Veteran Italian Max “The Ax” Angelelli, his new, 21-year-old co-driver Jordan Taylor and the entire No. 10 Velocity Worldwide Corvette Dallara DP team for Wayne Taylor Racing worked hard Saturday to become the apparent combination to beat in the waning stages of the inaugural GRAND-AM of the Americas at the beautiful, new Circuit of The Americas Formula 1 circuit in Austin, Texas.
Angelelli’s next-to-last planned pit stop came head-to-head against the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates BMW Riley with 65 minutes left in the 2-hour, 45-minute event.
Two-time defending champion Scott Pruett took over from Memo Rojas in the Ganassi car. Once again, Angelelli muscled his way ahead of Pruett at pit exit and, as the two battled back-and-forth during the out lap, Pruett got squirrely and ventured off course, losing the car’s entire nose piece in the process to force an unscheduled pit stop for repairs. While Angelelli continued at the front of the pack, Pruett stayed on the lead lap.
Less than 10 minutes later, with 55 minutes left before the checkered flag, Pruett pitted again under green, as did Alex Gurney in the polesitting No. 99 Gainsco/Bob Stallings Racing Corvette DP for fuel enough to get to the end. Just as they were finishing their stops, a full-course caution occurred when the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley of Oz Negri was stopped on course.
That was the turning point for the Velocity Worldwide team as the Gainsco and Ganassi cars slipped to the front of the pack while Angelelli and the other leaders pitted during the caution. Angelelli resumed in fifth place as the race went back to green some 18 minutes later. With just over 30 minutes remaining, Angelelli was determined to work his way back to the front.
He was still in fifth with less than 15 minutes to go when he caught up with Pruett and Antonio Pizzionia in the No. 6 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley heading into turn one. Angelelli hit the apex of the turn between Pruett and Pizzonia as the Shank driver crossed in front of Angelelli. Contact was made and Pizzonia was spun around while Angelelli continued.
GRAND-AM officials levied a 60-second penalty against Angelelli, deeming the contact avoidable, and the Italian resumed in 10th place after serving the penalty. Day over.
“I’m just speechless,” said Angelelli, who started the season in January with a runner-up finish alongside Taylor and reigning IZOD IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay at the Rolex 24 At Daytona. “I really have no comment about that incident. I really cannot comment in any way, whatsoever. Our Velocity Worldwide Corvette car was fantastic.
It definitely looked like the winning car. We overtook many, many cars today. We go home with a 10th-place finish. Words just cannot describe how I feel about that.”
After qualifying on the front row in his first career qualifying effort in the Velocity Worldwide Corvette, Taylor drove a solid opening 33 minutes of today’s race. He fell back to fourth on the opening lap as Rojas in the Ganassi BMW and his brother Ricky Taylor in the No. 90 Spirit of Daytona Corvette DP muscled their way past, and he lost a couple more spots as the race began taking shape.
But Taylor worked his way back up to second by the time the day’s first caution flag appeared 33 minutes into the race, sending him to pit lane to hand the car over to Angelelli.
“Our start was a bit exciting,” Taylor said. “We lost a few spots back to sixth. We were able to pick our way back up to second. I had some good battles with Ricky and (Jon) Fogarty (in the No. 99 Gainsco Corvette), which was fun but maybe a little too exciting, at times. Our car was very strong and I thought we had a car to win the race. We had the car in the right position for most of the race. The guys did an unbelievable job in the pits getting us out ahead of everybody, every single time. Everyone did a great job on the team. I guess it just wasn’t our day. That yellow was pretty amazing how it came at an opportune time for the 99 and the 01 cars. That’s racing, I guess. Some people have those fortunate days and I guess this was one of their days.”
The Gainsco Corvette went on to win today’s GRAND-AM of The Americas while Ryan Dalziel followed Gurney across the finish line in the runner-up position in the No. 2 Starworks Motorsports Ford Riley he shares with Alex Popow. Pruett grabbed the final podium spot in the Ganassi BMW.
With the 10th-place finish, Angelelli and Taylor dropped from second to third in the Rolex Series standings, 12 points behind the leading Ganassi BMW duo and nine points behind the second-place Gainsco Corvette duo.