, it’s going to be difficult to pass GT cars. That should make the race a lot more interesting for the fans, for everybody. On this layout, you’ve got really two key corners – turn one and the Bus Stop. You have to try to get the car to work well on those, mainly. For the six-hour, it’s more of a compromise as far as set-up. I don’t think it should be that different for us from the six-hour weekend. I’m hoping we can stay perfect, if that’s possible.”
Wayne Taylor, Team Owner of the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Chevrolet Dallara:
Where would you rank that day in June when your team dominated the Sahlen’s Six-Hour race and won it for the first time?
“I would say that win at Watkins Glen, certainly for me, personally, ranks as one of the biggest things I’ve been a part of, even in my driving career. It was such a big event, Max and Ricky did such a great job. Ricky, exchanging roles with max and having to race the top guys from the other teams, was really special to see unfold the way it did. And the team executed so well. It was the perfect, perfect weekend. Coming back to Watkins Glen, which has always been my favorite track, it’s certainly going to be a more relaxed feeling now that we won the six-hour race, and we can come and enjoy this one. Obviously, we want to win it. When I look back on the last five races, we have five poles, two wins, a second and two thirds. So, if you went back five races with any team, we’ve achieved the most in the last five races. I’m just excited to get back to Watkins Glen, and it’ll be great to be back with NASCAR and have all those guys around.”
What is it going to take for the SunTrust team to win the August sprint race at The Glen for the first time since 2005?
“Like I always say, we need to get everything right. The pit stops have to be perfect, the tire changes, the refueling, everything has to be perfect. That’s the thing about the series at the moment. Even though we don’t have tons of cars out there, the competition at the front is really tough. You can’t afford to lose any time at any point in the race. We have to take what we did at Lime Rock and the six-hour and stay in that kind of a groove. I think everybody on the SunTrust team is focused and wants another win badly and they want it now. And I think it would be great to do it in front of the NASCAR crowd.”