SunTrust Racing Duo Hopes There's No Place Like 'Home Sweet Homestead'
HOMESTEAD, Fla. (March 1, 2011) -- It hasn't been the kindest place on the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series circuit the last few years for the SunTrust Racing team, but there was a time not long ago that the 2.3-mile road course at Homestead-Miami Speedway was its veritable home away from home.
And the karma from those good old days is what co-drivers Max Angelelli and Ricky Taylor look to resurrect this weekend when they bring their No. 10 SunTrust Chevrolet Dallara of Wayne Taylor Racing back to Homestead for Saturday's Grand Prix of Miami.
Angelelli and his current co-driver's father, team owner and three-time sports car racing champion Wayne Taylor, had quite a heyday on the South Florida speedway road circuit when they collaborated for a win, a runner-up finish and another top-five in their first three visits to Homestead for SunTrust Racing in 2004 and 2005. After debuting at the track with a top-five finish in the 2004 Grand Prix of Miami, the SunTrust team returned later that season to score a runner-up finish in the Miami 250. The third visit turned out to be the charm as Angelelli and Wayne Taylor scored the victory in dominating fashion, leading a race-high 67 of 109 laps for the second of five wins they would earn that season en route to the 2005 Rolex Series championship.
After an 11th-place finish co-driving one final time with Wayne Taylor in 2006, Angelelli returned with Jan Magnussen for the 2007 Grand Prix of Miami and put the SunTrust team back on the podium with a runner-up finish after leading a race-high 36 laps, the team's third podium finish and fourth top-five run at Homestead in its first five outings.
Cracking the top-five has been quite the challenge for the SunTrust team during its last three trips to Homestead, however, as Angelelli recorded finishes of 14th, seventh and sixth, respectively, co-driving with Michael Valiante in 2008, Brian Frisselle in 2009, and Ricky Taylor for the first time in 2010. Finding rear-end grip without abusing the rear tires on a particularly abrasive Homestead track surface has been the challenge these past three seasons. But the team expects to benefit from a fresh, new approach with its setup this weekend in an effort to return to its Homestead glory days of not long ago. In other words, a grand return to the days of "Home Sweet Homestead."
Max Angelelli, Co-Driver of the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Chevrolet Dallara:
Homestead has not been especially kind to the SunTrust team in recent years? What is your outlook as the SunTrust team returns there this weekend?
"If you look back, races at Homestead for us always have been pretty difficult, except 2004, 2005 and 2007. We had three good years, another few years that were not-so-good. I hope this year is going to be a good one. We are still at the beginning of the season but, as always, it's very important to finish in the top-five. That's my goal. Well, the ultimate goal is to win the race, as usual, and then a podium at least. We are expecting a huge fight with the (No.) 01 (Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates BMW Riley)."
What do the results from the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona tell you about what to expect for the rest of the season?
"In my opinion, the real indication will come after our next race at Barber (Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala., April 9). The Daytona and Homestead races won't give us an accurate indication because of many factors involved. Daytona is a 24-hour race where anything can happen. You have style, drama and attitude at Daytona, with nothing quite like it the rest of the season. Homestead is a very different kind of racetrack than what we will race on the rest of the season, and it has been very difficult for us, lately, so that is another big variable. Also, the new Continental tires that we raced at Daytona will be the same (compound and construction) we will use at Homestead, but then everything will be new again for the rest of the season. So, whatever happens at Homestead will stay at Homestead. Whether we win or we lose, it won't be an indication of how the rest of the season will go. But, I'm feeling positive that, whatever happens, it will be good."
What is your assessment of the SunTrust team's championship chances after its performance at Daytona?
"Everything about the team is great, right now. There is a very nice atmosphere inside the team. It's very comfortable, and everyone is completely aware of our ability -- the drivers, the engineers, the mechanics. We are very focused on our targets and our goals, and everyone knows we are very capable of achieving our goals. Now, the final Daytona result was not really indicative of what we did there -- the way we raced, the way we performed. Fifth place was an injustice. It was bad, it was sad. It was a very unfortunate event that cost us the race and, for me, personally, it will take a long time to digest. Actually, another year, another Daytona 24-hour, will be the cure for that one."
Ricky Taylor, Co-Driver of the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Chevrolet Dallara:
What's on your mind as you and the SunTrust team head to Homestead this weekend?
"It'll be nice to be back racing again. It's different going to Homestead now, at the beginning of the year, than at the end of the year like we used to. As far as recent history, it's been a difficult race for us. Our car just seems to use tires pretty quickly there, but I think we've got a fresh look on everything this year and we're going to just go in a completely different direction. I think it's just a low-grip track and it's really difficult to limit the amount of wheel spin you get, making it so easy to burn the rear tires off. If our car reacts at Homestead like it did at Daytona with regard to tire wear -- at Daytona, it reacted really well -- that might mean really good things for us this weekend. Outright speedwise, we were the second-quickest car at Daytona."
What were your first impressions of the new Chevrolet engine and the new Continental tires at Daytona?
"I don't think we've missed a beat, really. The Continental tires have really improved a lot. I was definitely surprised at Daytona how good they were. GM power, I definitely think put us in the ballpark, there. The car's really quick. For most of the race, we were the quickest car running in green-flag conditions. The SunTrust car is comfortable, for sure, and fast, which is the best of both worlds."
After what you saw of the other teams at Daytona, any surprises as to who you'll be racing with for the championship?
"I still think it all comes down to the big three teams -- Ganassi, Gainsco and us. We will all be really strong, I think. I don't think it'll be the same as last year with Ganassi running away with everything. If the (No.) 23 (Michael Shank Racing) car does some races, it'll be really strong. The (No.) 8 (Starworks Motorsport) car, with (Mike) Forest and (Ryan) Dalziel, will be really strong. I think, this year, we've got a really good shot at the championship. I'm comfortable, and we've got a really good team -- everybody."
How did it make you feel to see a driver even younger than you score a huge victory in NASCAR's season-opening Daytona 500?
"My dad and (younger brother) Jordan and I were in our lounge glued to the TV for the entire race. We never moved from the couch. We were so excited for him (Trevor Bayne). He seems like such a nice, humble guy. We were really happy for him. I think it put the spotlight on all the other young drivers, too, so I think it was great for NASCAR. I was super-excited for him."
Wayne Taylor, Team Owner of the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Chevrolet Dallara:
Your overall thoughts headed into this weekend's Grand Prix of Miami after a promising run at the Rolex 24?
"I'm obviously looking forward to going to this next race because I feel we got robbed at the (Rolex) 24-hour. It was just an unfortunate turn of events that ruined our race. We need to go racing and we need to win a race. Unfortunately, Homestead has been one of our worst racetracks the last few years. For whatever reason, we've haven't been able to have a good run there. For that reason, there's a maximum effort going into engineering the car, our drivers, making sure everybody knows how important winning there is. Given that, there's nothing that we haven't looked at in an effort to maximize our chances of bringing home a win this weekend. Overall, as we continue our fifth year of carrying the SunTrust Racing banner as Wayne Taylor Racing, I don't ever remember the morale on a team to be so upbeat and positive about moving forward than this current bunch. That's what really makes me feel like this could be our best year, ever, once all is said and done."